Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 - PC

Release Date:

01 March 2014

Also on:

PC PS3 Xbox 360
6.1

Summary:

On the whole, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow II feels bloated and sadly unfocused. The idea that ambition outpaced its focus seems apt, and while things like the tight combat shine at their foundation, these aspect too feel undone by the stretch of the design.

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Posted:
2014-05-22

tomgreen

Super Gamer Dude

PC Games

6.0

The Castlevania series has been at the forefront of the action/adventure genre for generations. As it has evolved through its definitive high and lows, the series has seen classics such as Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood, and even the highly underrated 3D transition in Castlevania 64. Unfortunately, the series took a nosedive in the PS2 era, focusing on flash and repetitive combat instead of exploiting the core competency of its design (exploration). This quality then returned in the first Lords of Shadow game, offering the Metroidvania charms in a 3D space and now in 2014, MercurySteam has returned with a meaty, but sadly scattered sequel.

Set mostly in a more modern setting, Lords of Shadow stretches across a great number of vistas and set pieces in its 20+ hour running time. Dystopian this, overly dark that; environments are consistently somber and at points evocative, and they are fairly well unified in a way that fits into the Castlevania universe. While it's not as appealing as the classic castle setting we're all accustomed to (which does thankfully show up), credit should go to MercurySteam for trying something new here.

Unfortunately, while these environments are artistically sound, they feel as if they've been smushed together as vignettes that don't really connect us to a cohesive world. There's a generally empty feeling to the areas, and as exploration takes a backseat, we feel a general disconnection to them. A strength of the series has always been the iconography of its settings, and here the locales are muted and forgettable, and without great incentive lurking in their more hidden depths. Plainly put, the series' intricately designed areas have been reformed by a 'quantity over quality' mentality. The open-world design ends up exploiting the 'under-design' of the levels as opposed to giving players the sense of unending exploration and excitement the series has been known for.

These are fairly damning words for any adventure game and particularly a series known for its exploration. Thankfully, the game does offer a pretty robust combat system that never feels less than tight and gives players a variety of mechanics to explore. Sadly, the enemies are no more exciting than the areas themselves, so while the combat is indeed fun, the enemies are a mashup of poor AI and frequently recycled assets. Boss fights do liven things up from time to time (and are certainly worthy spectacles), but the general repetition doesn't create a sense of momentum or build into these grander fights. Instead, they feel like random flourishes that only breakup the monotony before sending us back the drab environment X to fight generic enemy Y.

MercurySteam does fair a bit better when it comes to presentation and audio here luckily. There's notable voice talent with the likes Patrick Stewart and Robert Caryle (among others), and a great sweeping score that sits neatly beside the series' normally captivating audio. As well, the story blends in some Castlevania mythos surrounding Dracula that's sure to get long-time series fans talking. Again, MercurySteam takes some risks in this area, and they should be commended for, at the very least, mixing things up.

On the whole, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow II feels bloated and sadly unfocused. The idea that ambition outpaced its focus seems apt, and while things like the tight combat shine at their foundation, these aspect too feel undone by the stretch of the design. Compound this with a too long running time, a de-emphasis on the series' bread and butter (exploration) - Lords of Shadow II feels like attrition the more and more it drags along. Unless you're a diehard Castlevania fan that just can't get enough, or perhaps a action junkie that can look past the hollow exterior, stay clear of this one until it hits the bargain bins.

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May 23, 2014
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