Released the same year as God of War and Devil May Cry 3, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is part of that action game subgenre that combines hack n’ slash and RPG elements.
Unfortunately, while it is a slight improvement over Lament of Innocence, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is just another hack n’ slash. It’s not a terrible game by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t overshadow Lament of Innocence as a superior sequel, but just stands as a good 3D Castlevania game.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is another prequel in the series
Taking place a mere three years after the events in Castlevania III, Dracula’s evil is still alive and well in the land of Wallachia thanks to a Devil Forgemaster, who are sort-of generals in Dracula’s army (Author’s note: AMAZING name for an industrial metal band) named Isaac. Hector, a reformed Devil Forgemaster who ALSO looks like Alucard is going on an adventure to fight Dracula. Along the way, he will lazily stumble come across characters in Dracula’s Curse.
The setup is intriguing, but not really taken advantage of. There’s no real throwback or tribute to certain levels or bosses from the NES game. Trevor Belmont shows up to share some incredibly hammy dialogue and to have a pretty good boss fight, but it screams “glorified cameo.” It’s all kind of a waste of an idea. Not to mention, the level design is already bland to begin with (oh wow, a haunted forest! A castle! Wow…) so having it takes place around the same time as one of the most iconic games in the franchise and not revisit locations from that game, it seems like a pointless idea. At least the newish areas do take advantage of the XBox and PS2 hardware and are nice to look at.
The gameplay is solid…and not much else in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
However, from a gameplay standpoint, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is a lot of fun. Hector can be equipped with an absurd amount of weapons, including a variety of swords and melee weapons. Being a former Devil Forgemaster, he also has the ability to cast powerful spells and raise stats thanks to the Devil system; Hector can have a little minion attack enemies, improve his damage, or give him weapons.
It’s a unique system, and on-top of the customization with armor and weapons, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness welcomes some much-needed RPG elements.
The combat itself is also refined. Curse of Darkness adds a lock-on feature to make battling enemies easier and the combos aren’t so “dial-y” and feel more free-flowing.
Finally, the soundtrack is thankfully very good. It’s far less atmospheric than Lament of Innocence and has some great tributes to other classic Castlevania tunes.
Despite the improvements made to the gameplay, the rest of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is just shy of being “great.” The bland level design and completely un-compelling story make it a huge chore to get through most of the time. It’s a shame since Curse of Darkness could have been great and as good as the other action games released this year.