The fact that Lords of Shadow 2 picks up its action several generations after original Lords of Shadow was set may make players feel a little isolated from the action and the universe they’re used to. The plot also becomes a lot more contrived than it previously has been, playing up the martyr complex of the main character who, to be fair, has had quite a hard time in losing his wife and his son while pursuing the battle against evil that forms the basis of the Castlevania series in the first place.
For lovers of all things vampire, however, Lords of Shadow 2 should be a reasonably good experience, as the game splits its time between the Castlevania Universe and the palace of Dracula himself. Moreover, it is protagonist Gabriel himself that has become Dracula due to his heart-wrenching experiences. This is yet another foray into Kojima-style third-person adventuring, wrapping up protagonist Gabriel’s harrowing story nicely yet consistently failing to provide the kind of gothic setting the for which the series is known.
In Lords of Shadow 2, there is a premise that should, if handled properly by its developers, have resulted in an extremely intriguing action-adventure game. The plot is far too complex (and indeed contrived) to recite here, but for the purposes of review let’s just say that our main character, Gabriel Belmonst, now calls himself Dracula, has the immortality that comes along with it, and has awakened from a long slumber to find his old resting place essentially buried under a modern metropolis.
Surely an age-old Dracula running around a modern-day city is going to be incredible from start to finish, many would say. Well, Lords of Shadow 2 definitely has its moments. Its combat is still one of the stand-out features of the game, and its mechanics are impressively executed yet again by its developer, MercurySteam. However, though the premise itself cannot be criticised too heavily due to the all-allowing supernatural nature of the universe, the plot isn’t really up to scratch. There are too many attempts to make the player care about the characters in the game, namely the now-Dracula’s wife who has been murdered along with his son. Sadly, the execution of the plot simply isn’t good enough to make you care about any of the characters throughout.
Combat Is Still Excellent
The combat mechanics, on the other hand, can scarcely be faulted. You now have a Shadow Whip instead of the original game’s Combat Cross, but they work largely in the same way. You use the whip to attack opponents, and as you gain experience and collect items throughout, you can upgrade your whip as well as your supernatural powers. The opening sequences are perhaps the most entertaining – you’ve still got your full Dracula powers and entire weapons cache with you – but your powers are soon reduced to the basics and your weapons stripped as well. From here, it’s essentially a quest to slowly recover your secondary weapons as well as earn evil and good attacks, known as Fierce and Light powers respectively.
Complementing the combat system is the progress structure of the game, which rewards you for utilising all of the moves and combinations available to you at the time. The experience system allows you to unlock new moves as you go along, so you’re not only adding to your weapons arsenal as you play, but also opening up and improving the moves you have at your disposal.
Not Quite Like in the Films
Where Lords of Shadow 2 really loses its appeal, particularly for true fans of Dracula and the gothic universe in which he is supposed to exist, is the location and general setting of the game. Rather than being set in a stunning gothic world like in the first game, the modern metropolis setting feels sterile and without character. Essentially, Lords of Shadow 2 lacks the gothic charm one would expect from a game whose main character is the ultimate vampire that ever existed. Even with its above-average graphics, the setting serves to drag even the otherwise great-looking game down a few pegs, resulting in a setting that doesn’t feel authentic and that contains characters we just don’t care about.
Still, if you stick around for the later stages of the game you’ll get to experience some pretty awesome-looking and terrifying bosses. The time-travel element should also make things interesting, but ends up yet again falling flat because of the unimaginative execution of the game’s setting. True vampire/Dracula/gothic-game fans are better off getting their kicks from dedicated vampire games like the MMO Immortal Day, rather than trying to enjoy Dracula in the unimpressive form he takes in Lords of Shadow 2.