I don’t really know what made me think of this game recently, but I keep wanting to go back and play it again (rather, I want to play the sequel again, but I’ll talk about this first). So this was a game I just selected at random when I first picked up a PS3. I really haven’t played a Castlevania game before or since (again, except for the sequel) but I was overall pretty happy with Lords of Shadow as an experience and a challenge.
In this game, you play as Gabriel Belmont, a member of the Brotherhood of the Light on a quest to defeat three powerful evil beings known as the Lords of Shadow. Somehow Earth has been cut off from heaven leaving the populace at large utterly boned and it is Gabriel’s mission to resolve the situation, and resurrect his dead wife. Gabriel is a badass, but is also a shining example of “can this guys life suck any harder?” I don’t want to give away the whole thing here but seriously, this guy takes getting screwed over to an art form. The majority of the game pits you against the three lords of shadow and their minions, which is, of course, the central piece of the story. But to get the full breadth of the fuckery going on here you will also need to play through the two DLC’s, Reverie and Resurrection.
Combat made for an enjoyable challenge in this game. Gabriel’s main weapon in Lords of Shadow is a combat cross, which is basically a big, iron crucifix with a retractable chain whip inside. He also sports a number of side arms including vials of holy water, silver dagger, faeries (?) as well as access to both light and dark magic. Timing is a big deal when fighting, whether referring to defending or toggling between different magics for enhanced damage or healing.
The flow of the game is a bit unique as well, consisting of stages as opposed to an open world or continuous flow with no backtracking. You can go back to previously beaten ‘levels’ to score higher on their completion, or try out harder difficulties. If you’re playing straight through it isn’t jarring or anything and the story continues smoothly, but it is handy to be able to backtrack for practice or restocking for difficult fights. The graphics are pretty damn good for an older game, the scenery, in particular, is well done and plays perfectly into the apocalyptic feel of the game. Both the dialogue and the voice acting are excellent, with Robert Carlyle voicing Gabriel and Sir Patrick Stewart narrating.
So what makes the game appealing? Aside from, you know, everything else I mentioned? To me, it’s the incredibly dark undertone of it all. Sure, you’re playing as a mighty paladin on a quest to slay evil and save the world…but it calls into question how much despair one person can take before they succumb to what they once fought against. How much does it take before even a righteous individual has too much heaped on their shoulders? The main game is bad enough in terms of Gabriel getting stomped in the nuts by fate’s fickle boot, but the DLC closes the events of the game out in a way that is both terribly cruel and fascinating at the same time. I’d love to expound further on that, but I really can’t without ruining it. Granted the game is seven years old, so maybe I’m holding back for nothing at this point.
Well, if you guys are interested I’ll review the second game as well next time and actually talk about the story points more. Let me know in the comments below, and as always, happy gaming!