Thursday, November 16, 2000

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow | 7.5

udging from the reviews it seems like there are strong opinions on this game from both sides. I for one personally loved this game and very glad I finally decided to give this game a chance.

I grew up in the 80's/90's so I am very familiar with many of the old school games like Metroid, Zelda, and Castlevania; probably my three favorite franchises of all time. Though I never played every Castlevania game, I did like Castlevania 64 which many people hated. I was on the fence with this one but decided to take my chances a few months after the original release.

I found the graphics amazing. From pressing through the misty swamps to hiking through the crumbling ruins of past civilizations I felt as if I were actually there. I can tell by the sheer amount of detail in each level that the graphics team obviously spent a lot of time in getting these environments just right. In addition to the beautiful scenery, the bosses and NPC's also were done very well. Some of the smaller enemies are not as well done, but that doesn't take away from the overall look of the game.

The sounds are great as well. The voice acting is spot on and the background music goes very well with the gameplay and the background story. It is quite reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and many times I found myself thinking of that movie while I played through the game especially since this game seems to play as a movie itself.

Gameplay is good and the controls are very smooth and responsive. At first I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of combo moves and powers you could purchase, but after a while I was pretty used to them and while I eventually ended up buying all the combos I only used a handful of them on a regular basis. Speaking of combos, you will need to learn some of them because while some of the weaker enemies can easily be taken down by just mashing buttons some of the stronger and smarter foes require strategic attacks and defensive maneuvers to advance or you will find yourself dying often (i.e. Greater Lycans). One small complaint I have about the combat is the QTE which requires you to press a button (any button), before 3 on screen circles converge. It was cool the first few times, but after a while it gets pretty monotonous. I would have liked to see a God of War type QTE which required a specific rotation of your thumb stick.

One thing I absolutely loved about this game was the many puzzles. While I was able to solve all the puzzles without the help of a guide I did enjoy the challenge and more importantly I found them fun especially after I solved them. Unlike some other games that either make the puzzles way too easy or just bombards you with puzzles the entire game, this game has a good balance of puzzles and difficulty to challenge you just enough to get your creative juices flowing. Of course if you REALLY don't want to be bothered with the puzzles then you can always just unlock the solution, but you lose the puzzle solving bonus as well as the pleasure of figuring it out yourself. The favorite puzzle for me has to be the music box puzzle which you encounter later in the game followed by the chess-like Vampire War game that occurs earlier. The puzzles add a nice touch to the game and without them I probably would have felt that the game was missing something.

The difficulty of this game may be a bit harder than many video games these days, but honestly after playing it and keeping at it, I didn't find it as difficult as I originally did as I got further in the game. For comparison, its not as hard of the original God of War and I would say it's probably right on par with God of War III in terms of difficulty. If I were to play through it again on the same difficulty I probably could easily zoom through it, so if I do end up playing it again it will be on a harder difficulty.

Also different from many games these days is the sheer length of this game. I don't know how many game hours I spent playing this game to completion, but I started playing in March and didn't finish until a couple of days before I wrote this review. That is nearly 3 months of playing on an off. Now keep in mind I spent a lot of time backtracking to pick up missed items so I could get 100%, but still it's a long game even if you don't go back. I got this game for half of the original price but even at the full price I would say this game is one of the few games that warrant such a high price tag.

The storyline while not that original was greatly told and narrated by Patrick Stewart. Basically we have Gabrielle Belmont looking to avenge the death of his wife and seeks the power to bring her back from the dead. While this story is nothing new, the path Gabrielle goes on to achieve his goals and the many different people he meets during his quest makes the story very enjoyable. The final moments of the game before during and after the final boss fight was brilliantly done, I don't want to spoil it, so all I will say is that I was staring at the screen in amazement as I watched the final events unfold. Hopefully this is just a start of the story and I will be very interested in seeing how things continue from here.

All in all a great game all across the board, there are some few issues with not being able to control the camera, but it did not affect me much during the game. Many of the times I fell to my death is because I mistimed a jump or purposely jumped down from a ledge because I wanted to see if a secret was down there, but this had nothing to do with the camera.

If you are one that is used to easier games, then you may find this game a little frustrating at first, but if you stick to it I really believe you will find it enjoyable the more and more your progress. I have beaten the game and already find myself wanting more.

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