Thursday, 19 September 2013

Review: Castlevania - Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition (PC)

A fixed camera in a game with levels that'll let the player fall to his death in one instance and not in another. A dead-sounding protagonist. Overwrought cutscenes aiming for an emotional high point that usually elicit embarrassment. Enemies attacking off-screen thanks to the fixed camera. Glowing points of interaction, like ledges and grapple points. There are a litany of video game "crimes" that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow commits but like that one friend you have that's a goofy screw-up it comes off as likeable.

Of course, it doesn't hurt any that it's a beautiful game to look at.

Coming around a corner and getting a face full of some lush landscapes or a towering titan... it's an easy game to watch. There's more substance to the Lords of Shadow than the graphics though. Not much more but there's still something more than a shiny package.

Gabriel spends time riding trolls, pig-things, and even giant spiders. Tools of
destruction and overcoming environmental obstacles.

There are some bad things happening in the land of Castlevania, fortunately it's mostly narrated by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation,  X-Men), so no matter how ridiculous it gets at least a grounded Shakespearean actor, whom I last heard reading The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, is holding it together. There's prophecy, a mysterious Order, giant spiders, dagger-throwing, whipping, a land is cloaked in darkness, and a sleight of hand powerplay made by Satan. Yeah, that Satan. It's goofy and made all the goofier by the deadpan seriousness of it all. At no point does protagonist Gabriel Belmont wink at the player to convey "Hey, it's game! Lighten the hell up!"

Right around this snowy corner is the first titan...

Meandering through the story, Gabriel does the usual action hero thing by trading in experience points to enhance his abilities and moves, gaining access to weapon upgrades and additional "magic" options. All that happens at a good pace and even in the later stages of the game there are wrinkles added.

Button prompts and quicktime events are common. Here's some instruction
on sawing through this statue.

The pacing of the gameplay typically breaks down to fighting in a restricted space, sometimes being challenged by the fixed camera as well as enemies, then moving through the environment via glowing ledges and grapple points (sometimes in aid of solving some larger puzzle). It's a good mix and manages a trick, at least for me, that when I started getting bored of one or the other the game would switch it up to hold my interest.

Besides the lengthy story of the main game, both pieces of downloadable content found on the console versions are included with Ultimate: Reverie and Resurrection. That's a lot of game time for $29.99US (on Steam)! The content definitely adds to the overall story without feeling tacked-on.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition covers some traditional action game territory for sure but there are some memorable moments that make it worth a look if combo-based combat and exploration is your thing.

It's my thing! Lords of Shadow just doesn't do much to distinguish itself from other action/platformers even if I did like the game overall.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- The PC needs more action hack 'n' slash games!
- Combat starts to feel a little like ballet with a definite rythym
- Patrick Stewart
- It actually feels like a Belmont story

The Bad:
- Glowing points of interaction takes the fun out of exploration
- Unremarkable aside from some aspects of the presentation
- Difficulty ramps way up!
- Overwrought drama that didn't do a thing for me

Score: 7.5 / 10