Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was first revealed at E3 2009 without the Castlevania moniker, instead of being a newly produced Hideo Kojima game. However, once it was revealed to be part of the storied franchise, Lords of Shadow became a reboot to the entire Castlevania series. This was also the first time in more than 10 years that Koji Igarashi was not involved. The game was to be developed by MecurySteam, the studio behind the immensely underrated Clive Barker’s Jericho.
It appeared this was the direction Konami wanted to take, and while the first game is excellent, the entire Lords of Shadow subseries is incredibly underwhelming.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow contains fantastic, top-tier presentation, graphics, and gameplay. MercurySteam managed to push both consoles of the seventh generation to the limits of their capabilities. It’s a rich and incredibly detailed world where all kinds of grotesque and scary monsters live and almost urges the player to keep on going.
Gameplay is similar to God of War with its stylish combat based around combos. Luckily for players, they aren’t hard to memorize and can be chained very well. It helps the controls are very responsive. The game isn’t about just fighting, as the puzzle solving and platforming is a lot of fun. Swinging your whip from Super Castlevania IV makes a return.
Lords of Shadow even features downright impressive voice acting from a variety of Hollywood actors. Veteran character actors Robert Carlyle and Jason Isaacs are superb voicing the game’s protagonist Gabriel Belmont and antagonist, respectively. Patrick Stewart, who almost needs no introduction, is excellent as always, narrating the story. The story is pretty standard stuff, but overall engaging. There is also an incredible twist that really gives the new universe a chance to shine into something different.
The game’s only major flaw is it does not feel like a true Castlevania game. To be fair, since it is a reboot, it makes sense to not have a lot of typical features. There are enough horror elements and actual castles to walk around in. The adventure in the game itself is similar to older games like Dracula’s Curse or Super Castlevania IV.
Overall, Lords of Shadow was one of 2010’s best games and looked like a promising start.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
Lords of Shadow was successful enough to warrant a sequel and a spin-off. The spin-off, Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (author’s note: Yes, that is the official title.) was released for the Nintendo 3DS and re-released in HD for PS3 and Xbox 360. Mirror of Fate gets back to the series’ roots with side scrolling. It does manage to throw in some exploration and combo-based combat as its console big brother. However, it’s incredibly stripped down and kind of boring. For a rebooted series trying to find its own identity, it’s a step back. To make matters worse, it looks like a late-era PS1 game.
The story is also incredibly complicated, trying to shoehorn more Belmonts. Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden joins the cast of actors, portraying the new Trevor Belmont. (Trevor is now Gabriel Belmont’s son and Simon Belmont is Trevor’s son. As Dr. Evil once said, “Right…”) Players take control of the two in varying points in the game. Instead of telling the story in a creative manner, it just makes it a jumbled mess.
Mirror of Fate was a misstep in the new rebooted series. Luckily, the new sequel console sequel, creatively titled Lords of Shadow 2, showed some promise.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
Unfortunately, this game is where the Lords of Shadow subseries fell apart. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a mix of decent and awful ideas. It tries too hard to do so much and tells one of the most underwhelming stories in the entire franchise, rebooted or not. The voice acting, which was one of the best parts of the first Lords of Shadow, sounds phoned in and has some incredibly forced references. On top of these issues, the game just is not fun to play.
Confusingly enough, you get to play as Count Dracula fighting against the Belmonts and evil corporations in the present day. It’s a huge missed opportunity to recreate other classic Castlevania games, but instead becoming yet another open world game in a big city. Combat is basically unchanged from the first game but has forced and unintuitive stealth sections.
Lords of Shadow 2 took a promising new rebooted series and flushed all potential down the drain. Castlevania just became yet another series that was unnecessarily rebooted and started to collect dust on GameStop shelves.
Sadly, it was the end…or is it?
It’s a shame the series has ended on such a down note. Not to get personal and start narrating the article, but as a longtime fan of Castlevania, it truly pains me knowing Lords of Shadow 2 was the last official console game. Castlevania is a series with a legacy to rival other classic franchises, it’s sad knowing this was it for the Belmonts.
Until Adi Shankar decided to take his own stab at the series with help from a little comic book writer named Warren Ellis…