Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Review: Fun Sucking

To say I’m a fan of the Castlevania series would be a bold faced lie. In truth, I have never played a Castlevania game, not even the original Lords of Shadow. This gave me a unique perspective when going in to Lords of Shadow 2. I had read the plot summaries of the two games leading up to Lords of Shadow 2 before diving in so I was familiar with the story, but didn’t have any special connection with the characters. Sadly, I’m afraid that even with an investment in the story, Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 would still fail to rise above its mediocrity.

Lords of Shadow 2 opens with a recap of the story so far. Gabriel Belmont has had his fair share of bad luck in his life, all leading to him becoming the Prince of Darkness so he could be the least of all evils to take the throne, preventing some bigger badder dudes from making the earth their playground. We find and take control of Gabriel Belmont in the Middle Ages as his castle is being invaded by a holy army out to send him from his immortal life into an eternal slumber. Obviously this doesn’t go too well for the mere mortals who fall before the all powerful vampire king. Shortly after this fight, Gabriel takes a nap and wakes up thousands of years later without any of his powers.

Thus begins his new adventure in the modern day setting teased by the end of the first Lords of Shadow game. Zobek is back and promises Gabriel the sweet release of death that he seeks so he can rejoin his wife in the afterlife…. for a catch. Gabriel must help stop Satan’s acolytes from tearing down his castle and building Satan’s new crib in its place.  To do this, the terrifying legendary Prince of Darkness finds himself fighting against the sons of Satan, his own memories, and a large pharmaceutical company.

Suffice it to say, the story is an odd venture through present and past, or maybe not past but just vision quests taking place in Gabriel’s mind, or possibly he is just moved through space into different areas of the world. The characters don’t seem to grow in any meaningful way, and each new character that is introduced is thrown away quite quickly to make room for the next friend or enemy to be introduced. The story gets very convoluted and doesn’t explain much of what is going on, which is even worse due to the fact that the ending is one of the most satisfying I’ve experienced since Assassin’s Creed III . Despite all this, there are some genuinely fun moments in to be had with the story. Over the top set pieces and the willingness to use Gabriel’s advanced healing factor as a way to abuse him without penalty makes for a few memorable moments in an otherwise drab and dull story.

The story isn’t the only drab and dull piece of Lords of Shadow 2. The design of the game, from the world to the characters, all fall in to a very boring and grey blur when looking back at it. The only redeeming quality found here is that some of the main cast have interesting designs that look good, but apart from that expect to not be able to tell one section of the world from the next. Even the modern day areas where cars are strewn across the streets and store signs hang above darkened windows are uninspired and just as grey and brown as the castle dungeons.

Maybe the designers wanted to go for a contrasting color palette between Gabriel and the world, but it just makes the world all feel flat and uninteresting.

The layout of this world is also quite uninspired in design. The castle seems to fall center in the world, but I’m not exactly sure. The layout is confusing and the limited maps provided don’t help in finding out where you are in relation to the rest of the world. This isn’t helped by the fact that exploration isn’t presented as a necessity. Although magic meters and the health bar can be upgraded by hidden collectibles in the world, combat never feels so difficult to where you would need any of those, even at the last boss.

One of the reasons the combat feels so easy is because normal enemies can be taken down easily with base attacks, while bosses usually can be exploited by repeating a certain move or pattern. Even the last boss saw the bottom of my boot after I found out that he has one huge weakness that isn’t supposed to be there. This is a shame because there is a semblance of something good in the combat. Gabriel’s starting whip acts very similarly to his combat cross from the first game, having the ability to both attack one enemy directly or swing it widely to damage multiple enemies at once. Progressing through the story opens up two other weapons, the first being a sword that has some vampiric abilities of its own, stealing health from enemies and funneling it in to Gabriel, the other is the “Chaos Claws” which imbue Gabriel’s fists with fire and can break through most any defense.

These weapons feel fine, but don’t stand out from one another apart from their special abilities. The secondary weapons may also be avoided due to the fact that they are linked to separate magic meters, and while these meters offer some fairness to the abilities tied to the weapons, some parts of the game call for use of this magic out of combat but Gabriel may find himself running to find some enemies to fight if he used a certain magic not knowing there would be a progress blocking need for it a few steps ahead of him.

I’m sure this game is for someone. There is a lot of lore to read up on and to find in the world, the characters seem to have some important moments throughout the 10-15 hour journey, and being a vampire does have it’s benefits every so often which pays off in some fun moments. Sadly, there are just so many other issues with Lords of Shadow 2 that it gets held down in the muck. I’m sure this game is for someone, but that someone is not me.

2 Star Rating