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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Review

Before we begin, do any of you remember the movie “Dracula 2000” and what a piece of shit that was? How about Blade Trinity? Dracula being brought into a modern setting tends to end badly. What with awkward conversations, lots of confusion and deadly sex with random Goth chicks, having the Prince of Darkness around to savor the taste of modern times is usually a bad thing. But Konami did it the right way with the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2!

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Taking place after the ending cinematic of Lords of Shadow, LoS 2 has you once again taking on the roll as Gabriel Belmont. However instead of playing as the grief-stricken and powerful member of the Brotherhood of Light, you play as his current incarnation: Dracula. Normally this is the part where I would give you the reason why he is now Dracula, but I am trying to avoid as many spoilers as I can. So, you’re just going to have to play the first game to find out. Anyway, with the impending return of a supremely dark force, Dracula has to regain his powers(Lost due to centuries of inactivity)from his castle. Problem is, a city has been built in and around his castle, making things a bit difficult as things aren’t where they should be. If that wasn’t enough, the remnants of the Belmont clan are after you, as well as your own son Alucard(Play Castlevania: Mirror of Fate to find out more!).

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Gameplay and mechanics have been updated, yet still retain some of the features from the first installment. You still have your Journal, which allows you to look at enemy data, message scrolls from the dead, check your inventory, etc. The map has been slightly updated, forgoing the multiple layer system, and sticking with a much more simplistic look for easy navigation. You can still “fast travel” from the World Map, but it’s easier to do that elsewhere…more on that in a bit. The game features open world elements, allowing the player to choose what route he or she wants to take, and of course there are hidden areas you can reach, provided you have the ability required. Speaking of abilities, Dracula has 3 abilities at his disposal: Shadow Daggers, Bat Swarm and Mist. All of these abilities can be used in combat, but they tend to be more useful during explorations of the various areas of the game.

The fixed camera from the first installment has been shelved in favor of a 360-view camera, as well as an increase in the framerate, making the game run a lot smoother. The use of Quick Time Events has significantly decreased, and the abundance of puzzles has also been removed completely in an effort to maintain a somewhat steady difficulty by relying more on your powers to find and access hidden areas, some of which you will have to return to a previous area by making use of the Map Room. Lastly, a New Game+ feature has been added as well, allowing players to play the game a second time while retaining all abilities and stats from the previous run.

One of the new features is the City of the Dead. This area is treated as a central location(accessible by using the Wolf Medallion at certain spots)that Dracula can use to access the Map Room for easier travels, as well as Chupacabra’s Shop. The shop is another new feature, which allows you purchase different items using XP as the currency. Accumulating XP is quite simple as there two methods: Breaking destroyable items in areas or by killing enemies. Which brings us to the Combat aspect of this game…

The Void Sword will save your ass in a pinch!

The Void Sword will save your ass in a pinch!

Combat in this game is almost identical to the previous installment, but with a few notable changes. The first one is the Blood Whip, which replaces the Combat Cross from the first game. Aside from being made from Dracula’s blood, it functions EXACTLY like the Combat Cross does: Direct attacks for single enemies and sweeping, area attacks for crowd control. Light and Shadow Magic have been completely removed and replaced with two weapons, the Void Sword and the Chaos Claws. The Void Sword is technically an ice-elemental weapon(Whether the games says it or not), and it’s great at delivering quick and powerful hits. Plus, with every hit you land on an enemy, a portion of your health is restored. So in a sense, it kind of operates like the Light Magic from the first game. The Chaos Claws, however, are where the real damage comes from. Essentially akin to Shadow Magic from the first game, the Chaos Claws allow Dracula to deliver ridiculously powerful blows to the enemies by way of fire-imbued gauntlets. However the most rewarding factor to the Chaos Claws is it’s uncanny ability to shatter enemy shields and armor, allowing for quicker kills. The ability to grapple enemies from a distance has unfortunately been taken away, but it has been replaced with the ability to siphon blood from weakened enemies, allowing Dracula to restore a bit of his health on the fly.

Of course you can’t just keep either the Void Sword or the Chaos Claws active for an indefinite amount of time. Making it’s return from the previous game, your Focus Meter has to build up by attacking enemies without taking any damage in order for Blood Orbs to begin appearing from enemies you hit consecutively, allowing you to absorb them into yourself to allow you to use both weapons. Of course, the ability to dodge, guard and counter are also present in the game. Purchasing combos and additional attacks by way of expending XP makes its return, but with a new upgrade! Aside from purchasing an ability, you can then purchase an upgrade for it which adds-on extra effects or an additional attack. However, the best upgrade for this system is the Mastery System. As you use combos and special attacks, a counter will go up for that ability that eventually tops out at 100%. When it reaches that point, you can then take that maxed out ability and add it to the weapons’s Mastery Level. Once the Mastery Level…well…levels up, your attacks with that weapon become much more stronger. So, it’s imperative that you make use of every combo and ability that weapon has to offer in order to maximize its damage output and considering on how long the game is, it should be fairly easy to max everything out.

Sub-weapons make a return, but with more variety. Seeing as how the Daggers are already part of your vampiric abilities and the Faerie sub-weapon got well-deserved kick in the ass, the sub-weapon inventory has added a few new items such as:
-Stola’s Clock, which functions similar to the Stopwatch of classic Castlevania but also grants you extra XP from enemies
-Seal of Alastor, which unlocks all of Dracula’s skills for a short period of time
-Dragon Form, which operates similar to the Dark Crystal in the previous game

By pressing down on the D-Pad, you can open a radial dial to choose what item you want in that slot, effectively giving you the option to plan out for bigger battles.

Gotta have dem giant bosses, yo!

Gotta have dem giant bosses, yo!

Overall, the game has a lot more to offer in terms of gameplay and features. While I understand it isn’t the same Castlevania we Retro Gamers are used to playing, it does bring about a fresh feeling to an otherwise rehashed franchise. With genuine storytelling, great character development and amazing action, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will definitely fit right into the Castlevania franchise nice and snug.

9 out of 10

Until next episode…

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