This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to MercurySteam and Konami's Castlevania
series sequel Lords of Shadow
, which reviews describe as "heartfelt, handsome, and quietly distinct." Lords of Shadow
currently earns a score of 84 out of 100
Game Informer's Tim Turi scores Lords of Shadow
at 9 out of 10
. "My excitement for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
was tempered with apprehension," he admits. "Ever since Castlevania 64
, 3D has been a dirty word for the franchise."
"To my sublime enjoyment," Turi continues, "MercurySteam's collaboration with Kojima Productions slays the series' three-dimensional demons. This feat is accomplished by merging the best elements of some of Sony's biggest hits. This Frankenstein's monster is a formidable combination of God of War
's combat, Shadow of the Colossus
' boss fights, and Uncharted 2
The game's magic mechanics add a layer of complexity to combat. "Light and shadow magic add dimension to the fluid combat," Turi explains. "Gabriel's health is restored with each successful attack when light magic is activated, and shadow magic makes the whip stronger. Alternating between magic types mid-combo is a rush, and the engaging boss fights later on force players to swap tactically."
These bosses prove to be another high point. "Gabriel scales colossal titans, searching for and surgically pounding their weak spots to dust," Turi writes.
"He scrambles to destroy a deadly vampire general before it dines on the bloody contents of an iron maiden. Castlevania also has the widest variety of enemies I've ever seen in a game of its ilk. Chupacabras abduct your powers, forcing you into a game of hide and seek, and burrowing zombies attack from underground as their decapitated heads float after you."
takes a few hours to get rolling," Turi warns, "but once it sinks its fangs in you'll be absorbed. After putting nearly 20 hours into Lords of Shadow
I emerged satisfied and ready to play again. This polished, action-packed adventure has me ecstatic to see not only what's in store for the next 3D Castlevania
, but also what talented developer MercurySteam does next. Don't let the deluge of fall releases or the 3D Castlevania
stigma keep you from this amazing quest."
Eurogamer's Christian Donlan rates Lords of Shadow
at 8 out of 10
. "The first thing you should understand about the new Castlevania
is that it's possibly not the Castlevania
you were expecting," he notes. "While Konami's latest offers plenty of Gothic crenulations and whip-centric combat as yet another Belmont faces off against a wave of Halloween nasties, it sidesteps, to a large extent, the architectural complexity and wily level design that has helped define the series."
"You'll still be unlocking new skills to open what amounts to a variety of different doors, engaging in a little light puzzling, and picking your way through environments that grow gradually more elaborate as you head deeper into the adventure," Donlan assures. "But MercurySteam, the series' current custodian, has shifted the emphasis away from the detailed non-linear exploration of a single location in order to embrace an action adventure with a broader, but more straightforward, approach."
This shift in gameplay works to the game's advantage, however. "Stripping away much of the intricacy – the levels folded in on themselves, the poring over the mini-map as you hunt for promising gaps – sounds like heresy, but it feels, more often than not, like smart pragmatism," Donlan says.
"This is a series that has always struggled whenever it has headed away from a 2D plane, and while you can curse the developers for lacking the ambition to truly get the old formula to work in three dimensions, you can't really fault the adventure they've offered up instead. As reboots go, this is smart, pretty, and generous."
The combat is particularly noteworthy. "It bears the undeniable influences of God of War
, certainly, but it brings a unique flair to proceedings too," Donlan explains. "While there are regular arena brawls and QTE-heavy takedowns, your whip-like Combat Cross makes dealing with the enemy onslaught a pleasure. By the time you've decked the Cross out with chain, hook, and stake attachments, you'll be knee deep in combo options and diving into the upgrade shop every few minutes."
"Even though the wait continues for a 3D Castlevania
that truly matches the elegance, complexity and spatial intelligence of the 2D games, this is a polished and enjoyable blast of musty Gothic action in its own right," Donlan says. "Even with a missing piece of that magnitude, MercurySteam has managed to deliver a game that's heartfelt, handsome, and quietly distinct."
At IGN, Daemon Hatfield gives Lords of Shadow
a 7.5 out of 10
. "Konami describes Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
as a reboot for the 25-year old franchise," he begins. "I'd say it's an unrelated game that borrows the Castlevania
Hatfield continues: "None of the common gameplay elements you'd expect from the series are to be found here and the story isn't canon. The only loose connection is the presence of vampires, werewolves, and skeletons."
Lords of Shadow
features none of the exploration-based gameplay that defined recent entries in the Castlevania
series. "Metroidvania this is not," Hatfield warns. "Instead of exploring one large castle you proceed linearly from level to level (although you are encouraged to backtrack to previously unreachable areas once you've upgraded your skills). There is no map and very little in the way of exploration."
Hatfield finds the combat to be tedious, but notes that Lords of Shadow
's platforming elements are more successful. "There are dozens of combos to unlock and the game is constantly funneling you towards your next encounter with a gang of monsters," he recalls. "All of the button mashing made my eyes glaze over after a while and I felt like I was just going through the motions."
However: "I found the quiet moments in between skirmishes more interesting and satisfying. Those relaxing moments you can take at your own pace are often filled with light climbing and grappling exercises that remind me of Assassin's Creed
. You scale walls while carefully looking for surfaces to cling to and your trusty Combat Cross can be used as a grappling hook to swing to new heights. These are some of the more enjoyable bits in Lords of Shadow
"I recommend Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
, but not if your expectation is something similar to the classic Castlevania
games," Hatfield concludes. "Pretty much anything you would expect to find in a Castlevania
game is not to be found here.
"But fans of combat-heavy action adventure games will have fun if they can excuse a lot of mindless button mashing and a couple technical issues. The developers have successfully adopted ideas from several popular games (God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, Uncharted, Resident Evil
) but that also means this isn't a very original effort. In the end, I'd rather play a more traditional 2D Castlevania
game, but there is no denying that this is a beautiful and enjoyable change of pace."