The Castlevania concept works great as a 2D game, but its 3D iterations weren't always quite as successful. Aside from Castlevania 64, the series managed to do a solid job going from 2D to 3D. But despite the solid performance, it never gained a huge popularity or sales like other third-person action games of the time (God of War, Devil May Cry ect.).
But with Lords of Shadow, the series finally found its path in the 3D world that was unique and that worked well. It is a reboot that takes the iconic elements from older games in the series, mostly from the very first Castlevania, and delivers a game that not only plays well, but also catches the dark and haunting atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the game was overlooked by many players when it was released on consoles back in 2010. It wasn't the only gem being overlooked in 2010, however: Remember Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, for instance? If not, then you missed another good game.
If the release of Final Fantasy VII and System Shock 2 on Steam is anything to go by, it's that a PC port or re-release can give an old game a second chance of success, and this game deserve this chance. With the game being released on Steam, it's about time to tell you why this game it worth its money.
- 1. The game has a refreshingly new take on the medieval fantasy setting
Remember how everything these days is either a copy of Lord of the Rings or a copy of Game of Thrones, and ultimately everything that is set in the medieval times and that has fantasy elements is more or less the same interpretation of the old legends and myths? Well, this game has an entirely different take on it, which feels more realistic and is also quite refreshing.
Let's take the vampire for instance: Nowadays we see vampires as humans with pale skin and magic abilities, perhaps with white hair and fangs in their teeth. How do they appear in Castlevania? As vampire bat monsters with legs and arms. Aside from their leader, none of them looks human, but instead like a monster like it should be. What's more, they are allergic to sunlight which is important both storywise and gameplay-wise.
There are more creatures in this game like werewolves, ghouls, trolls, giant spiders and skeletons. Each of them are being presented in a way which definitely isn't common in today's mainstream media. It is more dark and gritty, with rarely a happy moment in sight. If you want a mature medieval game world, this is it.
And for what it's worth, the environment looks gorgeous, yet is kept rather realistic.
- 2. It may not be Metroidvania 3D, but it gets close enough
The PlayStation 1 game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night successfully delivered a Metroid-type game with a Castlevania setting, and every single game in the series that came after it is being compared to it since. This is a bit unfair since creating a giant free-roaming sandbox game takes considerably more work and time to create, and horror is best served in a linear experience imo. The 2D games eventually followed suit, but doing the same in 3D is a different story entirely.
Lords of Shadow is a reboot of the original, linear Castlevania experience and plays out its strength by focusing on just that. But even so, it has a touch of Metroidvania in it. There are upgrades in some levels which you can only reach when acquiring a new gadget and visit the level at a later time again. You can replay any level again once completed, which makes this game sort-of open world.
What's more, some gadgets allow you to reach places in a different way or even reach them faster, which allows you to finish a level faster than you could do so before. So revisiting the levels is recommenced, just to see how much more powerful and faster you've become since last visiting the area. These new gadgets are sometimes required to beat the level challenge, which makes this pretty close to the Metroid concept of going back into old areas with new equipment.
- 3. The PC version offers great value and performance at this point
Make no mistake, Lords of Shadow is no Homefront-5-hours-campaign game. It is quite the long game that will entertain you for quite some time.
“But how long is it exactly” you ask? Well to put it into perspective: almost all current console games are less than 9 GB in size in order to fit on a single dual layer DVD for the Xbox 360 version.
This game required two disks for the 360 version! (PS3 version fit on one disk due to it being Blu-Ray)- This can mean only one thing: The game has so many unique art assets that it couldn't be cut down to a single disk. It certainly shows in the game itself, as the over 40 levels rarely look the same.
The PC version also includes the two stoy DLC packs which were released after the game's console release. As a result, the game is even longer, and all of this is available for just 25 bucks. This is a killer deal!
Also, the game's performance as a PC game is quite good. Just like DmC: Devil May Cry, the game is a straight port of the console version and as such doesn't require a whole lot of of horsepower, as the system requirements are as "low" as the consoles.
That doesn't mean that the game looks ugly, on the contrary, but on the flipside, even older PCs can handle the game.
Personally I have an AMD Radeon HD 6850 and an Intel Core i7-2600with 3,4 GHz, my PC was considered a mid-range gaming PC back in 2011. Tow years later, I still could play Devil May Cry at smooth 60 FPS and maxed-out settings. Same goes for the demo of Lords of Shadow which ran just as smooth.
Oh, and before you ask: Yes, the game has controller support.
- 4. The game has strong platformer and puzzle elements
The game doesn't consist of just combat, but also has a fair amount of jumping, climbing, rope swinging and falling. What's more, a puzzle is thrown into the gameplay occasionally which are never too hard to figure out.
All of this results in a gameplay experience that is not getting tiresome, ever. Combat, platforming and puzzles are evenly balanced and make this a round game.
- 5. It offers plenty of challenges
The game's combat can be best described as “tight”.
Each enemy type requires a certain strategy, and there's no such thing as a throwaway enemy that can be killed with one shot. The game introduces new enemy types in almost every second level. Same goes for the upgrades of your main weapon as well as the traditional upgrades which can be bought with Experience, which is acquired by killing enemies. The bosses aren't pushovers either, they require strategy and skill.
There exist three different difficulty settings, with the hardest one being unlocked once the game has been completed. On top of that, each level has a challenge which can be unlocked once a level has been finished for the first time. The challenges range from speedruns, to no health loss, to certain rules that must be adhered, like not being able to use magic.