Gabriel Belmont is back, now going under the name Dracula. Fulfilling the prophecy that those who defeat the Lords of Shadow shall sit on their throne and become the Prince of Darkness, Gabriel is now a vampire, and not a very nice one. Unfortunately, the sequel to the hugely successful reboot doesn’t follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, leaving us with a boring action game that soils the name of Dracula.
I loved Lords of Shadow. I’ll say that first. Sure it deviated from the franchise in almost every way, and sure it had its faults, but it was fun, brutal and satisfying. Pity I can’t say the same thing about Lords of Shadow 2. It doesn’t do much different, so you’d think it would be as enjoyable as the first, but something seems missing this time around.
First and foremost, it’s an action game, so the most important thing about it is the gameplay. In the first Lords of Shadow, people moaned and whined because “it wasn’t Castlevania!”, but that didn’t matter! It was fun to play! Lords of Shadow 2 on the other hand is just plain dull. You have a button for direct attacks, a button for area attacks, and two other weapons activated by the shoulder buttons. Sound familiar? It follows the same pattern as pretty much every other action game but with nothing to distinguish itself.
Well, aside from the fact that you play as Dracula. Unfortunately this comes off as more of a gimmick than anything else. You get to feed on your enemies as a finishing move, but this doesn’t increase your health, nor does it look particularly awesome – two things which it really should, I mean this is Dracula after all.
Something else I hasten to add is the astounding resemblance to God of War. Even in the first few minutes it can be seen. You fight with a whip like weapon whilst having access to claws and a sword, climb up a huge monster at the beginning of the game, fighting enemies as you go, then you get disempowered and forced to reclaim the abilities you had at the beginning as you progress through the game. Fair enough, God of War is a masterpiece. Many games have taken inspiration from it as they should, but there is so much about Lords of Shadow 2 that felt familiar, even down to the upgrades and currency – they look the same. It all gave the experience a “been there done that” kind of feeling.
Enough with the bad though, let’s look at some of the positives. Robert Carlyle and Patrick Stewart reprise their roles as Gabriel (or Dracula in this case) and Zobek (somehow), and do a stand up job. The voice performances are stellar, and getting some well known stars to voice the game adds a cinematic feel. Who doesn’t love Patrick Stewart?
This cinematic feel carries over in the pre-rendered CG cutscenes, which look great. The creature designs are equally as grotesque as they were in the first game, and some moments are just flat out epic – such as the beginning, climbing on a big guy who’s trying to kill you – epic. The bosses too are truly inspired. However every now again there’ll be a graphical hiccup with resolution delays and a little pop in here and there, but these are few and far between.
The main issue I had with the visuals is that there is no upgrade from the first. The first game was gorgeous. The character models, the environments, the enemies, the bosses, everything was just beautiful. The second time around the environments are uninspired, you’re offered the illusion of an open world but it’s not really opened up to you, and everything in-game looks…okay. I like to see a degree of improvement in a sequel, but Lords of Shadow looks no better than the first, and a few years later, this is quite a problem.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 doesn’t live up to the first. It has it’s high points, and the actors bring the characters to life, but the flaws are many – I haven’t even touched on the boring platforming that requires no thought whatsoever. For a hardcore fan of action games, I’m sure it’s possible to find an enjoyable time here, but for anyone else, you’re better off looking elsewhere for your fill of bloody action.