Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is one of those games where I put my fingers in my ears and scream while anyone talks about it. Not because I hated it, quite the contrary; while everyone was giving it either ‘a 7/10 adventure game’ or ‘not the Castlevania we love’, I was buying Lords of Shadow posters and Xbox Live avatar items and listening to the soundtrack. I went insane for it to a bizarre extent, the Castlevanic lore blended with Tolkienian fantasy being enough to disperse the fact that I don’t even like hack’n’slash.
The very premise of Lords of Shadow 2 is a spoiler for the first installment’s ending, so get out of here and play it if you’re new to the series. Gabriel has festered in his castle (Priscilla’s old castle?) for what appears to be centuries after the tragic events regarding Marie, the God Mask and Zobek, leaving him a withered, decayed old husk. Oh, and he’s totally evil now, and has finished his descent into becoming Dracula. Honestly I was a little taken aback by just how nasty MercurySteam have made what remains of our feathery-haired soft-spoken hero, but was also rather tickled at the fan service of Dracula’s return. He’s first seen on a throne drinking blood out of a chalice (yes!), he throws the chalice carelessly aside (woo!) and even says THAT line from Symphony of the Night, even if it is shoehorned in hilariously badly (ouch). The Christian people that inhabit the land have had it up to here with the Prince of Darkness living in their land and have besieged the castle, so the fighting began in earnest.
The combat that followed was pretty usual fare from Lords of Shadow, with plenty of whip flailing and even keeping a great deal of the combos from the first game. While I was slightly disappointed with nothing completely throwing a curveball at me, the Void Sword and Chaos Claws replacing the light/dark magic made powers seem that little bit more interesting, and will no doubt open the field to some far more interesting move sets. After dispatching a bunch of Christian soldiers , a boss flew out of nowhere in the form of a giant golden set of armour with wings. The fight was fast and furious, not least because of the gigantic backdrop of the castle towers smashing and catapult fire tearing apart the fortifications. It wasn’t particularly hard, though – my hope is that the demo was set to an easy difficulty.
Just as my victory seemed assured against this peculiar medieval Power Ranger, the fight was interrupted by a ridiculous medieval Pacific Rim mech. I’d probably have called this jumping the shark, if climbing on its back and performing Shadow of the Colossus 3.0 on it wasn’t an idea so crazy it worked. Still being hunted by the Power Ranger, now flying after me and shooting arrows, the task was to make a precarious path all the way to the top and destroy the core. The platforming simply worked a lot better than that in the original – there’s clearly been a lot of work into the smoothness of the controls – and yes, thank god, the camera angle issues are sorted. The right stick now moves the camera, just like every other game! What a bonus!
If this is the rate at which the rest of Lords of Shadow 2 will be going, then it looks like the focus is ‘bigger and better’ – there was nothing understated about the manic 25 minutes we got to see. I’m hoping it keeps some sense of pacing and gives plenty of time and devotion to its story (there are still questions that need answers!), but if this is the way combat-centric sections are going to be, then it’s a thumbs up from me.