After playing all the original releases, I finally came back to Lords of Shadow with a much better understanding of what the Castlevania series is. Lords of Shadow is something both completely different yet has hints of familiar feelings. Gone are the side scrolling linear paths, gone are the backtracking sections (for the most part) and the game has opened up into a 3D environment with little sections of openness, while still setting you on a very straight forward path.
This might not be the most popular game with Castlevania fans, since it really does divert from the formula and style the series was known for, but this is something different and a breath of fresh air. After so many games that basically had the same layout, style, enemies, bosses, levels and format… Lords of Shadow really threw caution to the wind and went out of it’s way to separate itself as its own thing. Which, again after going through the series in around a month or two… I was begging for something totally new.
What I got was a very familiar style of game, a Character Action game akin to the God of War series. Complete with it’s own “chains” in the form of the Cross whip, it plays exactly like God of War. At the time, I can see why this would be a huge issue, and one of the reasons I didn’t play much of it at the original release. It just felt like a clone or “another one of those”, which the gaming industry was churning out a lot. Games like Dante’s Inferno, Heavenly Sword, Bayonetta and others it was feeling very crowded with “Me Too!” games.
Lords of Shadows takes you way back in time of the series to control Gabriel Belmont as you and your companion Zobek battle the Lords of Shadow, several very powerful being that hold pieces of a mask that have extremely useful powers.The main goal is to get the mask, so you can bring back your dead wife. During your journey, you have to kill many creatures of the night that get in your way and luckily it doesn’t take too much time to progress as the game is quite long. With 14 chapters and levels that can be around 30-45 minutes long the game can take upwards to around 18 hours to complete.
The scope of the game is really the standout part of why the game should be played. The levels are large, tall and ever expanding. Taking the Castlevania series into the “HD” era of gaming allowed everything to just become larger, with the open areas feel like you were in huge valleys that spanned miles and miles in every direction. The interiors of the castle are something that still looks amazing even in 2019. The gigantic halls with candelabras going on forever and the massive paintings and drapes that cover the windows are just really fun to inhabit. It’s a beautiful looking game with some really well thought out and designed environments.
The boss battles, which the series is also known for become even grander in scale. Some are directly lifted from Shadow of the Colossus, which seemed a bit lazy, but some others really do use full advantage of the mechanics of the game in interesting ways. Having to switch out your light and shadow powers during boss battles like the game Ikaruga, were a lot of fun and again, the scope of these boss fights make it seem “epic” in a way that the word usually should invoke.
I honestly had a blast with this game, I always felt like I was progressing without too much trouble in the normal parts of the level. The only trying parts were the boss battles, some of which had some hard to understand rules to them, but once you know what to block, or jump on, it just becomes a bit of practice in dodging, something the Castlevania series doesn’t really do all that well.
The finale of the game and it’s bit “twist” are usually the biggest issues I’ve seen with people who really dislike the game. I saw the ending years ago when I didn’t think I would ever actually finish it. But a lot of the smaller details have faded over the years. The twist is dumb, bad and doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense to the overal lore of Castlevania, and knowing the game wasn’t even actually developed as a Castlevania game until later on in it’s development stage makes it a little easier to swallow. I’m usually more critical of those types of games when they don’t even actually seem like they should be a main title in the series, but for whatever reason, Lords of Shadow is one of the more enjoyable games in the series, since it is just so different and has such an amazing scope to the world.