Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition (PC) Review

By Javier Jimenez 18.03.2014 2

Review for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition on PC

There are many big fans of Castlevania, whether it's from the very first game through to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or simply just the GBA and DS offerings. Therefore, for such people, stepping into a 3D Castlevania was a bit like preparing to grind out all the NPC drops in Dawn of Sorrow: exciting, but also worrisome. After all, 3D Castlevania games have never been… well, to be blunt, they have never been any good.

The first glimpse into Castlevania: Lords of Shadow seems to calm those worries: lush cut-scenes, a small village in the dead of night, werewolves leaping from the dark, whips cracking *snap*, daggers and holy water. Belmont's whip carves a brightly lit trail through the view, dropping evil creatures left and right. There's even Sir Patrick Stewart narrating at the beginning of every scenario.

It's almost too perfect.

Then the camera focuses in on the next task, telling players what needs to be done and what button to do it with… and then it just sort of sits there… and sits there, for far too long, as if waiting for the slowest members of the audience to finally get it.

"Odd," one might think, yet with the task done it's back into the action and whip-cracking at monsters - some really brilliant monsters. Honestly great stuff like the mini-troll or the creepy mandragoras. The combos snap out one-two-three heavy attacks, focus builds up, shadow magic flares and more enemies drop. It is all good stuff; very God of War, very visceral and very satisfying.

Until - jumping towards a wall - Belmont slams face first into an invisible barrier. Despite being so big and polygonal and seemingly open, very little in the world can be interacted with or jumped on, over, through or around, because there are extremely restrictive invisible walls everywhere. At the best of times they are at the edges of the map. At the worst they limit Belmont to a tiny corridor even when the world looks big and open.

"At least it looks good, though," some might say, and it does, aside from some goofiness here and there (for instance, Belmont's costume), and apart from the "last gen" quality of some of the textures and models, there is a lot of work poured into the environments. Very little is recycled. No room looks like any other room. Off Belmont goes, then…

Sadly the camera starts to wobble and shake as it attempts to follow him down some stairs, though, or over a change in elevation. Nevertheless, into a room he runs. Monsters are ready to strike...and he can't see all of them because the player has no control over the camera, and every room has a pre-placed camera angle, and some of them are not good.

Screenshot for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition on PC

Nothing as silly as a bad viewpoint can stop the vampire killer, though. Belmont makes quick work of the monsters and it's off again. Slogging through some dreary puzzles and samey monster fights, it's finally off to a boss battle, and it's a real stomper of a fight. This beast is huge and loud and huge and also big. SLAM, it goes, and Belmont goes flying. "This is a proper boss fight," players will say; and it is.

Down goes the boss' health, the last bit of it melts away and the camera cuts to a close-up. The boss is on one knee, gasping… and… it's time for the Quick-Time Events - the first of many, many QTEs. Regular enemies? Let them get too close and a QTE may have to be performed. Cinematic chase sequence? QTEs. Players better believe boss battles will have at least two or three QTEs, maybe more. Fail the QTE? Do the QTEs again. QTEs.

Ah, this boss' QTEs were successfully completed. He's been dropped like a bag of proverbial rocks. It is time to sit back and enjoy the story… which is actually sort of a bore and cliché - full of predictable twists and inane expository dumps.

If these sound like complaints, that's because they are. Standards for the Castlevania series are high. Fans only need to look back at 25 years of classic gaming, with some real gems, like the original Castlevania, Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow, and more. Then look at Lords of Shadow. It isn't a bad game, but it's simply not a great game.

Basically, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a mixed bag. There are good aspects to take away, such as the combat mechanics, production quality, enemy art design and numerous 'Classicvania' homages, but there are many negatives, too, like the story, QTEs, the camera, generic cinema music, and the sometimes tedious level/encounter/puzzle design taht pulls the game's focus away from its core strengths (combat, platforming, boss fights, and so on).

The game tears opinion both ways. This is Castlevania. It's got a Belmont, a whip, trademark enemies, mainstays like holy water, and classic horror characters, including vampires, werewolves and liches. It's also a decently good beat'em-up á la God of War, with a lot of content - about 25 hours' worth - including both the original chapters and the DLC chapters in this PC Ultimate Edition. However, around five to ten hours of that content is not all too fun, thanks to the repetitive combat, mindless puzzles, weak story segments, and long treks through empty areas. Also, although the game is not necessarily riddled with it, Lords of Shadow does contain some poor or irritating game design and engineering.

Screenshot for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Ultimately, the best recommendation is to take Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on its merits and to let it stand on its own strengths. Those looking for a decent God of War style brawler with light puzzle content will find that in Lords of Shadow. Those who want anything Castlevania, no matter the style, will find that as well. However, those looking for 'Classicvania' should know this isn't that type of game, for better or worse.

Developer

Mercury Steam

Publisher

Konami

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Guille (guest) 22.10.2013#1

I love this game, i guess since ive never played a Castlevania game before this one i cant really comment about if its truly a Castlevania game, but  i absolutely loved this game, the story and graphics are really good, the gameplay is a copy of God of War, but its a good copy, i recommend it, plus its really cheap on Steam and comes with the DLC

Our member of the week

It's too bad they had to throw away 20 years of castlevania history by not weaving around the already existing scenario, rather choosing to re-create the entire franchise. As a fan, it's hard to swallow.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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