Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow isn’t a Castlevania game. The series is traditionally a 2-D side-scroller, and while previous attempts to create 3-D Castlevania games have been failures, they’ve also been recognizable as series installments. This one isn’t. That’s no small point, because Metroid Prime, for example, managed to successfully drag a similar 2-D game into 3-D territory with recognizable characteristics intact. At best, Lords Of Shadow is a passable God Of War clone (think flashy attack moves and lots of rolling around to dodge during combat), but it doesn’t make a case for a new direction for the long-running Castlevania series.
Lords Of Shadow gives us hero Gabriel Belmont, armed with a whip-like weapon, a deep catalog of attack combos, and a wordy narrative packed with hand-wringing angst. Gabriel seeks not to destroy Dracula, which would be classic Castlevania, but to avenge his wife’s death. His quest takes a while to build steam. This is a well-rendered but repetitive 20-hour adventure with a few hours of dull handholding at the outset. And while the action picks up over the course of the 17-hour balance, density and variety of ideas would be preferable to extra hours filled with similar enemies and more platforming puzzles.
Rather than pushing a new design, Lords offers a grab-bag of action-game tropes. The combat is God Of War by way of Devil May Cry, the puzzles often resemble those of Uncharted 2, and the boss battles recall Shadow Of The Colossus. The environments are gorgeously rendered, but they feature limited pathways—no exploring all the far details—and are seen through fixed cameras. One of the core joys of better Castlevania games is the moment where you finally reach a spot that’s been out of reach for hours. There’s some semblance of that here, but it just isn’t the same. That sentiment permeates Lords. Its aggregate reflections of half a dozen better games isn’t bad, but neither is it inspired enough to establish Castlevania in three dimensions.