By paradox121 0 Comments
1.Describe it in three words, bitch.
Kinda good letdown
2. Who's it for?
Anyone, really. It hasn't sub-categorised itself too hard.
3.What did you take away from it?
How great having camera control is
God of War
5.So...worth a look?
Imagine, if you will, a high school-based representation of modern games. You have your Professor Layton- the nerdy, sweet kid who everyone secretly likes; Enslaved- the one who no one really pays attention to, but is actually pretty attractive; Super Meat Boy-the guy with jet black hair, silently cutting himself with his compass at the back of the class; and Castlevania-the annoyingly good-looking one, who on the surface seems to be good at everything, and only a vocal few seem to actively hate. Perhaps that’s why I have such a bugbear with this game; I never did like that dude in class.
In its defence, Castlevania did have a bit of a rocky road prior to its release. There seemed to be a big furore, particularly from long-time fans of the series, over the fact that the game was originally a totally separate product called ‘Lords of Shadow’, until Konami decided to adapt it into a reboot for the Castlevania series. I never really found issue with this; I love the series, particularly the later more RPG-based Metroidvania titles, but if Konami thought they could adapt a title to fit the style in 3D, then let them at it, I said. Even when it was going through review processes and people were still bemoaning the fact that the game was clearly different to any other in the series, I chose to give it the benefit of the doubt. You’re waiting for me to say that it turned out I was wrong, right? Well, to be fair, of all my niggles with the game, the fact that it’s ‘not very Castlevania-y’ is pretty low. The developers clearly didn’t just stick Belmont on the lead character’s name and be done with it. They do a good job of retaining the gothic elements of the series, expanding the mythical, if sometimes ridiculous, narrative, and keep your standard weapons, sub-weapons and experience-gaining.
In retrospect, maybe people shouldn’t have been quite so concerned in how similar to previous Castlevania games it was, and more to how the game plays as a standalone product. At the heart of it, Lords of Shadow is a third-person mashy ‘puzzle’-platformer. It doesn’t get anything too wrong in its core combat; it gets repetitive, sure, but the game offers up enough upgrades and extra skills to make things a little easier, and to generally avoid you thumping the same button constantly. Funnily enough, my problems lie in every other of those descriptions, so let me break it down. Firstly, the third-person.
I remember whilst growing up, during my first exposure to hearing and reading about games from journalistic sources, people always used to complain about cameras and camera controls. It always bemused for some reason, and I guess it wasn’t until I got older and more experienced that I truly understood what they were talking about. Case in point- Castlevania. Don’t get me wrong, some games are fine with fixed camera. In some cases camera control isn’t needed, and in others, linearly progressing the player means there’s little point giving them control. While Castlevania tends to fall in the latter, its camera seems to be daydreaming, staring off into the distance, looking at the pretty vistas and levels, and forgetting that making my character one pixel high may impede my experience. And yes, Lords of Shadow is a beautiful game, and maybe the level creators deserved credit, but maybe not quite that much. My main annoyance with fixed camera controls, which is somewhat generalised to other games such as the Devil May Cry series, is when you get caught between two areas where the cameras are in two differing perspectives, meaning you end up running into one, the game detecting that direction of the thumbstick as the opposite, and you running straight back to where you just came. Picky, and not entirely Castlevania’s fault, but I can’t shake the feeling that somewhere along the line the game became so obsessed with how attractive it was, it let everything else fall at the wayside. The platforming moan ties mostly in with this as well. The fixed camera often makes platforming more annoying than it need be. Jumps have a habit of being floaty, and the game will only let you grab on to specific ledges at specific periods when it sees fit.
So, next on my bitching list, the ‘puzzle’ elements. Some puzzles in the game I really did like. Stuff like Frankenstein’s lightning laboratory, the coloured lenses, and the music box are really unique, clever and intuitive. The game designers clearly took the time to plan out and map these things, and it comes across. What I do have a problem with are some of the other puzzle elements. Lords of Shadow seems to love to set up a puzzle, or even just a typical level, then scamper away laughing without really telling you what to do. The number of times I ran round and round levels just trying to work out what the heck I was supposed to be doing was just plain annoying. Maybe/probably I was just being stupid, but coupled with my stubbornness over the fact I always refused to take the offer of skipping the puzzles, meant I spent most of my time infuriated rather than intrigued.
My last whine has to go towards the story. Something clearly didn’t click with me here. Fundamentally, the story isn’t worse or better than your average video game tale, but by the end I was so tired of Gabriel pining after his wife, Patrick Stewart saying weird stuff in a dramatic fashion, and people generally talking about the darkness within that I just ended up zoning out during cut scenes. I think I could just about give you a synopsis on what happens, but the whole thing felt convoluted and so purposefully twisty and turny that I just ended up bored of it. So it turns out your good friend Patrick Stewart was a baddy from the beginning. Bet you didn’t see that coming, eh? Eh!? What confused me more was when I went back and replayed early levels, hearing him gabble on about how worried he was that Gabriel would succumb to the darkness, and how with killing all these things (mostly monsters, mind you; as far as I could tell Gabriel only killed two humans) he was becoming a monster himself. But...you’re evil yourself, right? So surely it didn’t really matter what happened to Gabriel, so long as he reached your end goal? Well, didn’t really matter anyway, within a couple of seconds of the end battle frigging Satan kills you. Though, then you reappear, fine and dandy during the epilogue...riiiight. I think playing Enslaved just prior slightly tainted my view, but overall the story just felt so clichéd and forced that it was like wearing an itchy jumper.
Wow. Seeing my many problems with this game on internet paper, as clearly as this, is actually a little odd. I want to say that, for what it was worth, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow wasn’t a terrible game. I’ve had much worse experiences, and as I said previously, when it tries, it gets things perfectly right, such as the look of the world and the characters designs, some of the more deep puzzles, and the upgrades available for your weapons. But there were so many times the game lost my respect by doing something I thought we’d outgrown as a ‘gaming world’. I dunno, maybe I see their direction, I just don’t quite follow it. Oh Castlevania. How could you make me get annoyed at Patrick Stewart?