Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition Review
With the addition of the two DLCs, beautiful art and some small extras thrown in for fun, this Ultimate Edition is well worth the buy
Announced at E3 with the inclusion of the two DLCs, Reverie and Ressurection, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition has come to PC after a successful debut three years ago on Xbox 360 and PS3. Although a re-release, this version is special in a few ways that make it a good buy in this third quarter. However, there was a specific purpose that was in mind with this edition.
The story follows Gabriel Belmont, a member of the Brotherhood of Light, in his quest to revive his murdered wife. With the help of the mythical God, Pan, Gabriel's journeys through various lands to kill the Lords of Shadow; three powerful demons responsible for a spell that has cut off God's connection to the world. After defeating each member of the Lords of Shadow and some lesser bosses, Gabriel gains various armours and medallions that grant extra moves and powers while also upgrading his Combat Cross, a weaponized chain whip – the main weapon. There are twists and turns with plenty of cinematics and dialogue which keep Castlevania very much story orientated.
Gameplay is very similar to titles such as God of War and Dante's Inferno, with a third person view and jumping, dodging, blocking and parrying, grabs and button mashing and timing grapples, all playing their respective roles in combat and level progression that is smooth and intense. Base enemies vary in difficulty and tactics, with each enemy type having their own signature moves and fighting styles so there is no 'upgraded bad guy with the same moves as the last one' going on. Each area has its own minions who will not likely appear anywhere else, so combat is kept fresh. There are lots of combos that can be learned, some of which can only be used when certain extra abilities are activated. These combos also help to keep things fresh as many enemies will not be affected the same way by the same combo or move; where as one is stunned by a ground-pound, another will shrug it off. There are such a large number of combos and moves that a player will likely find the few they like the most and stick to those. A complaint from some, the large volume of moves at least gives wiggle room for alternative play styles.
Boss fights focus on a cinematic approach rather than straight forward smash 'n slash beat downs. As with the previously mentioned titles, the aim is to take down a small amount of health with standard fighting then, when the boss becomes vulnerable, tired, or fooled into running headlong in to a wall, must be grabbed or will recover most, if not all, of the health that had been taken away. When grabbed, a series of timed inputs, or rapid mashing, will take the player through a preset sequence of blows and recapitulates that, if successful, will break down the boss bit by bit until, finally, a longer and more engrossing sequence will play out for the ending death blows. These sequences are well planned out and show some imaginative choreography, however, the player will most likely miss many of the subtleties in these sequences as the inputs will be the main focus.
Environment design is an important part in the immersion of any visual art. Castlevania has some of the best level and environment design out at the moment. Large, sweeping castles, forests, tundras, and canyons, titantic towers, spires, mountains, cliffs, huge and dilapidated stone warriors strewn about in aimless deaths, all and more immerse the player in a world of gigantic beings and powers. The sheer size of many places shows the great feats that Gabriel will have to overcome both physically and mentally if he is to succeed. The colours are deep, rather than vibrant, and each area has its own distinct feel; where as one is dark and mechanical, another is dry and hazy in its appearance and mood. The finer points of architecture and additional set-pieces such as standing suits of armour are all beautifully rendered and designed. Small additions, like walking over a strewn collection of books and their pages wisping up idlly, are welcome touches.
Castlevania also demands the player climb and jump through the level in order to progress. Many, if not all, of the environments have obstacles and areas that can only be surpassed and reached, respectively, by climbing. Ledges, of course, are the primary mode of this form of transportation. The Combat Cross also comes in to play as convenient branches of wood and stone, embedded rungs in walls, and broken turrets can be latched on to and used as an anchor to ascend, descend, and swing on. This reliance on climbing and jumping in all their forms through a level takes many leafs from the book of Prince of Persia, though the character of Gabriel demands a bulkier style to the prince's acrobatic nuance. Even so, these constant tactics are well executed and provide extra challenge to each level rather than acting out tired cliché.