LOVED IT: Tells a fantastic story that enjoyably fulfills the trilogy, solid visuals and good musical score, solid boss fights
HATED IT: A lot of lore to keep straight, unimaginative stealth
GRAB IT IF: You love the Castlevania series and the Darksiders series
Gabriel Belmont is a Belmont like no other. And the coda to his story, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, is, fittingly, a Castlevania game like no other.
Developer MercurySteam has spent the entire Lords of Shadow trilogy (yes, this is actually the third game) being bold and gutsy, and so it is here. This chapter of Castlevania closes by opening its arms to new gameplay ideas, and while not all of them work, they do coalesce into a solid and fulfilling ending.
You are Gabriel Belmont, and by now, after Lords of Shadow and the 3DS game Lords of Shadow: Mirrors of Fate, you should know that you are really Dracula, albeit a Dracula with a death wish. That can come in this game, after a quest to hunt down Satan’s acolytes and essentially save the world in the present day.
This story is the strength of the game. MercurySteam goes through great pains to tell it and tell it well, using a variety of different devices, even putting you into the shoes of an aged, starved Dracula early on, just to show how withered he’s become. Good voice acting backs the experience, and when all is said and done, your three-game journey as Dracula will have felt fulfilling.
The tale has its challenges, though, most notably because of the convoluted nature of the story. It all makes sense, sure, but if you’ve forgotten the original Lords of Shadow or neglected to play Mirrors of Fate, you’ll miss out on references here or ideas there. A general recap of sorts would have been a nice option, although that’s something I find myself saying after more and more games these days.
Still, the story drives this game, especially when its gameplay collapses. That happens often, too. The tale sets up with intrigue and the fact that the acolytes are buried in present day has endless potential.
That this results in boring, one-dimensional stealth sequences, then, is a marked letdown. You’ll have to “infiltrate” the business places of several acolytes and by that I mean you’ll have to stealth your way into them. This could certainly be fun and the pieces are there: Dracula can transform into a mouse, even possess guards.
But in practice, you exercise little creativity, restrained by artificial rules in areas that lack the breathtaking beauty of Dracula’s castle.
It’s the sequences in Dracula’s castle, sequences sit between flashback and reality but play a key part in gameplay nevertheless, which rescue the gameplay. It’s here that you get to explore areas of vast beauty, here that you rediscover what made the series so much fun in the first place.
MercurySteam conjures some beautiful, original areas in Dracula’s castle and it crafts a powerful version of Dracula in Belmont, who’s backed by three games worth of lore. A solid, fulfilling ending to everything makes the entire game worthwhile.
No, Lords of Shadow 2 never finds lofty God-like perfection. But for those who have followed the series, it’s easily a journey worth taking.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Vaio Pro
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