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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: Konami
Developed By: Mercury Steam
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Rated: M for Mature (Blood and Gore, Nudity, Violence)
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Matthew Prunty

October 30, 2010 - The Castlevania franchise has endured for more than 25 years via home consoles and portable gaming devices. While the mythos of the franchise is ever expanding; bringing about several key figures throughout the franchise, the franchise stuck to its 2D roots for the most part due to a lackluster presence within the realm of 3D gaming. Looking to revitalize the franchise and introduce it to a modern generation of gamers, Konami looked toward developer Mercury Steam within assistance for Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions in order to make this tall order a reality. This trifecta of talent has lead to the creation of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the latest installment of the Castlevania franchise which harks back to the beginnings.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow puts you into the shoes of Gabriel Belmont, an active member of the holy order of knights known as the Brotherhood of Light. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Gabriel is the first of the legendary Belmont clan who have been the main protagonist for majority of the Castlevania releases. In Lords of Shadow, Gabriel will have to stand up against a great evil in order to save the world. The task given to him by the Brotherhood of Light is to kill the three Lords of Shadow in order to harness the enough power to break the seal thatís keeping the world from being connected to God.

While the basis for this game seems like it would be one of exploration, surprisingly Lords of Shadow is a very linear game. The entire experience is broken down into chapters, with each chapter being broken down into sections. Upon completing a section, you are able to revisit it at any point doing the game, which is a key factor with this game as certain areas and items canít be accessed until you gain abilities you were acquire until later on in the game. These items arenít needed in order to complete the game; however they will make the journey a little easier on you. Making the experience easier is always a good thing; especially for those who opt to play the game on normal, hard or the mysterious difficulty level you gain access to upon completing the game. There are several sequences within the game that will test your abilities as a fighter and simply spamming the buttons will see you die more than a dozen times before you even make it halfway through the game. Primary weapons, secondary weapons, controlling magic and knowing when to attack and evade will all be utilized in order to survive.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is the first 3D action game released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles that looks to take advantage of the platforms capabilities in order to create an immersive cinematic experience. Players can expect to embark on an epic journey full of platforming sequences, engaging puzzles and an in-depth combat system that rivals some of the greats like God of War and Assassinís Creed. To be honest, you will see a lot of similarities within the combat system to that of God of War. While Kratos wields the Blades of Chaos, Gabriel utilizes a Combat Cross which has a chain whip attachment. Both protagonists can and do deliver devastating attacks and combos on their unsuspecting foes utilizing their respective weaponry. Gabriel has two types of attacks at his disposal, two of which require the Combat Cross. Direct attacks will allow you to inflict maximum damage on a particular foe, while the area attacks allow you to tackle 3, 4, 5 and even more enemies at one time. While the area attacks donít deliver as much damage as the direct attacks, they keep you from being boxed in.

Also at Gabrielís disposal are secondary weapons ranging from silver daggers to holy water. While on their own, these weapons are very deadly against the correct foes -Ėwerewolves and vampiresó- combining them within combos and with magical abilities will net greater devastation on your enemies. The magical abilities Iím referring to is the ability to control light and dark magic, something no ordinary person can do. By harnessing the power of light magic, Gabriel is able to heal himself with every successful hit he strikes his foes with. By utilizing dark magic, Gabrielís strength is increased dramatically, allow for more devastating attacks and the ability to plow through walls. Like mentioned before, your magic abilities can augment the abilities of your attacks. You can combine your dark magic with your silver daggers to make then even more powerful, while combining light magic with holy water can produce a transparent shield which will keep you safe from attacks for upwards of 30 seconds.

After advancing in the game to a certain point, you will also gain access to a focus bar. This bar fills with every single successful attack you deliver. Once maxed out, every hit you land on your enemies will grant you extra orbs which can be absorbed in order to charge your light or dark magic abilities. At any point during the building of the focus bar or after itís full and you are hit, the bar will reset back to zero, requiring you to start all over. The combat system within Lords of Shadows seems straightforward most of the time, however as you progress through the game, you will soon realize that having a strategy when you enter battle is key to ending the sequences quicker and without dying.

Puzzles and epic boss battles are littered throughout Lords of Shadow. Some puzzles are as simple as placing a ball in a certain spot, while there are harder puzzles which test your memory and dexterity in order to solve. Several of the puzzles you come across give you an option to try and figure it out on your own or be given the solution; which will void your chance to acquire a bonus for completing the puzzle on your own. When not exploring the lands or engaging in a mind-bending puzzle, you will have your hands full one of several bosses within Lords of Shadow. Epic boss battles have always been a staple with Castlevania titles and Lords of Shadow certainly rises to the occasion. One of your earlier boss encounters has you going up against a giant stone statue that looks very similar to one of the bosses within Shadow of the Colossus. Future boss battles come in all shapes and sizes and all will require their own unique approach in order to come out the winner.

From the vast landscapes to highly detailed character models, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is one beautiful game. The opening sequences are simple a taste of things to come as your progress through the game. There are moments where it rains within the game and some of the rain droplets hit the screen (in-game camera), making it seem like you have water in your TV. Itís definitely clear that Mercury Steam with the help of Kojima Production put everything they had into making sure the game plays out in a cinematic sequence a la Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. There are several moments within the game where the camera pans out to showcase the massive size of the environments you will traverse. It is here where you feel like you are playing Uncharted 2 and you are at the highest point in Nepal. Itís apparent that third-party developers are harnessing the capabilities of current generation of consoles to reach levels comparable to several first party titles released on the PS3 console.

Lords of Shadow boast some of the best music you will find within games. The in-game soundtrack is never off-putting and fits the moment you are in. There are several classic Castlevania tunes that have been reworked and incorporated within the game to appeal to the die-hard fans out there. The voice work is amazing and majority of the story within the game is told through the words of Patrick Steward. There are also scrolls littered throughout the game which help provide information on the areas you are traversing, the enemies coming in upcoming areas and other nice tidbits.

There is no multiplayer at all within Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. After spending upwards of 15-20 hours completing the single-player experience, you are pretty much done with the game. Beyond collecting all the in-game artwork, and trying to acquire all the trophies/achievements in the game, there isnít much left. Another issue thatís apparent within the game is the fixed camera angles. While it doesnít take away from the experience, it does hinder the platforming aspects of the title as at times itís hard to gage how far of a jump you need to make in order to reach the next ledge. There are also points where because of the camera makes it hard to keep track of the enemies you are battling on the screen, forcing you to stop moving for the camera to reset or wait for the enemy to come back into view.

While the die-hard Castlevania fans will find more issues with the overall experience in Castlevania: lords of Shadow, truth behold this is indeed one of the best action-adventure titles that bare the Castlevania name. From the cinematic presentation, to the engaging platforming and battle sequences, Lords of Shadow is a great experience from beginning to end. While some might see one too many elements from other games inside this title, that doesnít take away from the fact that Gabriel Belmont is one bad mother. For those who havenít picked up Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, you owe it to yourself to experience one of the greatest titles released in 2010.


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