Drac to the Future…
Let’s get the negatives out the way first. Lords of Shadow 2’s plot doesn’t really deliver. It rattles along just fine for much of the game, but then it peters out near the end, and the ending is somewhat unsatisfactory, especially if you played the other titles in the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series. A bigger booboo though are the occasional stealth sections. They don’t last long, and there aren’t really that many, but for christ’s sake… YOU’RE A BUFF DRACULA VOICED BY BEGBIE FROM TRAINSPOTTING. YOU CAN TURN INTO A DRAGON, WHY USE STEALTH.
Apart from these caveats, Lords of Shadow 2 is terrific. It’s everything that was good about the first game (excellent, challenging combat, gorgeous graphics and exemplary art style) translated into a fully explorable open world. As a result it’s easily the closest the series has come to a 3D Symphony of the Night. It’s not a million miles away from Batman: Arkham Asylum, given that you can go back and explore new areas with new powers and look for extra bits if you’re the type that needs to see every nook and cranny.
It’s set 1000 years after the first game. Gabriel Belmont from the first game is now (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) Dracula, and has just woken up from a long nap, spanning a few centuries. He wakes up just in time for the end of the world, with Satan’s acolytes all set to wreak havoc upon an unsuspecting planet Earth, bringing forth the hoof-footed one himself. Dracula at full power is the only person capable of standing up to Satan, so much of Lords of Shadow 2 is spent getting Dracula his mojo back and taking out Satan’s people on Earth in preparation for his big showdown.
It takes a while to kick off (despite a brilliantly bombastic opening) and the new open world setting takes some getting used to. Once you figure out how best to get around though (there are map rooms that let you warp around) it makes sense, and really comes into its own. You can dally about in Castlevania City (imagine saying you were born there, it’d be so cool) which is basically a city built on the foundations of Dracula’s old castle, or Drac’s castle itself (which he explores either in his head, or back in the past. It’s a bit odd really, but eh, videogames).
Once it gets into the swing of things, and when it’s not making you be stealthy, it’s fantastic. Combat’s challenging but fair, and there’s a palpable sense of progression as you start schooling it over enemies that were giving you grief before. As expected it looks spectacular, the ruins of Dracula’s castle a real highlight. It’s all brought together by a cracking soundtrack though, one that bolsters the sense of grandeur and helps it become more than the sum of its parts. The voice acting sounds better too. Robert Carlyle sounds more into it this time, and Patrick Stewart is as rum as ever.
It’s big too. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a properly grand adventure, its single player taking around 15 hours to complete (more if you choose to look for all items and power ups.)
It’s a shame the plot doesn’t live up to the promise of the post-credits ending of its predecessor, arguably the biggest ‘HOLY SHIT’ moment we’ve experienced in a game this gen. That said, this is a grand old gory adventure with a lot of love poured into it that deserves to do well. One for the people aching for some God of War style fisticuffs.
Lords of Shadow 2 is out on Friday for Xbox 360/PS3/PC