Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
One of my biggest complaints against the first Lords of Shadow was its linearity, and I was hardly alone, so MercurySteam knew right off the bat they wanted to fix that in the sequel. Whereas the first game was broken up into small, encapsulated stages, this follow-up sports a large open world. It would've been an obvious and easy fix to the linearity issue--if it were planned properly.
Lords of Shadow 2's open world is big enough that you'll get lost in it--and that's the problem. You will get lost, and not in a "I lost track of time because the game is so good" sort of way, but more like "This is the third time I've passed that landmark, and I've gotten nowhere." Lords of Shadow 2 is in desperate need of a better map system, especially in the modern-day segments, since much of the bland city environments just blend together.
Some changes work out for the better, though. Take, for instance, the combat. In the original Lords of Shadow, players found themselves simply mashing a button or two. To encourage mixing things up this time around, you've got three main weapons--the Blood Whip, the Void Sword, and the Chaos Claws--and they all get stronger by using and then mastering different techniques with them. You master moves by defeating enemies to get experience points, then spend those points to unlock new weapon techniques. After using your skills enough times in combat, you can transfer knowledge of them into the weapon itself, making it more powerful.
One thing from the first game that didn't need changing was the storytelling. You'd hope that would continue here, and for the better part of the game, it does. There are times, though, when the story tries its best--but fails--to cover up the fact that many of Dracula's objectives are glorified fetch quests. Worse still is how the story builds toward a dramatic conclusion but fizzles with an unsatisfying cop-out finish.
Even with these problems, there's still a solid core to Lords of Shadow 2. The mood-setting orchestral music is fantastic, and I loved the voice acting. What's more, the epic boss battles rival those seen in the first game. It's just a shame that Mercu-rySteam's evident lack of experience with constructing open worlds and inability to rein in the story keeps Lords of Shadow 2 from being better than its predecessor.
As a total newcomer to the franchise, I was originally going to knock Lords of Shadow 2 for its convoluted, poorly executed story, but then I spent some time reading up on the original Castlevania lore, and I've decided that MercurySteam's effort is a vast improvement. (I mean, at least there's no one named "Ralph C. Belmondo" here.) Sadly, I've still got a few gripes. One, there's a solid four hours of slog before the gameplay opens up and gets interesting. Two, it's obvious that the folks making this had no experience building a seamless open world. I love the combat and exploration, but I shouldn't have to spend half my time waiting in criminally slow elevators and airlocks to get to them.
I respect Lords of Shadow 2--at least in terms of combat and its noble attempt at making the series' lore a little less convoluted--but I don't much like it. The Mastery System is interesting, particularly in the way it encourages players to diversify attacks in order to level up each weapon. The rest of Lords of Shadow 2, however, is a mix of half-hearted Metroidvania elements, overacted melodrama, and offensive imagery. Sorry, but watching an overtly sexualized female character murdered by having a metal rod shoved into her mouth and through her skull is just gross. This isn't art necessitating violence, but rather violence being celebrated for silly, sophomoric reasons.
Download Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP