Giant Bomb Review126 Comments
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair Review2
by Jeff Gerstmann on
Harmony of Despair's multiplayer design isn't fleshed out well enough to make you forget about the grind.
There's a single-player option in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, but if you're the sort of person that only likes to play games by yourself, don't buy Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Actually, with its kooky, grind-heavy design, I don't know that I'd recommend that anyone buy Konami's latest downloadable Castlevania game, but the game's definitely built to be played as a group.
Unlike traditional Castlevania games, there's no meaningful story element to Castlevania HD, and you aren't really exploring a large, singular castle. Instead, the game is broken up into six different chapters, each with its own map and boss. Also, each chapter comes with a time limit. So you're not expected to linger around in any one part of the game. In fact, you should probably get moving, even if you're playing alone, because nothing stops the clock. You can't pause the game at all. It's one of those kinds of games.
When you first start hacking away at a chapter, you'll probably be a little underpowered. That's because a lot of the game revolves around finding better gear or, depending on which of the five protagonists you decide to use, repeatedly using your attacks to increase their power. Those power increases aren't explicitly stated, and the game only lets you swap gear when you're at specific points on the map, making the whole system a bit more obfuscated than it probably should be. Maybe a more standard leveling system that gives you XP for kills would have been easier to follow.
The game allows up to six players to play, and there are some paths on each map that can only be taken if the players are working together, like switches or platforms that turn off flames or otherwise open doors that help everyone get to the boss fight faster. But since a big part of the game is hunting down more interesting equipment--and it feels like better equipment shows up in multiplayer games--you're better off scouring the four corners of each map before triggering the boss fight to see if you can find anything worthwhile. I'd say around 95% of the stuff I find is essentially vendor trash, though the stores don't sell good enough items to make your gold worth saving. It's like the game is driven by loot lust, but almost all of the loot is totally uninteresting.
At least the game has a specific look to it. Though it abbreviates to "Castlevania HD," it's hard to call Harmony of Despair a "high-definition" game. The characters look like they right out of the various Nintendo DS Castlevania games, and the game has a deliberately blocky look to it. That's not a bad thing, as it gives all of the visuals a very specific style, but it's hard not to feel like this game was thrown together to make a quick buck with existing assets. As a result, the only amazing thing about the game is its music.
But you're probably not looking to spend $15 on a soundtrack that you can only hear on your 360. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair has some neat ideas, but a lot of it's hidden behind a bevy of poorly explained menus and user-unfriendly mechanics. The expectation that you'll grind your way through the six chapters over and over again, only to do it all over again in hard mode is kind of ridiculous, and there just isn't enough of a reward there to make all of that grinding feel like anything other than, well, a grind.