As we slowly push towards a new generation of consoles, there are a select few last-gen titles that prevent us from permanently pulling the plug on our beloved old hardware, sadly, though many hoped, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 falls short in placing itself in that respective library of games. It's an experience equipped with hit and miss plot points, repetitive combat and some irritating sequences, though when the former is a hit, it's an excellently executed one, which is arguably the driving force behind your motivation to keep playing.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, developed by MercurySteam, places players back in the shoes of Gabriel Belmont (or Dracula). After a few events -- of which we will not spoil for you -- Dracula sets off on a perilous endeavor in a modern day world to find and destroy Satan's acolytes before they can summon him to the surface.
While the story unfortunately fails to maintain a consistent compelling narrative, it does however refresh players’ minds with curious moments of revelations occurring towards the end of the tale. The delivery is still a bit weak but it certainly adds more purpose and flair to this otherwise cumbersome journey.
The environment design is another hit and miss, but for the most part the locations are a joy to explore and you're absolutely encouraged to do so and even revisit areas after you've obtained certain abilities to discover secrets and hidden passages. Once all abilities are obtained, players can freely roam through any part of the city, though we wouldn't necessarily call it an open world. Travel is limited to four different areas that are normally accessible by very linear paths.
As you make your way through the city and other in-game areas you will encounter a variety of enemies, from the "infected" to robotic soldiers. Some battles can be skipped but judging from the challenge provided by the game's boss battles (of which there are many), you may want to rack up as much experience points as possible...
…or maybe not, seeing as how combat in LoS2 is extremely repetitive and ultimately disappointing, which is a shame since it borrows much inspiration from titles like God of War and Devil May Cry -- predominantly the former.
Still, if you're familiar with either or, the combat in LoS2 should feel familiar. There are three weapons to acquire in the game: the Shadow Whip (is your default weapon), Void Sword and Chaos Claws. The Shadow Whip does your basic melee attacks except with a bit of range (identical to the Blades of Chaos in GoW), the Void Sword is good for mid-ranged attacks and replenishes health upon each successful strike and the Chaos Claws require arms-length distance but offer heavy, powerful attacks. Players can switch weapons freely during battle to create a stream of deadly blows and combos (bringing to mind the combat in DmC).
We're in no way trying to say that the combat system in the game is bad, it's just not, well, good. On certain accounts, it's intense and exciting, especially when you first jump into the game; however, slowly afterwards you'll grow tired of the countless repetition. This goes the same for boss battles; most bosses in the game have practically the same move-set, just with a different style, and can be fought using similar strategies.
This can and will inevitably lessen the overall experience, but if you enjoy the combat and make good use of the newly introduced weapon and combo upgrade system, then -- while not necessary unless playing on the harder difficulties -- you can easily spice things up, though your enemies won't react any different.
MercurySteam also throws in a few unusual puzzles throughout the game that feel weird and out of place. Even more out of place is the addition of stealth, though it proves to be a lot more challenging than one might initially suspect. There were actually a few stealth encounters that left us scratching our heads for quite some time. While not a great fit for this particular game, these sequences do require you to use your head which strays from the game's usual straightforward path, adding variety, but at the cost of slowing down the pace.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is an interesting game that starts off weak but ultimately grows into the experience players were hoping for. It does a lot of things wrong but it's easy to look past those things and find a decent game at its core. Nevertheless, for a title only on last-gen, even focusing on what's good about the game isn't hardly enough to distinguish it from the mix. Odds are, in about a year from now while you're looking back at some of the great titles of 2014, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 won't be one that crosses your mind.
- Encouraged exploration
- Interesting setting for this particular game
- Story gets better towards the end...
- …though ultimately fails to deliver
- Lots of repetition
- Constant change of pace