Fango Preview: “CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2”
Are you a CASTLEVANIA maniac? I remember playing the earlier installments growing up, reveling in the cool gameplay and Gothic-inspired inspired designs of the game, but as time went on, I lost touch with the series. So imagine my surprise as FANGORIA was invited to test out the latest addition to the series, CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2.
I was familiar with the storyline, as the LORDS OF SHADOW games have taken a much different direction than their predecessors by following the vampirically enhanced Gabriel Belmont. However, I had no idea just how expansive the CASTLEVANIA universe had become, and after a quick demo from Konami, I was able to jump right back into that universe with renewed excitement. Clearly, developer MercurySteam, who worked on the last game and its canonical spin-off MIRROR OF FATE as well as CLIVE BARKER’S JERICHO, listened to the fans and created something truly unique and breathtaking with LORDS OF SHADOW 2.
While it uses mechanics similar to the “hack-and-slash” style, CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOWS 2 is a horror game through-and-through. After a terrifying tutorial and shockingly brutal opening animatic that places you in the mindset of a ruthless vampire, the game sends you on your wicked warpath. Mysticism, demons and prophecies drive the world in which you exist and reluctantly defend, which also includes a gorgeous, massive Transylvania-inspired metropolis.
As for the gameplay itself, the opponents, many of which are as creepy and as intimidating as one can expect from a CASTLEVANIA game, are challenging; sometimes, frustratingly so. However, the mechanics and controls of the character are simple to adapt to, and soon, the strategic drive to win kicks in and Gabriel Belmont (aka Dracula) reveals his true power. The magic element of the character has been played down, but for good reason, as now Belmont’s weaponry is much more beneficial for melee confrontations. Furthermore, the addition of the 360 camera field allows the depth of scope in the world around Belmont to come to life, giving the player an advantage when facing multiple opponents.
Furthermore, the story mode—of which I was able to sample for nearly two hours—is much longer, interwoven between time periods, opponents and motivations as well as lengthy animatics to bridge the narrative gaps. That’s not to mention being populated by one hell of a cast, including Patrick Stewart, Robert Carlyle, Jason Isaacs and Natasha McElhone, and visuals running off of a brand new engine designed specifically to reach almost next-gen framerates.
Most importantly, LORDS OF SHADOW 2 is a lot of fun, requiring you to think beyond the simple attack mode mindset and tempting you to playfully explore the almost sandbox-like environments. The opponents come like rapid-fire and are easy to defeat, but horror fans will likely have a better time exploring the vampire’s darker side, which includes mind control, feasting on opponents and even turning into a legion of rats. Of course, there are more powers to be discovered, twists to be learned and places to be explored, but from the complicated, exciting we were presented with, the game shocked the hell out of this writer and left him wanting more.
For fans of CASTLEVANIA, especially LORDS OF SHADOW, the sequel seems damn fine and counts as one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had in quite a while. Impressive, tricky and true to the game’s continuity, LORDS OF SHADOW 2 has something for every type of gamer, and Belmont has never been a more enjoyable character to inhabit, especially when facing off against multitude of bravado-laced religious fanatics or gargantuan level bosses. And if there’s any game that would leave a grin on the face of a tried-and-true horror fanatic, it’d be LORDS OF SHADOW 2, offering a savage portrait of the vampire that’s somewhat gothic, somewhat international and entirely frightening.
CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2 hits stores on February 25th. For more, see our interview with developer David Cox early next month.