Friday, June 20, 2014

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

I'll be completely honest here. After playing through the mediocrity of Lords of Shadow and the crapocrity of Mirror of Fate I had basically zero drive to play another game in the LoS series, and I'm not the only one. There's a reason why game review sites were giving Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 ratings of 6 out of 10 before it was even released, and it's not because they were thrilled to dive once more into the cesspool of boring that is Lords of Shadow.

Still, I've always hated people who can't be bothered to get informed or form a legitimate argument for their opinions, so I did eventually get around to playing the game and I was actually happily surprised to find that the game really wasn't bad. In fact, I'll go a step further and say this: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is the game that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow should have been.

In my review of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD I mentioned how the original Lords of Shadow was not developed as a Castlevania game and instead had the name slapped on at the end in order to sell more copies, and in my annotation for the first game I talked about how the biggest problem with the first game was a lack of ideas, and how I thought that if they had developed it from the start with the intention of it being a Castlevania game then they would have had a wealth of inspiration ready and waiting for them. Well, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is basically exactly what I was talking about.

The storyline is vastly improved from the first game, mostly since the writers actually had a direction for it to go in this time. Characters have also been vastly improved, both in writing and in artistic design, and again this is due primarily to them actually having inspiration this time. Even gameplay has been greatly improved. Enemies are more interesting which makes combat more interesting as a side effect, and the quick time events have been toned down with an option to play without them entirely.

That said, the game still has its flaws. While enemies are more interesting they're still not as interesting as they could be. They range in variety from "vaguely humanoid monster with a weapon" to "vaguely humanoid monster with a different kind of weapon" and again none of them look like they actually belong in a Castlevania game at all.

While I mentioned that the characters were more interesting this was both true and kind of misleading. Most of the characters are indeed more interesting and again this is due almost entirely to them having inspiration this time around which becomes abundantly clear when you see the new original villains, Satan's Acolytes. All three of them are boring, one-dimensional bad guys who look and act like they belong in DmC: Devil May Cry more than they do in Castlevania (though they would be bland and uninteresting in that game too). Well, except the second Acolyte with his Force Lightning. He belongs in Star Wars.

But here's the greatest sin against this game to me: I HATE what they've done with the music in the Lords of Shadow series, and this game did not do anything to fix this travesty.

One of the things Castlevania is known for is its iconic sountrack, ranging from classical-inspired pieces to gothic rock. Everyone knows songs like Bloody Tears and Vampire Killer, and Symphony of the Night's The Tragic Prince remains one of my personal favorites.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has none of that. I originally considered leaving this out entirely because I wanted to limit my comparisons to the rest of the series, but honestly it was a major sin against this game for me. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has one of the most boring, uninspired soundtracks from any game I've played in recent memory.

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

All things considered the music is terrible but only a small part of the game. The game itself is decent, even good, but it still isn't great. As I said, this is what Lords of Shadow should have been, but that's also kind of the problem. This is pretty much this new series at its best... and it's still flawed in fundamental ways that are impossible to overlook.

If you're really interested in the series then I would suggest you skip the first two games and come straight to this one. The opening narration explains pretty much everything and the things that aren't explained (like what the deal is with the mirror of fate) aren't really explained in the other games either, so there's no reason not to just ignore them.

At the end of the day, though, I wouldn't really suggest that anyone play this game either. It's good, but it's not a must play by any stretch of the imagination and has very few ideas that other games haven't already done better. If I want a game in this genre I'll go back to Devil May Cry or God of War, and if I want a Castlevania game then I'll play a Castlevania game.

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