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Jeremy Jastrzab
29 Jun, 2010

E3 2010 Feature: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Hands-On

360 Feature | Lords of reboot.
Initially announced simply as ‘Lords of Shadow’, so that it wouldn’t cannibalise the attention from Castlevania Judgement, the game now known as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is making a lot of good noises. In fact, four separate publications awarded it their ‘People’s choice’ award from E3 2010. Having taken the game through its paces in Los Angeles recently, we too are looking forward to this title. Interestingly, Johnny Cage was on hand to take us through the game. A dude named Johnny Cage… not the actual Mortal Kombat character.

After years of having Koji ‘IGA’ Igarashi at the helm, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow marks a distinct and deliberate shift in direction by Konami. Following concept submissions from Japan, the USA and Europe, Spanish developer Mercury Steam, with oversight from Kojima Productions, has been tasked with rebooting the long-running series. Given that the original series timeline is pretty much at bursting point and has been contrived through IGA’s meddling, it seems that Konami’s decision wasn’t made off the whim.

This reboot takes us back to the 11th Century, and introduces us to a potential new universe of Belmonts. Lords of Shadow has Gabriel Belmont as the lead, who is on a quest to revive his dead wife. See, she isn’t among the living, but her soul hasn’t passed ‘through’ either. Apparently, this is because a wicked force known as the Lords of Shadow has cast a spell over the land that doesn’t allow the dead to leave the world of the living. That and they’ve released a heap of supernatural creatures onto the world and are leading it towards Armageddon.

Who could this friendly fellow be?

Who could this friendly fellow be?
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Gabriel Belmont is no desperate mourner, as he has a prominent day job in the Brotherhood of Light and is being guided through out by his deceased wife. In the game world, there are two masks: the God mask and Devil mask. Gabriel needs to find all three pieces of the God mask, which is said to have the power to revive the dead. These three pieces are protected by three factions of the Lords of Shadow. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has a stellar voice cast lined up, with Robert Carlyle voicing Gabriel Belmont and including Patrick Stewart (as a narrator and NPC) and Jason Isaacs.

From the initial impressions and screens of the game, one prominent action title natural springs to mind: God of War. And yes, while Lords of Shadow does share similarities with Kratos’ adventure, there are also some interesting changes. Finding the pieces of the God mask is no linear task. The game is split into 50 individual levels, and there will be potential for branching and taking different paths. We only got to play through two levels, but already there was enough to notice what will hopefully turn out to be a varied experience.

The load screen between levels seemed be reserved for story narration, though we didn’t get to hear much of it because we played the title on the show floor. So, we don’t know exactly why the first level we played had us fighting off werewolves and wargs from a village, while a second one has us riding a shiny horse (seriously, it was really shiny) down a predetermined path and fighting off more wargs and unholy riders.

Burning whip... Handy!

Burning whip... Handy!
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Despite the inclusions of traditional Castlevania elements such as the whip, and the promised inclusions of holy water, knives, stakes and familiar enemies, we’re not going to lie. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow does remind us of many of the other prominent action games of the last half a decade, including titles such as God of War and Ninja Gaiden. However, as we took hold of the combat, there were a few positive signs and minor intricacies that started to emerge.

With action games, it’s pretty standard to have a jump, light and heavy attack, and occasionally a secondary one. Using the cross whip, a retractable whip shaped like a crucifix, you string together light and heavy attacks, occasionally punctuated with a grab or secondary attack. Interestingly, we were able to continue our combos after three or four attacks. And once we had learned aerial attacks, these were initiated by jumping, as opposed to jumping then pressing an attack button. Dodging also seems to require more method than reflex, as when fighting a warg, you had to ‘read’ its movements to have a hope of getting out of the way in time. Hopefully these are just the surface of a deeper and distinctive combat system.

Killing enemies yields orbs (yes, fairly typical) that give experience, health and magic refills. With experience, you can learn new moves and spells, all of which are recorded in your Travel Book. We don’t know too much about the spells at the moment, only that there will be light and dark sets. Astute and inquisitive readers will have found that Mercury Steam’s last title was the decent Clive Barker’s Jericho. This may worry some, as the quick time events in that game were quite poorly done. Yes, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow does have quick time events, but they seem quite varied and even included the ‘ring’ from Lost Odyssey. And best of all, they worked fine during our play time.

Sorry, what were you saying?

Sorry, what were you saying?
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The involvement of Kojima Productions seems to be primarily supervisory, probably so that Konami have some eyes and ears on the overall project. However, some of their influence is starting to seep through, especially in the presentation. No, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be sitting through 30 minute cut scenes (well, not that we saw for the moment) but in terms of the attention to detail, polish and direction. Hopefully, this unique gaming partnership will help elevate the game from just another action copy-cat to something of its own identity.

Konami did well to spread Castlevania: Lords of Shadow through three separate booths at E3 (their own, Microsoft and Sony) and given the people’s reception as opposed to those fuddy-duddy critics, a lot of good noises are being made about the game. Similarities and comparisons to other recent action games is inevitable, and reboots of classic series are always risky. However, with the oversight from the meticulous Kojima Productions and attention from a solid showing, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has the potential to deliver the goods

Related Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Content

Castlevania 'Reverie' DLC delayed
31 Mar, 2011 Bummer.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow DLC trailer
15 Mar, 2011 Gabriel to the rescue!
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review
18 Oct, 2010 What is a Castlevania game?
5 Comments
3 years ago
I'm purposely reserving myself on this, I don't want to buy into any hype in case it ends up flopping icon_sad.gif 3D Castlevania games have yet to work, lets hope this does.
3 years ago
I can't wait. October release right?

I enjoyed the IGA Castlevanias, but I think they were kind of getting stale. Hopefully this game will breath new life into the series.
3 years ago
Again, my most anticipated game this year. Everything we’ve been shown so far has been of high quality – especially the voice work, which is rare for a video game. Seriously can’t wait.
3 years ago
Yep, it's looking damn good and like a great romp.
3 years ago
Who the heck is ultimate cleavage attack lady meant to be?
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  14/10/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Mindscape
Genre:
  Action Adventure
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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