A Better Castlevania for All: Lords of Shadow 2

David Cox and Enric Alvarez discuss their plans for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.

It's hard to think about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 without recalling its predecessor, the hack-and-slash reboot that took series loyalists by surprise. The original Lords of Shadow wasn't a bad game, but it flipped the tried-and-true formula on its head. Criticisms were lobbed at the fixed camera, the superfluous onscreen button prompts, linearity, and a large number of quick-time events. Despite the vocal detractors, the game sold well enough to allow Konami's Head of European Production David Cox and Mercury Steam Studio Head Enric Alvarez to continue their work on the Lords of Shadow trilogy. According to Cox, the first Lords of Shadow game is the best-selling Castlevania to date.

Despite its success, which could easily be interpreted as vindication of Cox and company's design choices, the team was still willing to change things up for Lords of Shadow 2. In my interview with Cox and Alvarez, it became clear that the biggest shift in their approach was the adoption of a free camera system. It opens the game up, allowing for alternate paths and greater player control, but by the sound of it, the change took a significant toll on their development process.

What do you think is the biggest change from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to Lords of Shadow 2, in terms of design?

Alvarez: The seamless world was the most challenging aspect, and the camera as well, and the new combat, and the story. Seriously, a bit of everything. We took Lords of Shadow and we thought, "Let's unfix the camera. Let's put much better facials, in a way that we can write down a much more emotional story. Now, let's get rid of the levels. Let's build the world as it is." Pretty much everything got its share of evolution. The biggest thing is, no doubt, the seamless world and the free camera because of the implications for the technology and also the design.

Cox: One of the risks of doing a free camera in a hack-and-slash game is showing the environment and all the enemies around you. We've tried to make the free camera so that you don't notice it. If you play the demo and you don't touch the camera, it feels like it did before, like a regular hack-and-slash game. Then those players that want to be able to move the camera can do it; then it becomes something they can control. It's a lot about exploration, but then there are some players out there that are skillful that are able to use their thumb for the combos while also moving the camera as well. But if you don't want to, you don't need to. We've noticed there are a lot of people playing who didn't actually realize there was a free camera in the game. It's a testament to the work the team did on the camera; it was something they really wanted to get right. Some players will be used to Lords of Shadow having the fixed camera; for them, they may think you've ruined it, but we continued to make sure it felt like a fixed camera game for those players that wanted to use it that way.

"Now, let's get rid of the levels. Let's build the world as it is…everything got its share of evolution."
Alvarez: It's a big change. We started with the fixed camera for a number of reasons; then suddenly we get rid of it, and you might feel a bit alienated by it, but we think it's better. It doesn't make any sense to put on the table a proposal for exploration and we keep having the fixed camera. You simply can't explore, you know?

And combat was a huge risk. We want it as perfect as we are able to put it together. The camera is trying a lot of different things that not many other games try. Usually the hack-and-slash games that have a free camera put it very close to the character, because this way they are safe from a lot of problems. But we don't like that, because it detracts from the strategic component of the combat. I like to see enemies around me. I like to see enemies getting close to me from behind to try and attack me. And I like to have time to react. I like to defend or dodge, or just jump over the enemy and counterattack.

To have this, you need to have the camera in the distance. But the farther you put the camera, the more problems you have with collisions. You realize that hack-and-slash games have flat arenas, with no obstacles in the middle, because it's really annoying to have the camera collide with lots of things. We thought that we could solve it. Let's try to have complicated environments with hack-and-slash, which is something that hasn't been tried many times before. When we worked in this direction, we faced tons of problems and spent months developing this camera, which may look simple but is doing lots and lots of different things.

One of the strongest elements in Lords of Shadow was your ability to compose a scene with the fixed camera. How challenging has it been to capture those same moments when you don't have the ability to, say, pull the camera back?

Alvarez: You can't imagine. It has been a nightmare. As you were saying, with the fixed camera, it's not easy, but you know the player is going to be looking in a direction, and you can work in that direction. This time, however, we don't know where the player is looking, but we guess. I mean, you have a corridor. You're not going to walk backwards; you're going to walk in a certain direction. So we're pretty sure, at the end of the corridor, we can put an impressive vista. Or, for example, in a specific place where there's combat, you can guess that the camera eventually or sometimes is going to point in a certain direction, and we can put some towers in a vista, or the moon, for example. So, it's not impossible; it's not the same, but it's not impossible.

Before you went into production, were there thoughts about making it a next-gen or a cross-gen game? Do you think sales will be affected because of the upcoming next-gen platforms?

Cox: I don't, because I think that there's 70-million-plus people out there with [current-gen] consoles. Of course, the focus here at E3 is next-gen, but there are still some amazing current-gen titles.

We want to be one of the last of the current-gen that stands out. Of course, we talked about next-gen, but we were quite far along before the conversations with Sony and Microsoft came about. We had already built the engine again from scratch. It would have meant a lot more work and a lot longer development time. We've been developing this game for quite some time, because of all the changes we made to the original engine. We have next-gen in mind, in terms of our next project, but for this project, we're not planning to release it on next-gen.

Next-gen Castlevania?

Cox: We're done with Castlevania after this. We had a story to tell, we wanted to tell it, and we haven't got anything more to say. This is our take, our spin on Castlevania. It's up to other people to decide what to do with the franchise next.

So, you've had the story all along. Leading up to the final game, where you're ready to seal the deal, what sorts of things have driven you to perhaps alter the vision? Has it shifted at all from the original idea?

"We have next-gen in mind, in terms of our next project, but for this project, we're not planning to release it on next-gen."
Cox: We had the bare bones of it; we had the arc. When we did the epilogue [for Lords of Shadow], we said to people that this is where we could take it. When we got the OK to do the sequel, we had to fill in all the other details. It's evolved slightly, but it has essentially been there all along. The major arc has always been done.

Are you excited for people to see the conclusion?

Cox: Yeah, we've always liked to surprise people.

Alvarez: It's the trademark of the studio. Lords of Shadow, if you remember, was filled with new content. We felt that we can't put out such a long game without significant and important content throughout the game. We like to put in lots of different characters, and we like to develop those characters, and we like to put them in difficult situations. It's going to be a game, in terms of pace, that's quite similar to Lords of Shadow. There's constantly something new around the corner: new character, new cutscene, new combat, new challenge, etc. The big plus is that this time, perhaps you don't go around the corner, because you saw an alley or you saw a ledge that you haven't tried. Perhaps that ledge will lead you to a completely new section that connects with the next level in a different way.

Cox: We like surprising people, and we think in Lords of Shadow 2 there are a lot of surprises. Hopefully we'll get people talking about the product again. That was the original idea with Castlevania, with the original idea in 2007, to get people talking about Castlevania again as a mainstream game. We think we've succeeded with the first game, and we want to continue with the second game. Once we've told our story, we want to move on to something else.

Alvarez: We promise you, you are not expecting many, many things.

Cox: If you look at Lords of Shadow, Mirror of Fate, and Lords of Shadow 2, the three games are actually quite different. They share some similarities, but there are new ideas in each one. We're not trying to create something that's mimicking the previous one.

Alvarez: If you look at franchises with many sequels, it's difficult to find a franchise that changes that much. The first game was fixed camera, the second game was on Nintendo 3DS, you know, 2.5 D. Next game, free camera and exploration and seamless world. What's going to be next? A football game with Dracula? (laughs)

Cox: A Dracula card game? (laughs)

Contra?

Cox: Who knows?

You know!

Cox: I do.

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82 comments
lilj2626
lilj2626

LETS PRAY MERCURY DO CONTRA NXT IM HOPEN KONAMI GIT DEY HEAD OUT DEY AZZ N DO DAT 4REAL ALONG WIT A CASTLEVANIA COLLECTION N RETRO COLLECTION LIKE CAPCOM DO SO WELL DAM THEY GIT IT WTH WRNG WIT KONAMI

lilj2626
lilj2626

RITE WEL IF DIS A TRILOGY Y N DA INTRO IT SAY DA CONCLUSION???

kgallis21
kgallis21

Great story line to this series, epic enough to make a movie. Thumbs up to the writers of lords of shadows the ending was rewarding and left you wanting to play part 2 right away. cant wait to get it for my 360 before PS4 comes out and its retired.

Lykanthropie
Lykanthropie

the first castlevania LoS wasnt really bad, but it wasnt that good too - it was sometimes a bit boring and had simply took to much out of other games - besides that it doesnt do it close as good as those titles wihich gameplay elements have been copied.

The Story was kind of lame - only the end was nice and it would be interessting to know it will go on - guess the trailers for LoS2 are just what you want after the end of the first titel. So i hope they try making this game really good and changing a bit of everything might end up the right way or will end in another medicore copied gameplay action titel like the first one.


I was waiting really long till i played the first LoS - and was disapponted a bit, over that i still played through the whole game and it isnt really short. But there nearly nothing to keep in mind, all levels had a somehow terrible structure, exploring wasnt enjoyable that way and the camera made it even more bad. But thedesing was sometimes interesing, while all the levels didnt stick together - sometimes you could see really nice pictures in the background, somehow was hoping to explore it sometimes, but everytime you saw something interessing, you simply quit the interesting part and the new level started right where the exploring whould end - with other words in the mentioned terribel builded levels - every way to chose was set before without any possibility of other ways, or or just another way to go the same way - even the available action to do were limimted to a few for every climbing secquence, even if opyu could see a total possible way you could go it as you couldNt do the moves for it, you can only do the moves to go the one and only possible way, adn even if oyu try this one and only way - it could be bugged a but and the char doesnt grab the edge even if you did the same thing like before.

I would never play LoS again - right now i play dark souls after i waitied a long time to play it - i am on my 4th playthrough and already played it like over 200 hours - every minute even every second was like xxxx times better then Castlevania LoS - its not 100% perfect too, but it deserves its good ratings.

i just hope they will do it in the right way - with more ways of exploring, not that cutted levels, better level structure a good camera and a fighting system. thats not just copied from the God of War series. A lot other games have elements from other games too - but LoS is just cheap copied while others try to take elements and make it in own way, stuff like climbing and hitting emenies was used since games exists - there is know way not to copie that if you play a game with a char running and fighting through - but simply takeing onther game's elements and nearly copy all of them the very same way is just cheap boring and in the case of LoS a cheap god of war clone with just another setting and char. By the way the copied bossfights from shadow of colossus are quite lame and really random - just like everything in the game doesnt really stick together.

bannermanner
bannermanner

My biggest question would have been something along the lines of "Who wrote those godawful Portal references in the first game, and is he/she still working for you?"

Mrod1212
Mrod1212

I'm really bummed they won't be returning to make another title for the franchise. Hopefully we won't get another decade of rehashed hand held titles.

prestodaniel
prestodaniel

yeah. this will most likely be the best Castlevania game....

SilentAssassin
SilentAssassin

I think this will be a solid ACTION game just like the first one.  However the other comments are right.. nothing beats SOTN... NOTHING

FranciscoEterno
FranciscoEterno

nobody makes Castlevania games like Japanese developers .... last console great Castelvania game was SOTN

Ranma_X_basic
Ranma_X_basic

i will say that the original game took me by surprise and turned out pretty good. it was a lot of fun. especially the boss battles (which were epic and awesome).

can hardly for for LoS2.

BlackSheepWalls
BlackSheepWalls

The first game was pretty decent for such inexperinced developer. Gameplay in LoS is alot better than in GOW3 for sure and I would even dare to say DmC.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

I loved Lords of Shadow, the art, the music the gameplay was awesome.

abohamed2012
abohamed2012

i hope Konami bring MGS V for PC too .. just like this epic game

Jonny-Two-Delta
Jonny-Two-Delta

I watched the E3 stageshow and got a little excited. I always enjoy good vampire fiction, more so if Dracula features in it somehow. The gameplay is a bit Soul Reaver, though staying true enough to the look and feel of Castlevania.
This won't be a day-one purchase for me, but I will probably look to play it.

valensim
valensim

When they talk about ''Lords Of Shadow Trilogy'', does that mean that there will be Lords Of Shadow 3 ???... because they already said that Mirror's Of Faith is a ''Prologue'' for Lords Of Shadow 2.

Loshead
Loshead

The first game was awesome can't wait for this one!

RedFive3
RedFive3

I hope the PC version of LoS 2 is optimized for PC.

Navardo95
Navardo95

I LOVE you Mercury Steam!!!! LOS 1 was truly epic with gorgeous and rich environments,wonderful musical score and a great storyline!!

And btw am I the only one here that actually liked the fixed camera of LOS1?? Personally it didn't bother me at the slightest and in fact I felt that it gave it a more cinematic feel to it...I was one of the few that was worried when MS announced that LOS2 will have free camera system...I felt worried that it wouldn't have the same feel but all my worries have been laid to rest.
They did a unique job with the camera...the fact that it doesn't sacrifice the cinematic view is a big win for me! Day 1 buy.

alim298
alim298

Never liked Castlevania that much until LOS (Only Drac's curse) But they really changed that dumb story of Drac into an EPIC tale!

etryus
etryus

This is the last Castlevania game :( ...

StonerDemon
StonerDemon

Good game, gotta give it some time again to get the platinum.

b0sse
b0sse

I dont see why people complained at the fixed camera in the previous game.

It worked just as good for that game as it does in all the God of War games. And you can roll with the right analog stick to evade instead, works just fine.

khan1981
khan1981

i loved the first game and i cant wait for this one to come out...


Aentikraist
Aentikraist

i enjoyed this alot LOS and i ll enjoy more LOS 2 thety didnt do that bad as a reboot clearly Better tan DmC BY FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!!!!!!! but honestly i congratulate this guys to Abandon Castlevania THAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANKS!!! never touch it again :) 

da_chub
da_chub

In disappointed that this is what castlevania has become and am glad it isn't on wii u. I did enjoy playing 1 on my ps3 for $10 of eBay...which was also sold to get my wii u...

deviant74
deviant74

Well I see they want my money.  If it was a fixed cam again I wasn't going to buy it.

eman123
eman123

Loved the first game. I like how the writer has to say it was shit before he does the interview. I also like how they now want to turn something so great into darksiders....... Perfect. Just perfect.

TheLeftHandDoom
TheLeftHandDoom

Castlevania 3 was one of the top 10 video games ever made.  It was brutally hard, had creepy music, and dark and sinister graphics.  I consider Dark Souls to be the Gestalt successor to the Castlevania franchise.

Proftally
Proftally

you know that is what I hate about amazing games like this, once you switch to a new console they become history. Perhaps this is one of the advantages of having it on pc, you don't have to let go of your favorite games when your machine is rapped up and stored in a box in the basement somewhere. 

qbik911
qbik911

@lilj2626 Cool story bro, now go back to the first grade to learn English...:)

MrAVKV
MrAVKV

@LykanthropieThe problem with many gamers these days is that  they expect EVERY game to be different and original from each other. Honestly, who cares if Lords of Shadow has similar gameplay to God Of War or similar climbing mechanics to Unharted? If the game is good, it's good. There's no changing that. If you really go on about originality then by all means, design a game with original gameplay and see what you can come up with. There's only so many types of games and I cannot understand why you people fail to see that. You all must move past this primitive mentally. I played Lords Of Shadow and while it felt similar to God Of War, it did not diminish my experience in any way. It was still enjoyable. Isn't that what gaming is all about? So next time,play a game and if you enjoy it, leave it at that. Don't be too technical.

Aentikraist
Aentikraist

@SilentAssassin well i guess the masses they just want every damn 2D game 3Dsided and they are happy  i do like LOS and 2 i guess it ll be better but by far it wont beat a 2d awesme game as SOTN which is sad for the 3d ones but good for them they like generalized stuff  as usual. u are right btw nothing will beat it!!

blackbartblues
blackbartblues

As much as i love SOTN last console great Castelvania game was Castlevania 3 for nes

gamingnerd121
gamingnerd121

@valensim I think they've been confusing people with ''Trilogy''. Lords of Shadow 2 is the final game for them, and then they're moving onto something else.

alim298
alim298

@Aentikraist Yeah they just gonna turn it to a greater thing which is a bad thing I suppose.

Aentikraist
Aentikraist

@alim298 @Aentikraist yeah totally!!! i do wanna see an Epic God of war 4 i mean gee sorry i mean well is the same GOW 4 with Castlevania skins totally better!!! i guess ur definition of better is taking same game and changing the mods, skins and changing the Franchise of the game  right?

alim298
alim298

@Aentikraist @alim298 Hey God of war is pretty much in debt of Castlevania in terms of design. Especially those blades of chaos that look like whip to me.