Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 hasn’t gotten the most spectacular of receptions from critics, but it’s managed to do well enough with the Xbox 360 holding a current Metacritic average of 70, and a User Score of 8.4. I gave the game a 3/5, feeling that while it was inconsistent and even messy in places there was still plenty of fun to be had, assuming you didn’t immediately switch the console off at the first stealth section.
But there were also a number of reviews that were fairly negative, unable to look past the game’s obvious design flaws, perhaps most notably with Edge magazine who scored the game a four, one point below what they classify as average. Now, an employee of MercurySteam, the company who developed the game, has spoken out in regards to the game’s troubled creation, and laid much of the blame at the feet of Enric Alvarez, co-owner of MercurySteam.
The employee in question has chosen to remain anonymous, but a Spanish website has since confirmed with their own sources that the man is legitimate.
Please note that I’m using quotes taken from another NeoGaf member in the same thread claiming to be Spanish, and who was therefore able to provide slightly more accurate translations of the original material:
Early in the post the employee has some harsh words:
“The vast majority of this team is aware that the game we’ve done is a real piece of shit that has nothing to do with the first one’s quality and production values… Nobody is surprised by the low reviews we’ve got.”
The blame is apparently largely in the course of Enric, as the employee states:
“If there’s someone to blame here, that’s Enric Álvarez. He is the person who has led a broken development based on his personal criteria, completely overlooking programmers, designers and artists. Despite his nice look to the press, often considered as some sort of creative “visionary” in the looks of David Cage and Molyneux, this guy has serious problems. He is a mean and naughty guy, and since the “success Lords of Shadows 1″ his ego has grown to the point of not even daring to say ‘hello’ when you meet him in the hallway.”
“His distrust to his own workers is enormous. Most of the development team often found out features of the game through press news, rather than from the studio’s head – unbelievable. And there is no corporate culture here at all… this is just a handful of people working blindly and at the disposal of an alleged visionary.”
“The studio’s internal structure is archaic, still based on the old partners of the Scrapland days. I’ll give you an example so you can see the full picture: the studio’s signature engine (one with many flaws) was solely coded by two guys, one of them being a founder of the company and Enric’s confident. Access for the new programmers to the source code to update or refurbish the engine is denied, so things are still done in a 10-year-old fashion.”
The employee claims that Enric was so difficult that it resulted in other members of staff leaving:
“Absolutely every design idea has to be monitored, taken away and mutilated by Enric Álvarez. Several game designers have grown tired of this and have abandoned the studio”
The employee goes on to talk about the art direction of the game, something I touched upon in the review when I talked about the disparity between the beautiful, crumbling castle of Dracula and the boring modern-day environments:
“The art direction for this project has been erratic and beheaded. After Enric dismissed every idea and core decision from our main art director for the previous projects, he decided to just leave. It was a battle of egos unleashed by Enric (something that he has carried over with since his times in Rebel Act).”
Art Direction José Luis Vaello has moved on to Tequila Studios, where he is now working on RIME.
The anonymous poster also commented on how other MercurySteam developers chose to pursue work elsewhere:
“Almost every month we see fellow devs packing up and getting out of here looking for a new job abroad.”
” This company does not think highly of its talented workers and their good work. There has never been any kind of salary bonus or anything that remotely resembles it. Not even a single “Good job team!” acknowledgement.”
Further more management of the game’s creation was apparently a mess:
“Often the heads of each department dismissed every production deadline and imposed their own criteria. As a result, the development was delayed for six months, and that investment only came out of MercurySteam’s pockets.”
The anonymous employee is also concerned for the future, as Konami are not happy:
“Expectations for our future are quite bad… with a publisher like Konami really upset after the mediocre game we’ve made.”
Most disturbing of all is that the employee claims people numerous people have been fired, with more expected:
“After completing Lords of Shadows 2 MercurySteam has fired 35 workers, and it’s embarrassing that no website or journalist is talking about that. More firings are expected to come in the following days.”
He points out that this has not been reported by any journalist or site. In truth I would have reported, had I know, but no such firings have become publicly aware to my knowledge.
Still, not everything is bad:
“I wanted to say that the real team behind this company is an incredible bunch of people. If all those guys who are not allowed to be promoted due to our Jurassic studio leads had the chance to set the course of the company, our future would be so bright. There’s just so much passion and talent here, more than I’ve ever seen anywhere else, but it’s completely held back.”
Clearly these are the words of someone frustrated, and understandably so if what has been said is true. Of course there’s more than one side to every story, making it impossible for me or anyone else reading this to truly lay down judgement on either the anonymous employee or Enric. However, I am inclined to believe the employee as his words seem to match with the game itself, which does indeed feel sloppy, like it was pieced together rather than carefully crafted.
Regardless, I do think it’s important for people to speak out about things like this.