Third time’s the charm

“Lords of Shadow 2” resurrects a near-dead franchise

By Michael King
Staff Writer

4 out of 5 stars

Konami sought to reboot their legendary “Castlevania” franchise in 2010, but after two sloppy steps forward, it seemed that the legend had come to an end. With the aid of a reworked game engine, however, it seems that the Belmont family lives on.

Reawakening after centuries of sleep, the hero-turned-vampire Gabriel Belmont finds himself in a modern-day setting. With Satan’s return on the horizon, the man now known as Dracula must journey through the city seeking out the dark lord’s acolytes whilst regaining his powers by occasionally traveling back in time to his castle with the aid of his dead wife and son.

Castlevania_3Unlike the original “Lords of Shadow,” the sequel offers a more open-world experience and allows players to bounce between the present day city and the ancient castle at will. The game offers several hours of extra gameplay beyond the final blow being dealt, and has artwork, stat-increasing gems, and lore to collect throughout the game.

The combat of “Lords of Shadow 2” has few alterations to past titles in the series, though now players are forced to learn and utilize every possible combo in order to maximize the efficiency of each of the three weapons in the game. Additionally, the music,while still a far cry from the masterpieces of yesteryear—is still a massive improvement above the forgettable droning of the past two titles.

Unfortunately, there are still issues that need to be resolved.

The enemy design is beyond generic with many being less intimidating than most Tim Burton creations, the modern city stages are interchangeable with any other cityscape from any other game, and some of the enemies overuse unblockable attacks to the point of being completely unfair, especially later in the game when waves of energy can pass through solid walls.

Another painful addition is the series’ continued reliance on unnecessary references. We get it Konami, the whole ’30 lives’ code is cool and all but what was added to the game by referencing “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas?”

Conversely, one of the game’s surprisingly good highlights is the interaction between Dracula himself and his son who may or may not simply be a figment of his imagination. Despite being feared as the prince of darkness, it is obvious that Gabriel wishes that he could simply live a happy life with his family and at times he even breaks away from the task at hand just to offer aid to them.

This is by no means a perfect game but it is a huge step in the right direction. Rather than being the final nail in the franchise’s coffin, “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2” actually pulls a few out. Where the series goes from here is anybody’s guess, but so long as the ground plan established in this game is followed then fans will have little to worry about.