I have a hard time considering this a Castlevania game at all. It has almost none of the elements that make a Castlevania game at all. Pretty much the only thing that qualifies it is you playing a Belmont. Other than that, it might as well be called anything else. You don’t spend much time in a castle, you’re not fighting Dracula (although admittedly that gets old after a while), and your character isn’t on a righteous quest for redemption, he’s out for revenge. Sound familiar?
Truly, this game is a combination of Dante’s Inferno, Devil May Cry, God of War, and Shadow of The Colossus. It takes elements from all four games and combines them into some abomination of a video game. There’s nothing new or exciting here that hasn’t already been done in one of the above-mentioned. In fact, you’re probably better off playing one (or all) of them instead of getting this.
The story in here is spread so thin that you end up missing parts of it. But that’s ok, because this game is long. Really long. About three times as long as it needs to be (it comes on two discs if you get it on Xbox 360). So you end up getting the same snippets of story multiple times over the course of the game, some of which are beaten into the ground and then some.
There is an upgrade system for your secondary weapons that requires a lot of back tracking. A game this long (especially when it’s on two Xbox discs) doesn’t lend itself well to back tracking. One of the very first upgrades you encounter requires you to come back almost at the end of the game, when you’ve finally earned the double jump ability, before you can get it. It makes an already very long game into an impossibly long one. Which some people probably like, but I will only enjoy it as long as the story is engaging. And this story doesn’t engage well.
You’re thrown right into the story at the very beginning without much explanation of what’s going on. The game relies heavily on the narrator (voiced by Patrick Stewart) to tell the story instead of showing you with cut scenes. It creates a chasm between the game and the player that’s hard to get over. The whole game is basically driven by how much you like to smash things with your whip (or “Combat Cross” as it’s called in game).
Along with the story, Gabriel as a character is very bi-polar, for lack of a better term. In combat he has a very gruff, grunting voice (like Kratos) but outside of combat just talking to other characters, he has a soft, almost gentle Scottish voice. The two don’t go together. It’s almost as if there was a separate voice actor for the combat Gabriel and the dialogue Gabriel.
When I stop to think about it, Hideo Kojima’s influence on this game is really apparent. The man seems to have a penchant for making games much longer than they need to be with end CG sequences that go on forever (Metal Gear Solid 4, anyone?).
The one thing that truly IS impressive about this game is the environments. They have been rendered in painstaking detail and actually provide a rather interesting variety of things to look at throughout the long, long journey.
In the end, Lords of Shadow left me wanting for a better game. Make this game about half as long and it would have been much better. As it stands now, the story is spread much to thin over much to large of a game. The game play is uninventive and gets very repetitive after so long that you almost don’t want to finish.
You can get Castlevania: Lords of Shadow at any of these stores around Anoka County on PS3 and Xbox 360 today.