October 17, 2010

Changing of the Guard

Lasting First Impressions of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow from Komami

Castlevania is among the few long lasting titles in video game history. Beginning in 1986 with the first Castlevania, Konami has graced many of our beloved consoles with these titles over the years. My first introduction to this series was in 1989 with Castlevania: The Adventure for the Nintendo Gameboy. While this series has seen releases every year for the past 26 years, the current generation of consoles (save the Wii) has not seen a new Castlevania title grace our screens at all until this year. First with Castlevania: Harmony of Despair for Xbox Live Arcade, and now with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

In this new Castlevania title, you play the role of Gabriel Belmont, a member of the Brotherhood of Light, an elite group of holy knights who protect the innocent from the supernatural. The mysterious Lords of Shadow have begun to threaten the Earth’s Alliance with the Heavens and Gabriel has been dispatched to investigate and stop this malevolent force. This is certainly a radical change from the traditional Castlevania Lore which has usually dealt with the Belmont family and their quest to rid the earth of Dracula and his ilk.

The game style is also a turn from the usual. Whereas most of the previous titles were simply 2D side scrolling platformers, this one is a full on 3D third-person adventure. The action and gameplay of this title is lifted right out of games like God of War and Devil May Cry and, because of this, the pick-up-and-play factor is quite easy. If you enjoy such games, you are probably going to enjoy this game just the same. The controls are easy to learn and feel really solid; Gabriel just reacts as I would expect and I really felt in total control of the character.

Although this is not the same character that has been used in previous titles, the weapons used will still be familiar to all Castlevania fans. Gabriel uses a cross-handled whip that harkens back to the original games that we all love. His secondary weapons are throwing daggers for hitting those enemies that are just out of reach of the whip. As you defeat enemies, you gain experience points that you can use to purchase weapon upgrades and new skills. These new skills add to your arsenal of moves, such as the ability to jump, grapple an enemy while you’re in the air, pull it towards you and pummel it while you defy all known laws of gravity.

Graphically this game is impressive. The environments are detailed and beautiful. Leaves on the trees flow in the wind, the sun rays shine through the forest above. The developers at Konami definitely put a great deal of love and effort into the visuals for this game.

I found that on Normal difficulty, I wasn’t having too much trouble with the battles or even the boss battles that I came across in my one hour play. Games like this tend to become more frustrating than they’re worth, but so far I was not finding that with Castlevania. The fact that combat was not the core focus of the game made it that much more enjoyable for me to play. I enjoy the adventure and puzzle aspects of games and this definitely delivers on all accounts.

The only fault I found with the game as I was playing was the restrictiveness of the environment. This is definitely a linear game and there is a set path that you much follow. The world looks amazing and begs to be explored but there is no room for exploration except for a few hidden paths scattered throughout the levels. There is also no camera control. You are stuck with whatever camera angle the developers felt best suited your location. There were a few times when the camera panned so far back that it became hard to know if I was going to make a jump from one pillar to another or even to the point where I wasn’t even sure were Gabriel was on the screen.

All in all, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the hour I gave this game and I would definitely continue playing it again. In my one hour play through, I only completed 35% of the first chapter and there are 12 chapters in the game. This game is certainly going to deliver some long lasting play time.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is available now for XBOX360 and PlayStation 3.

Konami, I gave you an hour and you left me IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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One Comment

  1. This is another that came out of nowhere. I had no clue about it until a few days before it was out. Unfortunately, I’ve never been a Castlevania guy so I think this one is a straight-up pass for me.

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