Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review

To be frank., We’re really getting down to the niche end of the genre market when we talk about action-adventure vampire games. This is what makes horror-style vampire games so fun, however, with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow reviving a 25-year-old franchise from the dead in the name of a horror-steeped action-adventure. That the game is developed in part by Kojima Productions (Hideo Kojima being the legendary spearhead of the Metal Gear Solid series) already speaks volumes about the likely quality of the game-play before you even pick up a controller, but don’t feel you must be persuaded by name alone: Lords of Shadow is a satisfyingly dark and suitably epic experience, even if its only true link to Konami’s original Castlevania is the very presence of vampires and werewolves within.


What we’ve got in Lords of Shadow is game-play that’s based on the original Castlevania series in perhaps the loosest way possible. It’s similar in the fact it’s got supernatural beings against which you’re fighting, as well as the signature whip-style weapon that forms the basis of your attacks. It’s also got platforming action and puzzles to solve as well, so that’s going to make Castlevania fans at least feel a little nostalgic. Other than that, however, this is a different experience to what Castlevania fans may be hoping for.

You play as a character called Gabriel Belmont, a tall, dashing character with flowing attire and a chain whip in one hand known as the Combat Cross. Belmont’s aim is essentially to wade through the mounds upon mounds of evil creatures – vampires and werewolves are a staple in terms of enemies, but there’s also things like giant spiders, trolls, and other truly terrifying beasts – whilst essentially trying to save the world from evil forces. The plot involves various stereotypical fantasy elements such as an organisation called the Brotherhood of Light, a figure called the Lord of Shadow, and a prophecy spouted to you by your deceased spouse at something called the Lake of Oblivion.


The gameplay mechanics are what really make the game appealing to a wide audience. Viewed from the third-person perspective, you must navigate your way through gothic wastelands, evil crypts, castles, and all manner of surroundings lifted directly Gothic Style 101. Your main weapon as you traverse the evil-addled world is your Combat Cross, which is used much like a whip. You can attack single enemies with it, or deal location-based damage to multiple enemies. The true fun is in unlocking the many combinations that you can perform with this weapon. The whip itself can also be upgraded. You can even utilise secondary weapons in conjunction with your whip such as knives and other items.

The fantastical elements shine through perhaps most strongly in the game’s light/dark magic system. As you progress you can upgrade and combine your Combat Cross with Light or Shadow magic, which allow you to perform defensive (such as guarding or healing) or straight-up aggressive attacks against the enemy. It’s a little reminiscent of the action of Metroid Prime, only with a dark Gothic style. Truth be told, however, this game plays more like God of War than it does Konami’s 1986 Castlevania.

Vampires Galore

The greatest interest for here however, are the game’s vampires, and it just so happens that Lords of Shadow has them in abundance. The vampire is just one of the three main races of supernatural origin in Lords of Shadow. Rather than being designed as the typical large-collared, slicked-back-hair, humanoid-like vampires of what are essentially very un-scary (yet classic) vampire films of the film industry’s past, the vampires here simply look terrifying. They’re designed to look more like super-sized demons with wings and various supernatural abilities.

The vampires of the game are truly spine-chilling, with abilities such as superhuman strength, flight, teleportation, rapid healing, superhuman speed, and other factors that make them formidable enemies. There is also an impressive amount of lore behind the vampire race in Lords of Shadow, involving the vampire queen Carmilla who was responsible for the creation of the race itself.

Vampires and More

Lords of Shadow is more than a game about supernatural forces and beings, though. Its gameplay, thanks to Mercury Steam, consists of some impressive platforming elements, puzzles, and copious quantities of upgrading your Combat Cross, magic utilisation, and terrifying boss battles against creature known as Titans. This is an epic adventure on which to embark, but it is as rewarding as it is terrifying. Its fantastical style goes well beyond the original Castlevania however, and its dissimilarity to Konami’s aforementioned original series may be off-putting for die-hard Castlevania fans.