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Lords Of Shadow shows a steady hand with the Castlevania cannon my friends are so eager to defend. Earning respect and impressing the faithful grants it space to move the franchise into a new era - and we are all a little richer for it.
Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow stands in the gap between Twighlight and God of War, but I was never quite sure which it really wanted to be. Don't get me wrong, me and my mates have all loved playing God of War - and enjoyed having a game that was only suitable for the older teens in the family.
Gormengaust isn't a million miles away from things here, as Lords Of Shadow takes you deep into its realm of gothic horror. But alongside the architecture and cities are outlying countryside locations and landscapes as beautiful as they are threatening.
There was a real pace and intent about my progress through the game, at times I found myself holding my breath. And the game itself seems to restrain itself from really letting rip with the big guns until the closing chapters. When it finally exhales and invites you into candle lit castle ramparts, the drama it creates is well worth the wait.
Some of my friends are purists when it comes to Castlevania, but I'm happy to move on from the 2D platforming classics. That isn't forgotten in Lords Of Shadows though as the fighting is interspersed with platforming moments. It works well both in terms of game play and placating the faithful who want to be sure the developers understand the material they are dealing with.
Playing with a few friends watching, we were really impressed by how the game moved from cut-scene to game play without us noticing.
The meat of the game - so to speak - is the fighting. This builds from basic brawling to something that leans much more on items, magic and weapons. The duality of Light and Shadow magic and the related healing or devastation they bring is a masterful touch.
About part way through the game I thought I had mastered the majority of the attacking combo's. But checking the list I realised I had barely scratched the surface. The breadth of attacking and defensive options meant I could play the game my way - rather than being forced to learn a prescribed method of attack for each enemy.
For all it's attractions, Lords of Shadow does ask for a little forgiveness. The camera is frustrating at times as you strain to see enemies and the road ahead. The is made worse by the exacting accuracy it demands for some of the more complex attacks.
The breakneck pace would also count against it if it were not for the brevity of each chapter which offers chance to catch your breath. Playing with a few friends watching, we were really impressed by how the game moved from cut-scene to game play without us noticing. At times I was sat watching what I thought was still the cut scene, wondering why nothing was happening - until I jogged the controller and realised it had handing things back to me.
Lords of Shadow managed to silence the howls of complaint from my Castlevania diehard friends.
I got through the game in 17 hours, but I plan to go back and collect all the items and weapons I doubtless missed the first time through. There is a lot to do here, and it will be some time before I challenge the game on its hardest setting.
Lords of Shadow managed to silence the howls of complaint from my Castlevania diehard friends. We weren't sure about a move to 3D - I never quite got my head around Mario's departure from 2D - but here it works perfectly.
Any sense of loss from the pixel perfect 2D platforming action is more than compensated with the weight and storytelling the extra dimension offers.
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