Critic’s Corner: Castlevania - Lords of Shadow 2
Patrick Stewart’s vocal talents alongside demon-slash-vampire-hunting action aren’t enough to placate harsh criticisms for Konami’s latestBy Jonathan Toyad 28 Feb, 2014
The first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow game was met with divided views from fans and action gamers. Longtime worshippers of the 2D and Metroidvania-style iterations of the series decried it as a derivative God of War clone, while critics and others felt that it was a breath of fresh air the franchise needed. MercurySteam Entertainment Head and Lead Designer David Cox seems to follow the design mantra that the series can’t stay as a 2D archetype forever.
In any case, the first Lords of Shadow title garnered enough fanfare and sales numbers to justify a sequel. As a result, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (for the PS3 and Xbox 360) is getting an incredibly on-the-fence reception, with a smattering of venom.
To be fair, most of the outlets cherished the combat and action sequences. The divisive portions of the reviews so far are on the game’s later portions: some felt that it lacked a punch, while others thought that it was a fitting resolution. All the reviews, however, panned the stealth sequences and other non-combat portions, stating that the game can do without it or at least trim it down a notch. Plus, the game could stand to look a little better from a technical perspective despite the goth aesthetics.
Take a gander at the six reviews below and see if Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is the sequel and reinvention you’re looking for.
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“Artistically, Lords of Shadow 2 is a beautiful looking game, and even the menus are filled with striking illustrations of each creature and weapon. Unfortunately, the visuals are marred by poor technical implementation that produces a messy, pixelated motion blur and jagged halos around objects positioned in front of bright backgrounds. The music sadly never breaks into triumphant re-imaginings of classic Castlevania songs, but there are solid themes bolstered by somber piano, sweeping vocals, and electronic undercurrents representing the modern era.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 could easily be a better game if some things were simply removed. Still, despite the unnecessary stealth sequences and other roadblocks, it truly does get better over the course of its 15 to 20 hours. It isn’t a perfect modernisation of all we love about Castlevania, but it certainly feels like a proper part of the bloodline. Diverse, connected environments, creepy characters, and fantastic boss designs speak to a journey that resonates stronger than the plot itself.”
“Lords of Shadow 2 should have been a much shorter game. Still, though the game’s stealth sections and drab modern settings represent the worst elements of the three-part saga, the tail end of the game contains the best of every aspect that the series is currently known for. It’s the stuff you expect Castlevania to be made of, and after contending with forced stealth gameplay and a weak narrative at the start, it feels good to be home.
Even better, the final act wraps up the Lords of Shadow trilogy with authority, and the game’s final moments leave you both, gasping for air and sighing in relief. It may not strike newcomers to the Lords of Shadow tale with such force, but it’s nonetheless a surprising and fulfilling conclusion to Lords of Shadow 2’s distinct plot. Regardless of your experience with the saga, if you have the patience to get through the rough start, you’ll discover a much better game waiting for you on the other side.”
“CLoS2 is a resoundingly muddled game, disjointed and unclear of vision. It feels like a collection of disparate, part-formed game elements in search of coherent structure, pace, and polish. It’s perhaps an egregious extension of my opening metaphor to point out that in combat, Dracula fuels his magic stock by struggling to fill a Focus meter… but in light of how badly CLoS2’s lack of focus fuels its difficulties in recapturing the series’ own magic, it feels entirely fitting to do so.
Lacking the focus, clarity and coherence of its precursor, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 fails to satisfy as a sequel or as a game in its own right, delivering muddled game design and little narrative resolution.”
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“As much as I enjoyed besting hell’s henchman (and their horned, clawed, and fanged bosses) with the twitchy-yet-deep combat system, the thrill of painting the world in gore wasn’t enough to outshine the title’s shortcomings. On top of the undercooked stealth and subpar environmental visuals, the story’s a disjointed mess that swaps you between city and castle with seemingly little rhyme or reason.
The narrative arch does spring a few surprises and character appearances fans will surely appreciate, but more often than not the story and gameplay seem less interested in supporting each other and more concerned with tossing something new the player’s way before they become bored.
The same goes for the much-touted Metroidvania and platforming elements, both of which feel less like organic extensions of the story and action and more like features tacked on to appease a vocal fan base. Compounding this problem is the castle’s confusing level design, which often shamed me into sticking to the critical path for fear of getting Dracula lost in his own home.”
“The combat feels great when it comes together — particularly in some of the intense boss battles — but it suffers the same unreliable camera that caused problems in the first game. It’s even more of a struggle in Lords of Shadow 2’s tight hallways and confined environments. The camera was constantly blocked by some random light fixture or pointing at a wall as an enemy nonchalantly tossed projectiles at me from out of view.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 fails to deliver on its predecessor’s big promises. That’s really the biggest shame in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. It carries over all of the original game’s weaknesses but fails to live up to its strengths. Three years ago, it seemed like MercurySteam had an intriguing vision for its rebooted Castlevania universe. But what we’re left with at the end of the trilogy is a couple of cool ideas with no momentum. It’s not payoff — it’s anticlimax.”
“The first Lords Of Shadow is remembered as a commendable achievement from a relatively small team working to a comparatively tight budget. Its sequel, by contrast, cannot disguise the resources with which it was made. Lords Of Shadow 2 is clunky, ugly and deeply misguided. It’s a game that sees the lord of the damned as a vehicle for rat-powered linear stealth, and that takes a future-Gothic London setting and then sets the action in tower blocks and sewers. MercurySteam says this will be the final game in the Lords Of Shadow saga, and on the evidence of this cluttered, bloated and forgettable mess, it’s just as well.”