The official embargo for reviews of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 doesn’t life until the 25th of this month, but Edge magazine have already published their verdict on Dracula’s outing, rating the game a surprising four out of ten. Keep in mind that their in their format five out of ten is considered average.
So, what earned it that score? For obvious reasons I won’t be printing the entirety of the review as you’ll need to go pick up the magazine yourself if you want the full details, but here are a few choice snippets that sum up their thoughts.
Their biggest gripe with the game centres around clumsy stealth sections:
“Stealth isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Dracula, the immortal prince of darkness, yet here we are skulking in the shadows to avoid the hulking guard bearing a cannon the size of our protagonist’s torso”
While Edge feels stealth makes sense in the early hours of the game when your powers are limited, they feel the developers returning to this mechanic later baffling:
“That MercurySteam keeps returning to it until very late on in this bloated 20-hour adventure, however, is simply baffling.”
The author cites the stealth sections instant failure mechanic as a particular problem, stating: “Good stealth games afford the player a flexible approach and a viable, if fraught, means of getting out of trouble when things go south. Lords of Shadow omits the former – there is only ever one solution – and forcibly disables melee powers, leaving a dark corner and rodent transmogrification your only means of escape.”
Other problems draw the magazines wrath:
“There’s the banal and unfailable linear platforming, your next destination shown by a noisy cloud of bats, which kills stone dead the prospect of any meaningful exploration.”
The graphics also receive some harsh words:
“Even more shocking than the unimaginative visual design is how rough it all looks. Running at 720p, but seemingly rendered in something way south of that, this is a jagged mess , with texture work that at times wouldn’t look out of place in a PS2 game.”
Not everything is bad, though, with the combat system being described as, “the sole saving grace.” Even it does not escape criticism, however, with several flaws being pointed out, such as the lack of invincibility on the dodge move. Indeed Edge devotes an entire page in their Post Script section to dissecting the combat system, talking about problems such as how the enemy are often able to shrug off your blows and hit you mid-combo, ending your streak, and various other problems. Ultimately they sum up combat by saying:
“It’s genre standard stuff that’s complicated needlessly by that unblockable [attack] sound effect being exactly the same for every singly enemy in the game. Combine that with a wayward camera and you’ve got a recipe for trouble, with the mix further soured by the absence of block – or hit- stun.”
Their main grievance with combat centres around how hard it is to get a combo going thanks to enemies being able to shrug off your assault and launch their own, and excessive area of effect shockwave attacks constantly pushing you back.
“When it works, though, fighting performs well enough.”
Bosses battles are also described as being the high points of the game:
“The boss fights are the high points both of character and combat design, these screen-filling grotesque creatures requiring canny use of your weaponset and associated projectiles”
The author then moves on to his or hers largest problem with the game, talking about how there’s so many bosses because it almost feels like the developers belatedly starting ripping the worst chunks of the game out after realising how bad some of it was:
“God knows what got taken out, though, because there’s plenty of badly designed fat left on Lords of Shadow 2′s bones. But for all of its litany of crimes, pacing is the biggest. There might be a half-decent 10-hour game in here somewhere, but instead what we have is stretched beyond breaking point, and padded with dreary filler.”
Apparently this filler also includes yet another stealth section.
“The first Lords of Shadow is remembered as a commendable achievement from a relatively small team working to a comparatively tight budget. Its sequel, by contrast, cannot disguise the resources with which it was made.”
The review finishes with this scathing sentence:
“MercurySteam say says this will be the final game in the Lords of Shadow saga, and on the evidence of this cluttered, bloated and forgettable mess, it’s just as well.”
So, harsh words indeed.
I am currently playing through my own review copy of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, but cannot say anything until the 25th of this month. The only thing I will say is vague, but based on what I’ve played thus far my own review is likely to be a bit less destructive than Edge’s.