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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The time has come

To speak of video things. Of games and rules and master chiefs, power-ups and (golden) rings.
Thus I offer my opinion upon the video game Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

I refuse to call this a Castlevania game. Do you like the climbing and rappelling of Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed and Dante's Inferno? How about God of War's combat? Shadow of the Colossus' fights with Titans? The light/dark magic combo system of Dante's Inferno? The massive amount of item upgrades to add new powers to cross earlier puzzles and gaps found in games like Darksiders and Legend of Zelda? If you said yes to all of that, then you might enjoy Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Let me begin with where I come from, in the NES era. What are Castlevania staples to me? Stupid whip tricks, fighting all manner of horrible monsters, giant sprawling castle levels (without much else), fighting vampires and especially having the end boss be Dracula (Or at least a powerful vampire of some kind)
Now for this iteration. Are there whip tricks? Sure. Focused attacks and AoE style attacks with a bajillion upgrades to the basic X,X,X (Or Square, Square, Square) stuff we've seen before and barely any of it really matters, save getting you locked in a combo string animation, setting up to be counter-attacked with ease. you don't need to learn the flashy upgrade attack move, "whip it 'til it stops moving", is perfectly acceptable. 
However what drags this down even more is the reliance upon Light energy, a hit-without-taking-retalitory-damage semi-combo system to build up potential for magic power, and Dark energy. What the shit?! Pick a special style of fighting mechanic and stick with it, don't fill my screen with a life meter, a combo gauge, and two different magic meters!
Tapping the Right trigger when there's a context sensitive whip grapple point within range makes you swing like Tarzan or move up or down like a mountain climber. That factor isn't so bad and I like seeing it. It brings me back to the Super Castlevania days on the SNES and that one room that rotated around.
Are there horrible monsters? Uh.. werewolves. More werewolves. Giant wolves. Goblins who throw bombs. Trolls. Some titanic statues. Where the fuck are my vampires (and an appearance of Death)? Oh, chapter 4? They're not the end boss? A necromancer and (spoiler hidden in white text) SATAN is?! Really? No, seriously? Really? When have they -ever- been the last guys in a Castlevania?!
The visuals are beautiful and the character design (except for the derp human faces) are well done. The music is exceptional (though sometimes plays at odd times. Heart-racing musical score while I'm trying to find the right way to go through a monster-less series of walkways?) The voice acting, however, outside from Sir Patrick Stewart is atrocious, especially Gabriel's.
I could strangle who ever thought a fixed camera was a good idea. In a game that involves platformer style jumps in spots, and especially trying to hint at there being times to wander off the otherwise linear path to look for secrets, having the camera set in a certain way and unable to look around to plan how I'm to make it to the next checkpoint is frustrating. I do so enjoy having a camera pan up to gaze at a giant statue boss' junk and not the surrounding scenery to see what I'm caught on.
The game is pretty hard too. I often let the game go on "Normal" difficulty, as that is, to me, how the game is anticipated to be played the first time by most average gamers. Well, "Normal" means you die in three to five hits from regular enemies and 2 to 3 (if you're lucky) from bosses. Oh, but don't mess up the quick-time event for killing the boss else it's instant fatality in a lot of places.
So, to rate this game:
Graphics: 8/10 (Beautiful, but also seeming to be standard of the genre)
Sound/Music: 6/10 (Music gets a high score, but the dialogue drags it down)
Gameplay: 5/10 (Whip tricks are neat and flow well, but everything else bogs it down)
Story: 2/10 (Castles. Vampires. Belmont. Don't deviate from that.)
Overall score: 5/10 (If you're a fan of this current genre of action-adventure games and want to play one that includes just about every unique element from them, then you'll like this game. Otherwise stay away)


  1. Heh. I don't think I've played any of the Castlevania games, strangely.

  2. Full agreement (from what I've seen. Not actually played yet!)

    As requested: