Sometimes a game just slips under the radar. Whatever the reason for this occurring, be it bad marketing, classification problems or a strange concept, some games just fail to find their audience. Here at Player2.net.au we want to highlight these rough gems and that is where “In Case You Missed It” comes in. Some games just deserve a second chance.
In Case You Missed It – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
The Castlevania games had always been known for their 2D platformers. Every time the franchise tried to move into 3D the results were less than ideal. The N64, PS2 and Xbox all hosted 3d Castlevania titles that never quite hit the high mark of the wonderful 2D releases. But that all changed in 2013. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was released and it erased all the bad 3D games from the memories of gamers everywhere.
Lords of Shadow released during the peak of God of War’s popularity and as the two games share some similarities many wrote it off as Konami’s attempt to cash in on Kratos’ good standing. Thankfully though Konami had an ace up their sleeve and that ace was game development legend, Hideo Kojima. Kojima Productions and MercurySteam ensured that Lords of Shadows was much more than a God of War clone and in doing so created the best Castlevania title since Symphony of the Night.
The game tells the tale of Gabriel Belmont, a knight of a holy order, and his quest to resurrect his dead wife. The tale seems simple but it weaves monsters and myths of legend into the tale with a deft hand making it an enjoyable ride. The story is also assisted by the wonderfully on point narration of acting legend Sir Patrick Stewart, whose deep British tones lend the tale an air of gravitas that a lesser voice actor would fail to supply.
Gameplay shares some similarities with God of War, however, there is added depth that is not present in Kratos’ adventures. Gabriel uses a weapon called a chain cross, which can be used to flail horizontally to control groups of enemies, or vertically to do more damage to one enemy. Attacks can be mixed up to suit the player creating a free flowing and entertaining combat system. Enemies are also quite varied and dealing with them takes much more skill than simply button mashing. In fact, the game is certainly more of a challenge than God of War. It forces players to learn and master the combat, block and dodge systems if they wish to finish the game. The difficulty is never more evident than in the boss battles, with some truly challenging encounters that force players to push their skills to the limit. These are some of the most satisfying (if frustrating) moments of the game. The game makes beating a giant stone titan or werewolf lord an achievement worth celebrating.
Outside of combat, there are some clever, if none too taxing, puzzles that help stretch the grey matter a little. There are also some entertaining platforming sections thanks to the ability of the chain cross to act as a whip or grappling hook. These traversal elements are well thought out and are a joy to complete. The game also weighs in at a hefty 12 hours or so, which means there is plenty of content for players to enjoy. This length, however, leads to the game’s primary weakness. After a while, it all starts to blend in and become repetitive, so long stints with the game are not the best way to play.
Lords of Shadow did reasonably well when it was released, well enough that a sequel was developed. Sadly though the sequel went ahead without Kojima’s input and it is clear the game is lacking because of that. Lords of Shadows 2 isn’t a bad game by any means, but it isn’t a patch on the first entry of the series. So if you are looking for some 3D Castlevania action then there simply isn’t a better game to get your hands on. Sadly the game isn’t backwards compatible on the Xbox One yet so the PC version on Steam is probably the best bet. With the Castlevania anime series just hitting Netflix and a renewed interest in the venerable franchise perhaps now is the time to dip your toes into the action. You won’t regret it.