As I fought the horde of beasts in that initial arena, I was impressed -- the combat was fast, fun, and thanks to some meticulous camera work, exhilarating. But could Castlevania
aim higher than "polished God of War
clone"? My concern grew as the narrator explained how Gabriel arrived at that village. His wife, Marie, had been murdered by an evil spirit -- and he was on a quest to get revenge. Wait, didn't we already play this game? Wasn't it called Dante's Inferno?
In two hours, I was able to complete one and a half chapters (about a dozen levels), and rarely did a level pass without Gabriel learning something new, or unlocking a new tool.
Thankfully, it doesn't take much longer for the game to unveil its depth. After a few more action-packed set pieces, the gears drastically shift. Gabriel visits a swamp, filled with branching paths and hidden areas. Scattered throughout these stages are corpses, each holding onto a note, detailing their (failed) quests to find specific artifacts. These notes not only offer some flavor text, but slowly describe a sinister backstory, revealing a larger tale -- much like scanning does in a Metroid Prime
game. In classic Metroidvania style, item hunters will want to scourge through the levels to find all the power-ups hidden throughout. "Come back later when your skills have improved," an on-screen message will say of certain areas that require a specific power. Ah, now that sounds more like Castlevania.
In two hours, I was able to complete one and a half chapters (about a dozen levels), and rarely did a level pass without Gabriel learning something new, or unlocking a new tool. The Grappling Hook, for example, adds depth to both the platforming and combat portions of the game. In combat, you'll be able to jump, latch onto an enemy and thrust with a powerful kick. In platforming, you'll be able to climb to new areas, and wall-run, Tomb Raider
style. (In one level, you'll have to jump off a ledge, grapple before falling to your doom, and swing around a corner, and jump for another ledge.)
In Chapter 2, Gabriel unlocks Light Magic, which allows him to regenerate health by defeating enemies. By pressing L1, an aura surrounds him, and a combo meter appears on-screen. With each successive hit, the combo meter will increase, rewarding players for battling with style. Later on in the chapter, he'll learn how to take control of beasts and use their abilities to his advantage. For example, you'll be able to take control of a boar in order to knock down a heavily-fortified wall. Or, you'll use a spider to create a webbed bridge for you to cross. There's also a branching level-up system, which allows you to learn new combo moves with the XP you earn from defeating enemies. It's hard to imagine the kinds of abilities Gabriel will learn in the remainder of the game's twelve chapters!
Lords of Shadow
does a great job of balancing the variety of gameplay it has to offer. As in God of War 3
and Shadow of the Colossus
, there's no shortage of jaw-dropping moments or enormous bosses. The game's first boss is a twenty story-tall Ice Titan, which you take down by climbing its body and smashing its weak spots. Immediately following that is a rather tense puzzle that has you both literally and figuratively switching gears.
It's rare for a game to overwhelm me, but that's exactly what Lords of Shadow
has done. Two hours in, I know I've barely scratched the surface. Lords of Shadow
is the 3D Castlevania
game we've all been waiting for.