Flawed, but the best damn 3D Castlevania ever made by man.
I know... that's not saying much. But hear me out:
So let me start this by saying I'm only at the end of Chapter 2. That said, I've had one major boss encounter, plenty of werewolf whipping, and enough time to understand the gameplay mechanics and experience system.
The first thing you'll notice when playing this game is... it's not very Castlevania-ish. In fact, I'm not even sure there is a castle in the game at all. This is how I compare this feeling: Metroid felt like a Metroid game in Metroid Prime. But not so much when we got the recent Metroid: Other M.
Lords of Shadow is the Other M in the Castlevania series.
What you do get here though is a nice mix of Rygar for the PS2, some God of War, and a smudge of Shadow of Colossus.
Sounds awesome, right? It is.
Gameplay is tight and controls really well. You have that same snappy jump the series is known for, and you look like a Belmont through and through. The single and wide attack options you have for your whip are awesome - and the moves you can unlock (purchased using XP) make the fighting system fun with some depth. You also have a secondary weapon (like daggers) that rely on ammo - which can also be upgraded with XP. Later in the game, you have access to a light and dark power that you can activate to make fighting easier and bring back your health. This power drains over time, and you have to suck up orbs to refill the meter. I just unlocked this aspect of the game, so I'm not sure if it's a useful mechanic or not.
Graphics are REALLY good. The level of detail is amazing - and the environments are varied. There are some minor jaggies here and their, but they are easily lost in the detail. Frame rate is looking at 24-30 based on eyeballing it - and there IS some slowdown when things get crazy, but it's not a deal breaker by any means.
The biggest flaw is the camera. It's fixed, but it has a bad habit of changing angles on you when you step into a certain part of the environment. This can be very annoying when this happens mid fight: one second your whipping to the right, and next thing you know, the camera freaks out and is seated behind you, causing you to adjust your tactics. The game also has a fair amount of invisible walls - meaning you see an area you'd like to explore, but there is some unseen wall blocking your progression. I call it lazy level design, but whatevs.
Game so far is linear - but it should be noted you can enter any previous area to grind for XP, complete challenges, and find items you couldn't access the first time around. I'm definitely having fun going back to older areas to explore.
The music is incredible - giving the game much more of that Castlevania vibe it should have. It really creates some epic moments when you're swinging around or in the middle of a big fight. A+ on the soundtrack.
All in all I would recommend this game to anyone. If you're a fan of the series, I would say it's a MUST BUY. It also comes with a code for SOTN - which is a big plus, but I would imagine bittersweet to the fans since it's likely they own that game already.