We've been showing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow more than a bit of the love recently, not only because it's a classic gaming series reborn for the modern era (and we always like those), but mainly because it's such a sheer blast to play. Check our Castlevania: Lords of Shadow review for the full details.
So naturally we wanted to grab a word with the man responsible for the innovative reboot, MercurySteam producer David Cox. In this intriguing Q&A he tells the story of how Lords of Shadow was born as one of three pitches to a Konami panel, how MercurySteam had to overcome strong fan scepticism to push the title forward, what it was like working with Hollywood legends like Patrick Stewart and the key influence of Hideo Kojima on the title.
What's been your main design approach or philosophy for Castlevania Lords of Shadow?
To be true to the basic ethos for the series, yet also bring it bang up to date in a way that will surprise people. Castlevania is a series I love - a reason why I joined Konami, in fact - and when the chance was offered to pitch for the first next-gen version, there was no way I could have turned it down.
CLOS has been billed as a complete series reboot, what are your aims and hopes for the 'new' Castelvania?
To produce a game worthy of the Castlevania name. Lords of Shadow is a massive game, with a wealth of new elements and advances, but it retains the 'man with whip fights the undead' basis of the original game, and has many nods to the series' past. First and foremost, though, it is a new jump-on point for people. You don't have to know Castlevania lore - but you can enjoy an epic quest that will last 20 hours.
With the series having such as long heritage has it been difficult to live with fans' expectations?
The fan base absolutely hated the idea that we were working on it, to be honest - but I think we may be starting to win them over. We have only ever entered this with the aim to do the series justice. We couldn't, however, get bogged down with the various intricacies of the canonical storyline, but we have made sure that fans of the original series will see and experience elements that they will recognise, while also appreciating the way we have extrapolated key ideas from the past and reinvented them for the more powerful consoles.
CLOS certainly seems to feature a much more mature, sophisticated storyline, how have you approached story telling in the game?
This one area where Mr Kojima's influence has been key. When we started work, Gabriel was a fairly standard barbarian, but Mr Kojima went to great lengths to explain how, as the hero, players will need to emphasise with Gabriel if they are to care for his quest. We then went back to the drawing board and fleshed out the character, and new gameplay elements naturally started flowing from this. Gameplay ideas came organically from the story, and the story also benefitted from ideas in the game.
How does Gabriel's character and skills evolve over the course of the game?
Well, to say he is put through the wringer is a massive understatement! In terms of skills, he earns points for each kill and these can be traded for a number of key new attacks that will prove essential as the game progresses. This is one of the things where we hark back to the original series, as certain parts of stages are only accessible using specific moves, so there is that option to go back and fully explore a level. The original game used to show you parts of levels you had missed to entice you back, and that's something we really wanted to have in the new game. Gabriel also has access to light and dark magics, secondary weapons, etc, and these ensure that CLOS never descends into a repetitive hack'n'slash affair, but invites the player to master new attacks and constantly build upon them.