Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Preview
While some of the long-time fans curse the day their beloved Castlevania franchise went 3D, we all have to accept the current state of affairs and realize that 2D action/adventure titles will never again be big-budget blockbusters on home consoles. Perhaps you will still find them on handhelds and mobile devices, and the advent of digital media could mean finding such throwbacks on the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live service from time to time. But for the most part, it’s 3D (and even true 3D, in some respects) all the way. And this might not be a bad thing at all, as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is shaping up to be one heck of a game, and one that should finally placate all those bitter veterans still pining for a Symphony of the Night sequel. Besides, certain traditional elements will certainly return; we’ve got the chain whip and holy water, and even a nod to the past in regards to the design and structure of the environments. I’ll elaborate in just a minute but for now-
The main character is Gabriel and although story details are few and far between, we know he’s on a quest for the God and Devil Masks. Gabriel will be smack dab in the midst of an intense action extravaganza that will likely remind gamers of God of War III and Dante’s Inferno; developer MercurySteam is even including a variety of platforming and puzzle elements to help flesh out the gameplay. At the same time, we will have the now-familiar fixed camera that has proven quite effective in games of this nature, primarily because the combat typically requires all of our attention. Battling with the camera is often an annoying task when battling hordes of nasties at the same time, while on the other hand, there are those who would prefer to have that freedom. For our part, considering that we’ve seen excellent examples of a fixed camera philosophy for hardcore, slash-‘em-up action experiences, we’re willing to give Lords of Shadow the benefit of the doubt. And given the footage we’ve seen thus far, it all seems to work rather well.
That Combat Cross of Gabriel’s really is a nifty – and uber-deadly – weapon, even if it does immediately remind one of Kratos’ Chaos Blades. But based on the information we’ve gathered, it would be a mistake to assume that battling might come down to button-mashing: the combat should be very fast-paced, faster than that of either God of War or Inferno. In this way, one should probably expect the speed of a Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, complete with plenty of player control; being able to quickly rip off diverse attacks is always a plus. We’re also hoping that we’ll be able to change up our combo attacks in mid-strike, and perhaps even switch weapons on the fly, ala Dante. See, Gabriel will have sub-weapons in addition to the Combat Cross. The Castlevania veterans will certainly remember these; they would come in the form of throwing knives, axes, or other special little extras, like the Holy Bible in Symphony of the Night. The sub-weapons for Lords of Shadow haven’t been detailed as of yet, but we know they’ll be important.
Then there are the Light and Dark magic tiers, which should add even more depth to an already intriguing combat mechanic. These magic abilities will either enhance your attacking ability or provide Gabriel with valuable defensive buffs, and we’re willing to bet that you won't be able to unlock all Light and Dark spells in one play-through. In this way, it seems like inFamous or Inferno, where you had two separate skill trees of sorts, and you had the option of spending your earned experience on abilities from either discipline. Speaking of earned experience, Gabriel will rake in the necessary points via orbs, which will be dropped by vanquished foes; a very common theme in action games today. Lastly, we’ve heard there will be references to the older Castlevania titles throughout your 50-mission adventure and if you wish to complete the entire quest, you must reach 200.6%. …now, if you’re not familiar with that number, you’re not familiar with one of the greatest games in history…
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, while definitely featuring familiar gameplay elements, should still be easily recognizable as a Castlevania entry. And with a stellar voice cast combined with beautiful sets, the game could very well be one of 2010’s best efforts when it releases later this year.
4/19/2010 Ben Dutka