Poor Gabriel Belmont hasn’t had the easiest of times since taking it upon himself to fight the gothic forces of evil in the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The aforementioned game told a story of tragedy, loss, and perhaps partial redemption, but there’s more drama to come of course, and it takes place in Lords of Shadow’s direct sequel, Mirror of Fate. The dramatic name is fitting because the game’s action involves assuming the role of several protagonists: Gabriel Belmont (the original’s protagonist of course), his son Trevor, his grandson Simon, and finally a character called Alucard.
The names above should be familiar for Castlevania games fans, and though the game doesn’t play anything like the original 1980s Castlevania game, it continues the action of Lords of Shadow with style. More importantly, there’s a hell of a lot of vampire-centric action to be enjoyed here too.
Background and Gameplay
Mirror of Fate, originally created for the Nintendo DS and six months later ported to the PC, sees our protagonist Gabriel Belmont continue his quest against the evil of the gothic universe in which the game is set. Later in the game you are also able to take control of one of your allies, Alucard. The general goal is to locate and destroy Dracula, though you’re going to be utilising some mild puzzle-solving and exploration skills in order to battle with the enemies of the world. One major feature here that should be pointed out is that full exploration – that is, the returning to already-explored areas with new-found powers and items to further completion – is entirely optional, and not a requirement.
As for Mirror of Fate’s gameplay, one should expect a digression from the original Lords of Shadow in terms of format. While Mirror of Fate’s predecessor was an open-world, third-person exploration game, Mirror of Fate itself is a side-scrolling action-platformer with some seriously good combat mechanics.
The change in format my cause some fans of the original to turn up their noses in disgust, but it really works in the game’s favour. It lends itself excellently to the style of battles in the game, and also allowed the developers to get creative with the level design. The result is an exploration of the still-gothic (though Lords of Shadow 2 ruined this style) Castlevania universe with some highly entertaining and inventive platform-puzzle elements woven skilfully into each level. Still it can’t quite compete with the open-world style of rival games – Dante’s Inferno would still be the superior choice if we’re going by mechanics alone.
The combat mechanics aren’t quite as focused as they are in original Lords of Shadow, however. The complex magical abilities and the combinations you can utilise with your Combat Cross (a whip-style weapon that is Gabriel Belmont’s signature item) aren’t as forthcoming in Mirror of Fate. This is largely due to the borderline schizophrenic nature of the mechanics themselves. You’re confined to the back-and-forth movement plane because of the side-scrolling style. This wouldn’t be too bad in itself, but when you introduce the combat mechanics, it feels like MercurySteam attempted to try and combine too many elements from old and new Castlevania titles.
The main problem inherent in the mechanics is that you really don’t get enough time to get to grips with each character’s abilities and items. You cycle through four characters in total, each possessing their own abilities, combos, and weapons. Just as you’re getting used to Belmont’s style of movement and combat, you’re moved on to Alucard, whom you then have to get to grips with.
This is where Mirror of Fate is allowed to shine a little, since it’s a game that relies heavily on a gothic style. Though the environments around you (mainly Dracula’s castle) are often a bit gloomy and repetitive, some of the outdoor sections are nice to look at. Most importantly, MercurySteam has managed to maintain the game’s gothic style, in essentially the opposite move to its successor, Lords of Shadow 2.
One of the better aspects of this game is also its music. This is probably the one part of the game that the developers have gotten completely right. It’s got an epic score that’s supremely cinematic yet it conveys the dark, gothic, and supernatural style of the action perfectly. Unfortunately, this kind of praise can’t be applied to the game as a whole. Its mechanics are a little too confused, the combat too simple, the characters too numerous, and its level design too repetitive to seriously impress any die-hard Castlevania fan. It might do for vampire fans in general, but even then, there’s not as much vampire-centric action as in the other games like the Ultimate Edition of Lords of Shadow.