E3 2010: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow PreviewBy Joe Rybicki - Posted Jun 16, 2010
What We Already Know:
Most of the story and setting: Set at "the end of days" -- and outside Castlevania canon -- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow stars Gabriel Belmont, a member of a do-gooder group called the Brotherhood of Light, on a quest to resurrect his dead wife by collecting three pieces of the Mask of Light.
What We're Seeing Now:
Lots of deliciously arcadey, free-roaming combat. Lords of Shadow features an easy-to-pick-up battle system that seems to offer a surprising depth: Gabriel has an arsenal of combos at his disposal (some of which can be purchased via acquired experience points), as well as the ability to grab and toss enemies. But the game will force players to constantly switch up their tactics, thanks to enemies who will catch on to repeated attacks and respond accordingly to neutralize them.
Naturally, weapons can be upgraded -- not just the trademark Belmont whip, but also secondary weapons. And those secondary weapons add a certain degree of strategy, as well, since each can be used to exploit enemy weaknesses. For example, a silver dagger can do massive damage against werewolves, while vials of holy water decimate the undead. (Speaking of the whip, though: It's not just a weapon, but also a useful tool. Gabriel will periodically need to use it to rappel down walls or swing from overhead projections.)
Combat itself also has its own strategies, with timing-based blocks and counters that result in over-the-top attacks. And the overall game requires a bit of puzzle-solving as well: As Gabriel gains new weapons, items, and abilities, he'll need to revisit previous areas in the game to reach areas that were inaccessible without the new gear.
But don't let these elements of strategy give the wrong impression; this is definitely an action game. Nowhere is this more evident than in the boss fights, which employ God of War-style quick-time events interspersed with more straightforward hacking. The demo also included a stunning-looking horseback segment, in which Gabriel has to fend off attacking wargs with straightforward combat and more QTE-style button-tapping.
If that doesn't sound interesting enough, the designers fully intend to exploit the fact that this is a Castlevania game -- and a game that can play fast and loose with the Castlevania canon due to its existence in an alternate timeline. That means players will be revisiting areas from previous games, and even encountering classic enemies from the series. And in true Castlevania style, expect lots of hidden items and other secrets -- these in addition to the 20 to 24 hours the designers estimate for a straightforward play-through.
Lords of Shadow clearly has a lot of muscle behind it; not only does the game look gorgeous, loaded with fancy effects and detailed environments, but it also comes packed with an all-star cast of voice actors, including narration by Patrick Stewart. This is looking like the kind of update to the Castlevania franchise that longtime fans can get behind.