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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

14 for 2014 - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

It's almost funny how when it was first announced, this generation's reinterpretation of Konami's classic fantasy franchise didn't even carry the Castlevania name.

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Back when it was first teased, we only knew it by its now subtitle: Lords of Shadow. The hesitancy in confirming the title as a Castlevania remake was based on the franchise's troubled past with 3D interpretations.

The series was simply waiting for someone to get the ingredients right. Turns out, that someone was Mercury Steam - the studio responsible for Clive Barker's Jericho.

Lords of Shadow rebooted the series of the generations-long battle between the whip-wielding Belmont clan and Dracula into a rock hard third-person RPG-lite adventure that offered deep tactical combat and drew from the rich well of mythos the series had created.

It pleased both long-term fans and even those who'd tired of the hack 'n slash genre. Now Mercury Steam are closing their chapter on the Castlevania series, with the third, and final, act in their series. Lords of Shadow 2 carries on from both the original's twist ending - as Gabriel Belmont turned into Dracula - and 3DS side-story Mirror of Fate, that introduced his successor in the Belmont Clan, namely his son Trevor, who'd been turned into the vampire for good, Alucard.
The bonds of family and blood thereby reenforced the ties, and gave fresh reason to, the eternal battle between one family bloodline and the forces of Darkness.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

The concluding chapter takes up the story years later and expands on another of the franchise's foundation stones - Metroidvania-style exploration. Gabriel, now Dracula, is resurrected in the pits of his castle, and now weakened and depowered, and must explore his sprawling domain to reclaim his abilities. Expect multiple paths and unlockable areas once you've earned the right set of upgrades.

The camera's been altered from locked to free, though the team promise that the camera work is so quick to fit to your needs you won't need to shift it if you don't want to.

From teaser trailers we know that Alucard will return to face his father, and a younger, ghostly, version will come to haunt Dracula during his travels. We also know that at least part of the game will be set in the present day, though how that factors into the gameplay or overarching story is unknown - we can't see Dracula going GTA.

But we do know that the team are expanding on the game's core combat systems, and letting the player progress their abilities based on their preferred play style. Along with the standard whip, you'll also gain the Void Sword, which replenishes your health gauge after landing successful combos, and the armour-breaking Chaos Claws.

"We wanted to have a system where players... we kind of forced players to learn the moves, to learn the combos," explained creative director Dave Cox when we talked to him at Gamescom about the differences between the fighting system of the two games. "We thought that the only way the players are going to really be able to improve those particular weapons is by using all the combos that they're given, all the combos that they purchase. So it's another way for players to really think about the combat, and that's what we wanted to do.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

"We don't want it to be just a mindless hack ‘n' slash," he continued. "I mean the Focus system that we use in the game, where players have to strike enemies, become focussed, and the enemy drops blood. That was something we had in the previous game, and that again is making players think about what they've got to do; play well and they'll be rewarded. So the combat is all about rewarding players."

Tough combat, balanced by a solid fighting system that'll make you think rather than mindlessly hammer buttons. A huge castle to explore, and a story that has more depth and pathos than a mountain of Twilight books. It'll be a sad day when Mercury Steam conclude their tour of Castlevania, but it promises to be a spectacular sign-off.

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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

REVIEW. Written by Kim Visnes

"Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 takes elements of the first game to pioneer the interconnected world - Symphony of the Night - and mixes it in with the God of War series."



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