Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Preview

February 10, 2014

Mindscape and Konami teamed up with the Red Cross to suck some blood from Castlevania fans. The event, held at the Elizabeth street donor centre in Sydney, made us aware of the sad fact that those aged between 20-30 are the least likely to return after giving blood once. It did however, allow Alex Mann to get a couple of hours with Mercury Steam’s brand new title. 

The blood bank seemed like the perfect place to experience Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for the first time. As a long time Castlevania fan, I was pleasantly surprised with the different direction in which the first Lords of Shadow took the series. The adept level of craftsmanship that was given to the story, characters and level design were truly admirable, with a tortured Scottish Belmont winning me over every step of the way (even into the game’s less trodden DLC). For those who played Lords of Shadow all the way through but never attacked the DLC, I implore you to sink your teeth into it before feasting on the sequel. It is a very rare thing, but the DLC’s content is crucial to understanding Gabriel’s full transformation into the Prince of Darkness.


That said, Gabriel now sits on a dark throne in the cold Transylvanian castle he once aimed to destroy, very much the image of Dracula. His old order, The Brotherhood, constantly break themselves upon him and the first sequence is one such instance. I won’t go into detail, if you want a play by play check out Adam’s E3 Preview but here’s what’s new. Gabriel’s arsenal has been modified to suit his new lifestyle. The Combat Cross has been replaced by a brutal thing called the Shadow Whip, a weapon made entirely out of Dracula’s blood, but operates in much the same way as the Combat Cross once did. Light and Dark magic make a comeback, only this time taking the forms of the Void Sword and the Chaos Claw. Both have similar traits to their magical counterparts, with the former being utilised to regenerate Gabriel’s health, while the latter packs a meaty punch. They both run on separate energy bars, which can be recharged by chaining together attacks, absorbing orbs into the allocated slots.


After Gabriel pummels the life out of every Brotherhood warrior laying siege to his castle we’re taken through a lengthy cut scene, where the events of the 3DS entry Mirror of Fate are explained… in great detail. Maybe too much detail, bridging the gap between Gabriel then and Gabriel now, for at it’s end we land where Castlevania:LoS left off, the modern age. Here, Gabriel has lost his Brad Pitt good looks, looking more like a starved Ozzie Ozbourne as he slinks around the attic of his Gothic hideaout, overlooking bleak modern streets.


My heart elated here, for  Patrick Stewart makes a grand return and, to avoid giving too much away, fills you in on the years you’ve been idle. Long story short, Gabriel strikes out into the modern world to find answers to questions left …err … unanswered.

In the small time I spent with the game, I was able to explore two sections. The first, was a stealth section set in the modern era. Gabriel is not at his full strength just yet, and he encounters enemies too strong for him to take on one on one. As a result, he calls on an impressive array of Dracula abilities to sneak by his foes, such as summoning bats, hiding in the shadows, transforming into an animal and even human possession. While it was ace to see Mercury Steam making use of so many interesting abilities, expanding beyond their own creations such as the Void Sword etc, I wasn’t sold on the stealth aspect of the game, especially since the previous game made its name as a mighty brawler. That said, they did have the smarts to keep it short and simple, as after sneaking past only a few guards Gabriel follows a mysterious figure and suddenly ends up in his castle of old.


This brings us to the second section of gameplay, and this is where Lords of Shadow 2 truly shines. The tight combat mechanics, the beautiful gothic landscapes and a whole manner of interesting beasts make a return. Gabriel still stumbles upon fallen members of the Brotherhood, reading their last waking thoughts as he did in the first, but it’s interesting to be doing so from the other side of the war this time. Collectible gems are back, collecting five means an increase to health or magic depending on the colour, and health fountains now come in the form of gruesome statues, in which you remove human hearts and drink their blood to recover.  During my time with each section, I found that Gabriel’s character was handled just as masterfully as he was before, evoking the right amount of sympathy in his plight without feeling stilted or forced. Level design is as linear as it was before, but there are enough secret doors and hidden puzzles to avoid any form of claustrophobia. We also have it on good authority that, as the game progresses, it becomes more and more open, rumoured to eventually break out into an open world environment in which you can choose your path and revisit old haunts. A necessity as the self contained level design of the first has been left in the past.


At the end of my session, the new Castlevania still had me hungering for more. I was worried how much Mercury Steam would change Gabriel, but I felt solid in his skin, feeling like an old friend had returned and not some demon I no longer recognised. Despite its confusing stealth choice, the game remains true to the path that the first Lords of Shadow set, and if the first two hours is any indication, fans of the first game would do very well to return for Gabriel’s final hurrah.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is out February 27 for Xbox 360 and PS3, stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw for the full review closer to the date. And finally, if you’ve never tried it, you’ve been meaning to go back or you’re just curious, head here to find your nearest Red Cross donor centre.