Over the past couple of years I’ve really enjoyed the recent side-scrolling Castlevania games on the DS and this latest title brings the series into full 3D in the form of a 3rd-person action adventure. Even though it bears the Castlevania name it’s interesting that the game was just titled Lords of Shadow when it was announced in 2008 and that’s probably why it doesn’t actually feel like a Castlevania game.
Set in a monster and demon-ravaged Middle Ages, you play as Gabriel Belmont as you travel the land and attempt to send these hellish creatures back where they came from. And it’s a long journey you’ll be on too. There are 12 chapters and each of these are split into a further number of stages and you can go back to previous stages at any time with your newly-found powers to try and find all the secrets hidden within them.
It’s a heady mix of combat, exploration and puzzle solving and of course there are bosses to fight along the way – some of which are a lot of fun because they use exactly the same gameplay mechanic as Shadow of the Colossus as you scale the big beasts and stab at their weak spots. As you chop your way through orcs, lycans, werewolves and skeletons you earn points which you can then spend on new abilities and fighting moves.
The combo system is fun and you’ll have to use a combination of dodging, guarding and attacking if you want to stay alive. You can also use light and dark magic to heal as you attack and to deal more damage but it’s annoying that you have to click in the left stick to collect orbs dropped by enemies instead of them just being automatically absorbed.
The fixed camera also takes some getting used to. Sometimes you end up running into the screen not knowing where you’re going or misjudging jumps and falling to your death. Presentation though is great. Environments are all very pretty to look at and even Robert Carliyle and Patrick Stewart lend their Scottish and English tones to the voice acting.
You’ll get a lot of fun out of this next-gen Castlevania game and there’s plenty of reasons to go back and play levels again once you’ve clocked the game the first time round. Just don’t expect it to actually play like Castlevania because it doesn’t I think Konami’s been a bit cheeky here and tacked the name onto the front to sell a few more copies.
Lords of Shadow gets a very good 7 out of 10.
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