STAFF REVIEW of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Xbox 360)

Friday, October 15, 2010.
by Brent Roberts

Castlevania:  Lords of Shadow Box art Welcome my brothers and sisters to the eternal and epic struggle between good and evil. Have a seat and let your eyes read my tales of love, of loss, of deception, of honor, of light, and of darkness. Light your candles, grab your cross, and say a prayer for your soul as we enter the world of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

We begin our journey through the undead and the wicked with our hero, Gabriel Belmont. Our hero has already suffered greatly at the hands of evil by witnessing his beloved wife Marie murdered by the dark spirits that thrive on death. Twisted and torn between revenge of his murdered wife, and becoming God's savior to the people of the lands, Gabriel must struggle with more than just vampires, ogres, and ghouls, he must battle his very soul and choose his path that will grant him not only salvation, but peace as well.

My dear holy warriors, now you will find that controlling Gabriel through his adventures into darkness and death is relatively easy. Armed with your combat cross, Gabriel has a wealth of different combos and attacks at his disposal. You will have to master your wits and abilities if you wish to survive the darkness ahead, and dethrone the Lords of Darkness. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow also provides you with a multiple selection of various secondary weapons such as dark crystals, daggers, and even holy water to help you dispel the darkness and bring light and hope to a land that has been devoid of both. In this latest installment in the Castlevania series, Gabriel will not only obtain various artifacts to help and aid him through is adventure, but now we are given something very special, light and dark magic. Each offers Gabriel different options and aids from allowing him to heal his wounds while striking in combat, to turning his daggers into explosive weapons of death. This also does a great job showcasing the inner turmoil that, throughout the story, Gabriel must contend with.

Throughout the game you will notice that the camera is in multiple fixed positions depending on where you are in the land. A user controlled camera is not available in this game, and in most cases that would be a complaint, however, in this title, it is a blessing. By locking the camera depending upon where Gabriel is allows gamers the ability to worry less about what they are looking at, and more on surviving the night. This helps the game by focusing more on the interactions with various puzzles, as well it helps by allowing you to focus on the enemies you are fighting. Jumping, climbing, running, and more have been simplified to ensure that not only are the basic controls easy to master, but using Gabriel's more advanced combos become a breeze and add a more fluid aspect to your combat.

Now we turn, my dear brothers and sisters, to the wonderful graphics of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Graphically speaking your eyes will be treated to a wide, beautifully depicted, landscape throughout the game. Every land from the Dark Lord's castle, to the underground sewers, to the forests that you must travel, are all blanketed with incredible detail and beauty. Every level becomes a feast for the eyes as you traverse the wild on your quest to extinguish the darkness from the land. Even the cutscenes provide an amazing visual experience all on their own by showcasing key moments and events with incredible detail and beauty. Not only has the landscape received such beautiful work, but the new character models for your enemies bring new life back into the darkness and add a more realistic touch in combat. A wonderful example would be the new vampire models which most resemble deformed winged demons of hell, armed with incredible speed, powerful fangs, and now dual wielding knives that they use to go for the throat.

Not only will you deal with the undead, but now you must face one of your biggest oppositions in Caslevania: Lords of Shadow by confronting the various titans. In regards to graphics and the character models, you will notice a great attention to the sheer size scale of these massive titans. Standing right next to a titan, while being a first class ticket to the afterlife, will help you understand the sheer size of it as you barely come up to the top of its fingertip. The one downfall of this game graphically only comes when you attack and destroy multiple creatures of the night. The game screen will freeze for a tenth of a second, and while at first this is not something big as you see yourself frozen in mid attack in all this beauty, but it does tend to take you away from the fluidity of combat. This thankfully though does not happen often, and through my experience with this 2 disc game, it has only happened twice.

It is time my fellow vanquishers of the night, to talk about another of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow's great accomplishments; the music. As a personal Castlevania fan, prayers were said that this game not only lives up to the extremely high quality of its history, but surpasses and evolves the series by providing the iconic scores and sounds we have all come to expect from such a quality series. Having listened to the soundtrack and how it ties in with the sounds and the action, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow boasts one of the best orchestral game soundtracks my ears have ever heard. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing a church choir singing a hymn of salvation as you drive your cross through the heart of a demon, or hearing the deep tones of a cello signifying the inner struggle and turmoil that Gabriel must go through.

There are moments as well when you will hear the soundtrack pay its homage to the long line of quality Castlevania titles of the past by incorporating various remixed parts that not only help show off the lineage, but give fans of the series a true taste of what Castlevania should be. The voice acting as well receives high marks as the story is narrated by Patrick Stewart. Not only will you be given an amazing soundtrack, but every voice fits every character perfectly, just like you expect from a Castlevania game. Demons, devils, villagers, and more all shine through in the attention to the voice acting. Even the ambient sounds such as waterfalls, or even a haunting whispering hymn in the background not only add a more realistic feel for the game, but they enhance the already amazing quality overall.

For now unfortunately our tale must come to an end in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. We have refrained from discussing anything in regards to its epic story as this is an experience that every gamer should enjoy and discover on their own. With amazing graphics, an iconic musical score, a fluid movement and combat system, and more means that this title is one that every gamer must have in their library. Always remember holy warrior, that the greatest weapon against the darkness, is the light of God. Ready your cross and say a prayer for your salvation because the darkness of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has arrived, and you are our savior.

Overall: 9.1 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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