Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Review 
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Geoffrey Tim
March 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm

What is this game, but a miserable pile of ramshackle ideas pilfered from better games? That damning statement about Lords of Shadow 2 is unfortunately true. While I, along with many of you, retained hope for Gabriel Belmont and his introspective battle of self and his quest to destroy Satan, abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

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Let me preface this, as one does when discussing a sequel, with the fact that I played and adored Mercury Steam’s first bite at the Castlevania licence. Though it had its problems, it was one of my favourite action games from the last generation. Great action, fun puzzles and its dark, yet vibrant gothic world left me enraptured. As another bit of disclosure, I feel it’s necessary to let you know that I’ll be spoiling bits of the first game here, as it’s necessary to do so.

Lords of Shadow 2 picks up very much where the first left off, and players are once against cast as  Gabriel Belmont. Only now he has a far more familiar name; Dracula. He’s been hiding in a dank, dark and musty cathedral for centuries for reasons that only become clear towards the game’s largely unsatisfying conclusion. He’s brought out of dusty retirement by the manipulative Zobek: a founding member of the Brotherhood of Light and, as revealed in the first game, a generally untrustworthy guy.

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Zobek needs Dracula’s help – an uneasy alliance –  in preventing Satan from returning to earth to seize control of man’s world. He once again manipulates Gabriel to aid him, by promising him the eternal rest that his vampiric, immortal mind craves. That’s the crux of the story, though the entire narrative is interspersed with all manner of contrived, confusing exposition that has Dracula flitting back and forth between a modern reality and an odd temporal anomaly that returns him to his castle.

Right from the onset, the game is jarring. After the tutorial, we find Gabriel as a weakened Dracula, exploring a semi-open-world modern European city; he and evil gothic creatures are juxtaposed against a grey, dull and modern backdrop. It’s within these modern times that the game seems to be designed by committee; it’s as if every idea the designers had was thrown against a board, with just the most viscid excrement sticking.

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Nowhere is this more apparent in the game than in its misguided and multitudinous stealth sections. Yes, as you’ve probably heard by now, the game is littered with missions that require one of the most powerful demigods in all of established mythology to scuttle about as a rat, lest he meet the gaze of an unholy space marine guarding some or other door. For whatever reason, all of Dracula’s attacks are disabled here, even though he’s more than capable of administering a fatal beating to the oversized guard. Instead, you’re forced to find cover of darkness, change form to a rat and then run about as filth until you’re able to amble about as a semi-functional being after possessing some human lab worker for the sole purpose of flipping a switch. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a mechanic that was used one or twice, but its re-used often enough that I’d let out an audible groan and roll my eyes at every occurrence.

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Lords of Shadow 2 is also the home of the single worst level in any video game I’ve played in recent memory. Yes, it’s one featuring stealth – and it’s not that it’s mind-bogglingly difficult; it just makes no sense. Gabriel has to retrieve some or other McGuffin from Agreus, who in this modern mythology is Pan’s brother. For whatever reason, Gabriel has to sneak around a large maze to press a button to enter a new room. Only the room he’s in now is filled with leaves, and Gabriel has to sidle along walls avoiding them, lest the resulting rustles alert the goat god to his position. Agreus is also on patrol, so if he sees you, or you make the tiniest noise,  it’s instant death, and a restart of the section. Believe me, you’ll die many times; the level is horribly designed, bordering on the most inane sort of trial and error. What makes it worse is that all the sneaking is for naught; moments later after an easy battle you’re quite literally ripping his face off.  It all makes exactly no sense.

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The game’s really at its best – and its best is really just good – when it goes back to being gothic. The moments when Gabriel’s back in Dracula’s Castle are the far more fitting to Castlevania, and help show off Mercury Steam’s rather good art and animation. The sections where you first encounter Chupacabra, the mischievous little dwarf…thing are incredibly well animated. With the PC in particular, Mercury steam has brought the character to life. The bits with the Toymaker and the puppet theatre are equally incredible, followed by very possibly the best boss battle in the whole game.

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Combat is good, but fails to be the game’s saving grace. Despite losing the combat cross, it’s very much how it was in the first title. Instead of that fabled weapon, we have instead a shadow whip providing Gabriel with his base attacks. A Void Sword adds icy, healing magic and Chaos claws give Gabriel armour-breaking fire magic. Each of the weapons can be mastered through continuous use, giving Gabriel buffing, knockback effects. Both secondary weapons are governed by magic meters that must be filled either by sapping energy from fountains, or keeping a combo going long enough to fill a meter that provides energy. While the combat itself has the potential to be deep, most of the enemies require very little strategy, making the entire thing devolve in to a repetitive slobberknocker by game’s end.

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In truth, it’s not a terrible game, but it’s a disappointing one that’s seemingly been cobbled together from random ideas. As a complete game, they make very little sense together. The schlocky, terrible writing is an affront to the incredible voice acting provided by heavyweights Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle. The inconsistent and unfitting gameplay and dull modern scenery don’t help either.

And yet, beneath that all are glimmers; flashes and echoes of the sort of stuff that made Lords of Shadow such a delight in the first place. That, and the closure it brings, make Lords of Shadow 2 worth playing, but don’t go in expecting much more than dull disappointment.

Conclusion

Underneath the unfocused, ramshackle design decisions and incomprehensible story there's a decent action game - but how much of it you're willing to endure for closure depends on how deeply entrenched you are into Lords of Shadow's lore.
6.0

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 was reviewed by Geoffrey Tim on a PC

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces. I am also the emperor of the backend

  • Hammersteyn

    Seems this Dark Knight didn’t rise at all

    • SheHulkNigri

      Maybe another Dracula could have saved this game? (Refresh for piccy)

      • Hammersteyn

        Can’t believe he’s dead. He was awesome.

        • VampyreSquirrel

          Yeah he was

        • SheHulkNigri

          Yeah. He knew comedy. Now we have the Wayans brothers… Saints preserve us…

          • Hammersteyn

            and Tyler Perry :(

    • Derek

      http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/castlevania-lords-of-shadow-2

      70/100 on metacritic. Don’t let one review influence you. Open your mind and decide for yourself. I’m guessing I’m the only person in this comment section who has actually played the game.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Good thing I only want the figurines *cough*

    • SheHulkNigri

      My fiancé bought me this for Christmas once. She was pissed off when she realized the brassiere comes off…

  • VampyreSquirrel

    Good thing i don’t have a PS3 to play my winnings on… I’ll let my brother in law subject himself to this :P

    • SheHulkNigri

      Why do you hate your brother in law? Did you want to marry your sister? No wait. You wanted to marry your brother in law! The plot thickens. (Yes, dark humor. But I am depressed. Everyday this Amazonian woman walks past my desk and would not even acknowledge my existence….)

      • VampyreSquirrel

        Lol! I’m only being cruel to him because he won’t let me take his PS3 and games to my place even though he’s out the country for a month on work.

        • SheHulkNigri

          The Bastard! If it makes you feel better, if you were my brother in law I would have given you my PS3 for a month.

      • Unavengedavo(aka. Bilbo)

        Maybe she walks past your desk every day because she is thinking the same thing?

        • SheHulkNigri

          Sadly not. She eyeballs my rich boss sitting in the corner…

          • Weanerdog

            Are you not married?

      • Smith

        I reckon his brother in law will be enjoying the game if he’s not another person blindly walking in expecting Symphony of the Night v2. Those Castlevania’s are dead guys, give it a rest already and Mercury saved the franchise from the clutches of Iga who had clearly gone insane if CV: Judgement is anything to go by.

        Unless you’ve played the game I don’t see what you’re judging on. One review by someone who also gave the first game the same score and is clearly bias, expecting a SoTN v2? Whatever.

    • Derek

      Wow. You let one terrible review make.you miss.out on a good game? What is it with people today? Can’t people no longer decide what they like? Go play your critically acclaimed (but hated by users on metacritic) COD Ghosts then.

      • VampyreSquirrel

        Lol, don’t jump to conclusions! I won’t be missing out on it because of the review, I’ll be missing out because the competition is for the PS3 version of the game, and I don’t have a PS3.

  • Unavengedavo(aka. Bilbo)

    A game so bad, we decided to give it away to one “Lucky” reader :P

    • Derek

      I bet everyone here hasn’t even played it. The author ‘s only real problem seems to be with the stealth sections. Horrible review. Doesn’t even touch on any of the game’s major mechanics.

      • Smith

        Looking at the users here, it seems you’re correct Derek. Such is the “gaming community.” If the game development and game journalism sectors are “dying” then so is the gaming community who don’t seem to be able to enjoy a good game unless Mr.Critic tells them if it’s okay if they can enjoy it.

        http://www.lazygamer.net/xbox-360/mass-effect-3-review-im-commander-shepard-andoh-just-buy-this-game-already/

        Lazygamer on Mass Effect 3: “A fitting, great end to a trilogy that made everyone take sci-fi seriously again. The story of Shepard will not leave memory any time soon and will be a topic of debate for a long time.”

        Just goes to show that critics are either paid off or have peculiar tastes. Either way, extract what you can from any review (positive or negative) but take only with a grain of salt. They think Mass Effect 3 had a great end but goodness’ sake so they’re hardly reliable sources.

    • VampyreSquirrel

      I guess the “new” comment makers can’t understand sarcasm.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor
  • LAblak22

    So I guess you cold say that this game… Sucks?

    Please forgive — guys, please — I have made a mistake.

  • Budi S

    I got surprised wih gameplay pace, it’s slow, boring, and…the stealth… i don’t even want to finish the first level. dissapointing sequel

  • Francois Knoetze

    I really don’t mean to sound like the odd one out but I actually enjoy the game…aren’t people being a little too critical and expecting too much? The first LOS was really awesome but also had a heap of mixed reviews.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      I enjoyed it, sure. I gave it a six, that’s “not bad” on our rating scale. Ultimately though, the game’s a hodgepodge of decent ideas that don;t work together, fleshed out with a nonsensical story and a hammy script. It was okay, but not what I’d call “good”

      • Francois Knoetze

        mmm…you have a point.I really would like them to have fleshed out the story more(coming to realize it as I am playing).the big problem came when right at the end of the original Lords of Shadow they chuck Gabriel(now Dracula) into a modern setting. Now they were forced to make Lords of Shadow 2 with this in mind. they could have just left it all together and focus on the Castle itself and that setting.

        Just finished the the fight with Pan’s brother. Understand how you can get frustrated with it.Almost forgot I have the bat mist ability at that moment. so instead of hanging everywhere I just use the mist from one patch to the other. if the brother sees me and attacks:mist again and I float around the corner.

  • Mathew Haight

    The Forest maze is super easy. You had just received the mist form a few mission prior and nobody seems to remember to use it.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      Yeah; that’s not the problem I had with it. The problem is that it makes no sense, because moments later you rip his face right of. what on earth is the point of sneaking around.

      • ICTech

        I completely agree with you. There were many points in the game where I was thinking “Why the hell aren’t you just fighting them? You’re meant to be one of the most powerful entities in this Universe.”

        There’s loads of other bits that really irked me. General climbing and movement. Ok so we have this character that is insanely strong, can supposedly fall vast distances unhurt and can apparently jump vast distances…. yet you see him scuttling over some walls and obstacles like a mere mortal. It felt like there was absolutely zero consistency in terms of his power.

        • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

          Indeed. Not once did I feel Like “Dracula”

      • salmon god

        Dagger thrown,Ding! GOT YOU….” You are wise to hide”. Leaf crunching sound,” I can smell your fear”.dagger thrown,Ding! GOT YOU…..
        I loved that shit.” Don’t leave us my prince,look at what your making us do”

  • Umar Praise The Golden Sun

    Sad…………………

  • JHN

    Gotta say I really enjoyed this game.

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  • Dracul

    Does thou complain too much!!! Forgive them for making a game to satisfy millions, and not the chubby few who want it Exactly how they want it!

    • Smith

      They’re all complaining too much I think. The author seemingly loves the combat (which takes up the majority of the game like the last). The stealth sections probably cover 40-50 minutes gameplay in a game that’s 20 hours long. That shouldn’t have influenced this clearly bias review which spends half its time criticizing the short stealth sections (which were illogical and silly). The gameplay apparently remains the same as the first game (which the author loved) according to the reviewer (and I can confirm that it does having played it too) but apparently it’s a button mash at the later levels and the first game wasn’t that either.

      “While the combat itself has the potential to be deep, most of the enemies require very little strategy, making the entire thing devolve in to a repetitive slobberknocker by game’s end.”

      “Combat is good, but fails to be the game’s saving grace. Despite losing the combat cross, it’s very much how it was in the first title.”

      “Let me preface this, as one does when discussing a sequel, with the fact that I played and adored Mercury Steam’s first bite at the Castlevania licence. Though it had its problems, it was one of my favourite action games from the last generation.”

      Contradictory or what?

      <_<

      If you enjoyed the first, you'll enjoy this. It's that simple. If you're *still* expecting SoTN v2 clearly like this author: prepare to be disappointed.

  • Jagstrag

    u don’t know anything about the story , it’s a great game a very great game the best in my opinion, this game deserves a 8/10 not a 6… it’s my opinion , an opinion of a fan of the story, someone who plays from the first castlevania…