By Leo Stevenson
Some games try to upend the tea table, shift paradigms and be revolutionary. That's fine. Some do it well, some fail spectacularly and others are true game changers. Other games are simply content to offer nothing more than a rock solid experience, built on a foundation of fun and time-tested video game conventions. Castlevania: Lord of Shadows 2 falls into the latter camp. This is no bad thing. It is, in fact, a great thing.
Beginning my hands-on in control of Dracula at the height of his power was undeniably cool. Dracula reclines in his throne as religious zealots come a-knocking, hell-bent (or is that heaven-bent?) on destroying him. What followed was essentially the opening -- read: tutorial -- level of the game. It was a brilliant introduction to the game's mechanics for newbies and veterans alike, as well as serving as a re-introduction to Gabriel Belmont, now known as Dracula.
As the holy warriors smashed in Dracula's front door he quipped, "What a timely coincidence. I’m dying for a drop of blood.” I was immediately thrown into combat. Playing like a cross -- no pun intended -- between DmC: Devil May Cry and the various God of War games, dispatching Dracula's enemies was as easy and comfortable as sliding into your favourite pair of slippers. Using a combination of near and far attacks by alternating the X and Y buttons I found that Drac's default weapon -- the aptly named Blood Whip -- was more than a match for most lower level grunts. As a few stronger and more armoured enemies were introduced to the battle I was given access to two new weapons. The Void Sword and Chaos Claws.
With the two new weapons at my disposal, the similarities to DmC became much more apparent. Like the Angelic/Demonic weapons in DmC, switching between the Void Sword and Chaos Claws was handled by alternating which trigger button was held. The Void Sword dealt much less damage than the other two, but would sap life from enemies and feed it into Dracula. The Chaos Claws were very powerful short range weapons used to strip armour from stronger enemies. When used altogether I was able to pull off some devastating combos that even Dante would be envious of. One final trick up Dracula’s sleeve is his blood sucking ability. Once an enemy was dazed -- by pressing the B Button – Dracula would drain their blood. Coupling the various weapons, blood sucking and dodge move, meant that Dracula was formidable and once I got in the groove of combat he was almost unstoppable.
Following this introduction to combat I was treated to the game’s take on platforming. Very much in the vein of Uncharted, Dracula can leap between glowing ledges, cracks and the like and make his way upwards. Instead of climbing a plain old wall though, I had to head to the top of a giant mechanical knight that was attempting to destroy Dracula’s castle. Once I had navigated the various tricks and traps of the mech I faced off against the Golden Paladin. It was a white-knuckle battle and I had to implement every strategy and weapon I’d discovered in my short play time to beat him. When I was victorious, Dracula disabled the mech -- in a disgustingly good way – and my demo was over.
In what may be great news for fans of the original, Lords of Shadow 2 will make use of a free roaming camera rather than the fixed one of its predecessor. In my playthrough, the camera behaved perfectly and was always focused on what was most important. I was also told that Lords of Shadow 2 will be sent in modern day America and will feature an open world, but will retail characters, features and story elements of the original. I had a bloody --pun intended -- good time with Lords of Shadow 2 and can't wait to sink my teeth into the finished product.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will be available for PS3 and Xbox 360 later this year.