Graphics:
7.5
Gameplay:
5.8
Sound:
8.0
Control:
6.3
Replay Value:
5.5
Overall Rating:
6.6
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
Konami
Developer:
Mercury Steam
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
February 25, 2014


When producing an anticipated sequel, a developer must always walk that fine line between “too familiar” and “too different.” If it’s too much like the original, it will be accused of being a rehash that didn’t require much effort. If it tries to do too many new things, it will invariably annoy fans of the first title. The problem with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is that it falls into the “too different” category; while I always encourage fresh ideas from designers, if those ideas don’t work out, the result is somewhat disappointing.

The atmosphere is a perfect example of an unwanted change, in my opinion. Best known for a dark, gothic environment, this franchise thrives in the mythical, shadowy alleys of fantasy. When you implement a futuristic 21st-century setting, you’re not staying true to the franchise’s exalted core. The graphics have the benefit of a great sense of style and flair, and the animations and special effects are solid. Some are even fantastic. You can also travel back and forth between past and present, but at no point did I feel like I’m playing a Castlevania game.

As for the audio, we’re treated to a few excellent voice performances from a talented cast, and the soundtrack has that epic, sweeping quality I would’ve expected. The strange part is that it sort of clashes with the visual presentation; the music and effects – for the most part – do give me that familiar Castlevania feel. They tossed in a few more modern-sounding tracks, which don’t really do it for me, but the sound is a definite highlight throughout. Combat especially benefits from some wonderfully effective in-your-face effects that drag you into the experience.

Change. It’s welcome…but not. It’s ambitious…but unnecessary. This is how I’d summarize most of the newer gameplay elements I find in Lords of Shadow 2 . Let’s start with the more open-ended structure, which is drastically different from the extremely linear setup in the first title. Thing is, I’m all about striking a happy medium; finding a balance that doesn’t feel forced. This, unfortunately, feels forced. I would agree that the original game felt too constricted, but despite the increased diversity and size of the environments, the sequel seems to lack a soul. I’d rather be somewhat restricted and still have a soul.

The other problem is that while the first title gave gamers a relatively interesting, twisting storyline, the plot here fails to impress. It has its fair share of surprises, yeah, but the writers make a critical mistake: They don’t make the protagonist interesting enough. He’s not exactly sympathetic and he’s not exactly heroic; he’s fighting for a specific reason but sometimes that reason gets lost amid the muddled storytelling. He’s not the only character that’s ill-defined and under-developed, though, which is unfortunate. This story just doesn’t have it where it counts, but it thinks it does. Sadly, the more ponderous, thoughtful elements just don’t mean much.

On the plus side, the game is quite fun to play. The combat is really cool and action aficionados will appreciate the added complexity and intricacy. Gabriel has light and heavy attacks at his disposal (ala Kratos in God of War ) and the control feels light and responsive. This protagonist is appropriately powerful and the depth rewards those who experiment with Gabriel’s entire arsenal. The new experience system open up a myriad of new abilities, each of which is flashier and more devastating than the last. Between the basic whip attack (hey, that feels like Castlevania !), Chaos Claws and Void Sword, you can dish out some serious pain.