Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-10-27 Xbox 360 Action M (Mature) Konami

As someone who finds herself fairly easily frustrated by extremely difficult games, you wouldn't think that the Castlevania series would have much appeal. However, with Konami publicizing the game as a reboot of the series, and with the game being so damn fun to play at this year's E3, my interest was more than piqued, and luckily, Konami was truthful in their claims.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow introduces players to Gabriel Belmont, a knight in the Brotherhood of Light. Gabriel's love has been killed, giving the storyline a focus on revenge, as well as Gabriel's own responsibilities as a knight, charged with protecting the average citizen from the Dark Lords.

The gameplay is mostly linear (with the occasional off-shoot to search for new items, keys, and the like), giving this hack-n-slash adventure title a feeling similar to that of God of War, especially with the game's focus on combos and expanding your move set over time.

However, this isn't to say that the game is stuck in one genre, as one minute you'll find yourself performing platforming elements, and the next scaling a truly gigantic enemy in a boss fight that screams of Shadow of the Colossus. All in all, the game combines the best elements from multiple genres, and we can't complain about that.

Needless to say, combat is fast and frantic, with multiple enemies approaching from all directions. Depending on your chosen difficulty level, battles can either offer a subtle challenge or can seriously test your skills. This is a Castlevania game, after all, so the difficulty is expected. However, the difficulty is never overwhelming, and with enough trial and error you can eventually defeat all foes (including bosses) thrown into your path.

As you progress through the lengthy story, Gabriel will become a stronger warrior, with more moves at your disposal (you can customize your upgrades through the menu, choosing the exact upgrades you'd like to have first), including magical attacks. Of course, there are puzzles to complete as well, with some of these offering legitimate challenge, and subsequently a real feeling of satisfaction once you figure out the solution.

The game's chapters take place over a wide variety of locations (you'll find yourself in a village, swamp, forest, cave and even on an frozen lake within the first few chapters alone), with the story being told both through cutscenes and through storybook segments that introduce new levels. These introductions are journal entries of sorts, narrated by none other than Patrick Stewart the highlight of an impressive set of voiceacting.

The graphics are equally impressive, with each local taking on a completely different feeling, both in the types of enemies you'll face and in the environmental backgrounds. Each leaf on a tree is detailed each shard of ice shimmers with the gleam of the sun. The game is beautiful, make no mistake.

All of the praise given to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is well-deserved. Even to those who would otherwise have too much difficulty in progressing through other titles in the franchise the gameplay here is both challenging and yet forgiving enough for any kind of player to become enveloped in the story and continue on. Lords of Shadow is easily the best 3D installment in the franchise and proves that the 3D variety of Castlevania games can still excel and are anything but dead.

Special thanks to Jay Boor and Konami for providing a copy of this title.