Last week, Mindscape Asia Pacific and Red Cross Australia teamed up to promote Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and educate gamers on the importance of donating blood. The first 3 hours of the game were playable, but gamers still managed to donate enough blood to save 30 lives throughout the course of the evening. The event was a resounding success, and totally fitting for Lords of Shadow 2, being that you play as Dracula – a blood-sucking vampire.
The game begins with Dracula sitting on a lonely throne, in the middle of one of the giant, gothic halls in his ever-spanning castle. The door before him gets torn apart, enemies start pouring in and Dracula stands to meet his foes with an odd nonchalance. This is where the tutorial begins – you learn to block attacks as enemies strike you, dodge attacks when ‘heavy’ enemies are about to hit you, ‘finish’ enemies when you’ve battered them down to low health and swap between your two weapons with ease. You begin the game with the Void Sword, which steals life from enemies as you hit them, and the Chaos Claws, which are used to take out shields and other basic defences. Everything is upgradable, with ‘mastery’ that you get from using a certain weapon regularly, and new combos that can be unlocked via the experience orbs that enemies drop when they die.
As you leave the tutorial, there are a whole lot of fairly lengthy and very regular cut scenes. As it turns out, Dracula is depressed. Poor Dracula. He wants to die, miserable after the events of the previous game, but can’t kill himself because he’s a vampire. After the first Lords of Shadow (which I hadn’t played, but had no issue understanding), Dracula learns that Satan is returning to Earth in attempt to bring about the apocalypse, as some kind of act of revenge. Dracula makes a pact with Zobek, a man who is able to kill him, that he will defeat Satan if Zobek kills him. All the while a whole bunch of other people (namely the Belmont clan and every odd thing living inside Dracula’s own castle) want him dead, too. Basically, everyone wants Dracula dead, including Dracula. Poor, poor Dracula.
This is the first Castlevania game that allows you to play as Dracula himself, and aside from some added stealth mechanics, the game feels very similar to previous Castlevania titles. It’s twisted, extremely gothic and honestly kind of miserable. Modern-day Dracula starts out looking like a decayed old man, so you’re forced to wander the streets and consume a terrified, innocent family. It’s brutal, but not too much more brutal than the beings in your castle crying out for your help and your love while they obsessively track you, and attempt to kill you as well. The twisted nature of the game is actually very alluring, and is enough to keep you going through some of the fairly simple puzzles.
The newly added stealth mechanics allow you to hide in pockets of darkness and possess rats, so you can sneak around larger enemies before potentially possessing them, too. You can possess rats for as long as you’d like, but the larger enemies don’t respond well to your presence and will eventually explode and die. You have a series of ways to distract your foes, but you will need to possess some of them to do things that require added strength – like opening doors. The stealth isn’t difficult, but it does add an extra challenge, alongside the puzzles scattered throughout the game. These puzzles are quite simple, too – a particularly memorable one involved figuring out how to freeze a fan so the blades stop spinning, then possessing a rat to fit underneath the fan before the it started spinning again. They’re not stupidly easy and I was stumped occasionally (for a few minutes at best), but they’re still an excellent way to break up the combat sequences.
That said, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has an impressive enemy roster that I’d actually like to avoid talking about too extensively – some of the fights in the game are really just packaged creative surprises. The two boss fights I played were certainly tricky but weren’t overly hard or punishing (attacks are quite easy to dodge and evade), but each boss was vastly different from the last. They’re unpredictable – one boss was fast, could fly, swapped between attack modes regularly and had a whole heap of unblockable moves. Another was big, bloody and quite slow, but could only be destroyed if you hit it repeatedly without getting hit once yourself. From the variety of enemies, to the seamless transition between Dracula’s haunted castle and the modern-day settings, this game is hugely creative.
The Castlevania franchise has existed for longer than even I’ve been alive, but Lords of Shadow 2, which is set to release at the end of this month on the Xbox 360 and PS3, is totally accessible to any generation of gamers. The combat flows beautifully, the stealth makes you feel like a real, pure evil vampire (none of that Twilight business), and the plot is sure to have its fair share of twists and turns. Huge thanks to Mindscape, Konami and Red Cross Australia for hosting such an awesome event!
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is set for release on the 27th of February.