Lord of Shadow (and Smoke): Why the Latest “Castlevania” Feels So Insubstantial

Looking back, it’s clear to me that I looked at Castlevania: Lords of Shadow through rose-tinted glasses. With its reliance on dodging and blocking, to say nothing of its successful embracing of a semi-three-dimensional world (forced camera), it was closer to Dante’s Inferno than Castlevania. (Maximo this was not.) But at least the Gothic charms of the series were preserved, from the map screen to the more diverse environments of, say, Super Castlevania IV–it was, in other words, close enough to the real thing, and offered a surprising series of twists that hewed true to the central mythology. Gabriel, the first Belmont of note, wound up becoming Dracula, the ultimate nemesis of the Belmont clan. But this rebooting of the franchise clearly went off the rails when it leaped thousands of years into 2057–suddenly it was Darksiders. The mutants you fought on a speeding train run by the Bioquimek Corporation couldn’t help but remind you of Resident Evil 5 and 6. No longer could this be mistaken for Castlevania–the new and exceedingly clumsy “stealth” sequences saw to that–it couldn’t even manage as a poor man’s Legacy of Kain. This was a game that wanted to be Dishonored and DmC and Arkham City all at once, and, while admittedly intermittently entertaining, wound up being nothing at all.

You can read the full review at Slant Magazine, but a game should be internally consistent. Even the insanity of a Grasshopper Manufacture title (like Lollipop Chainsaw) is grounded in some sort of internal logic, whereas pitting Dracula against Lucifer atop a giant world-devouring dragon is something that brings Bayonetta to mind. In all honesty, Lords of Shadow 2 is a fairly solidly built game, and it has some memorable boss fights (as well as some deliciously awful, House of the Dead 2-worthy lines of dialogue), but it’s impossible to focus on its merits, when it insists on illustrating all of its cool new flaws. Congratulations: your new best friend is the world’s most insecure teenager.


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