7 Reviews

Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow

Kojima-influenced vampire epic is well worth getting your teeth into

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As we mentioned earlier, every crack of the 'whip' - his Combat Cross extends as a whip-like weapon - Gabriel employs feels heavy. Weapon on flesh contact is meaty, satisfying. Moreover, you feel in control as you snap in and out of combos to evade and parry: a sensation Kratos just can't imitate in God Of War.

Later in the game you get Light and Dark Magic powers. Any hit when Light Magic is active heals Gabriel, while Dark Magic causes more damage. Both are finite, so when you're not using either you can 'earn' magic by collecting the life essence of your vanquished victims (hold L3 to replenish your Light, R3 for Dark).

This system gives the game a tactical edge. Do you conserve Light Magic to keep yourself alive, or suck up orbs to power your Dark Magic, which could help you finish the fight quicker? It's an effective, tactical system that make the battles feel truly unique.

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Where it all gets that little bit smarter is when you're introduced to the 'focus gauge' at the bottom of the screen. You fill it up by inflicting damage on enemies without taking any hits yourself.

Getting the meter to maximum is quite a skill, but once full, it means that every time you strike a foe he'll bleed orbs.

At which point you have to decide whether to break from fighting to hoover up your prize, risking taking a hit, or to just carry on smashing through opponents.

How badly do you need health? Can you whip-out more orbs before getting hit?

LAND OF HOPE
Although combat is what provides the meat of the entertainment, the scale is what you'll probably remember after the credits roll. The first boss - the very first boss is the Ice Titan you've seen from previews.

Yes, the fight is ripped straight out of Shadow Of The Colossus, so it's heavily scripted, but it looks and feels amazing when you bring the beast down.

Later in the game you'll be running across a bridge towards some far away section of castle and the camera will zoom out to reveal the sheer size of the building you're attempting to infiltrate.

You'll see Gabriel as a speck at the bottom of your screen and you won't be able to help feeling awed and a little bit intimidated by the scale of it all.

And as well as providing the obligatory 'Oooh' moments, the sections that show Gabriel as an insignificant blob in the vast realm of Castlevania give you a sense of how lonely and futile his quest is.

He's one man in a deadly, sweeping land trying to defy death to bring his wife back to life. Even the load-screens, which all feature a monologue by narrator Zobek (voiced with gravitas by Patrick Stewart) make you feel the weight of your on-screen character's emotional burden and the magnitude of your expedition.

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However, sometimes scale and grandeur is Castlevania's enemy. The only times, during the game's 20+ hours that we cursed Gabriel's seeming incompetence was when the solution to a specific platforming section or puzzle was obscure.

Not difficult, but obscure. Most ledges, for example, have a little silver sheen to them, making it obvious where you need to travel next - it's a necessary evil in a game with fixed camera angles.

Gabriel clambers around the environment in a near-identical style to Nathan Drake in Uncharted. For the most part, spotting ledges and paths is simple, but occasionally the signposting fails leaving you backtracking and frustrated.

One level had us back-tracking and running round in circles for half an hour before we realised the next bit of level involved walking into a tiny, insignificant looking cave and turning right - a solution the camera appeared intent on concealing from us.

Similarly, some puzzles travel through the realm of challenging and end up at the annoying - largely because you're lead towards one solution and then expected to do something completely different.

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