Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review
Xbox 360 | PS3
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow box art
System: X360, PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: MercurySteam 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Konami 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 5, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Castlevania: The Adventure
by Steve Haske

In most pop-cultural circles, “reboot” is often thought of as a dirty word. In Hollywood, the term is tossed around far too easily, and outside of, say, Casino Royale, Batman Begins, and Star Trek, more often than not yields middling results.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow screenshot

Rarely one to stray far from the film industry, games have started to follow suit, and while there are probably more success stories rebooting game series—Crystal Dynamics taking over the Tomb Raider franchise and Ubisoft’s gorgeous 2008 one-off Prince of Persia come to mind—die hard fans and fanboys are much, much harder to please, particularly when there’s a threat of someone playing god with their favorite series. So Mercury Steam’s announcement last year that they were jointly developing a new 3D Castlevania alongside Kojima Productions didn’t exactly sit well with a lot of the hardcore fans of Konami’s premiere vampire slaying franchise. Worse was the fact that the developers actually proclaimed the so-called Lords of Shadow a reboot, taking the series in a bold and modern new direction.

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Now, any Castlevania fan that’s been following its progression since the inception of 3D knows that the third dimension has never been kind to the Belmont clan. With a disastrous start on the N64, the first 3D Castlevania was quickly dubbed a laughingstock, and while later 3D efforts on PS2 were much better attempts, 2005’s Curse of Darkness was still far from a perfect three-dimensional rendition. You might even say that Castlevania’s had a split personality since its muddy 64-bit debut, with the “true” line of the series following the handheld 2D GBA and DS titles (which for all intents and purposes took up Symphony of the Night’s non-linear mantle and ran with it). Let’s face it—all other technical or gameplay issues aside, the reason 3D Castlevania has never sat well with fans is because it hasn’t been Symphony of the Night with a 360-degree range of movement. Even a 3D entry that held as much promise as Lords of Shadow—a game that’s received Hideo Kojima’s blessing—has been met with doubt and dismay to the point where some fans (and even critics) have complained that it isn’t actually Castlevania. Yeah, Lords of Shadow is a definitely a reboot, and certainly a take on the series that owes as much to God of War, Devil May Cry, and even Uncharted as it does its own lineage. Also, it is decidedly not Symphony of the Night in 3D. But guess what? This is still every bit a Castlevania game.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow screenshot

Lords of Shadow does operate with a somewhat different rule book than you might be used to seeing in a Castlevania game, though. At a glance, you might mistake the game for a gothic God of War, and to some degree that’s right. But rather than simply moving from setpiece to setpiece, with Kratos only stopping to slaughter whoever might get in his way, Lords of Shadow has more of the feel and pacing of a modern adventure game. Sadly, this means the non-linear “which way do I go?” moments have been severely curbed, giving way to more focused design, including the occasional puzzle that may range from easy to a bit obtuse. Even so, Lords of Shadows’ levels are often large in size and scope, and the developers have done a great job fooling you into believing you’re accomplishing a lot of exploration by obscuring objectives, a la Uncharted 2. The game itself is divided into chapters, which are then chopped into levels. Though this is generally a no-no for the series, the number of sweeping vistas and slow zooms out from massive, ancient ruins or imposing architectural works, Gabriel Belmont encounters can be overwhelming; Lords of Shadow isn’t just a huge game, it’s one that can be wearyingly epic. If you need any proof of that, just wait till you get to the second Titan boss.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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