9

Hard to reconmend to Castlevania fans, but despite that, the game is amazingly epic, and one of the best reboots.

3D doesn't really benefit every franchise, just look at Sonic, or Castlevania, both who has struggled to keep up with the competition when they switched to 3D (notably exception goes to Sonic Adventures on the Dreamcast). Now, it's time for the Castlevania series to try a new attempt at 3D, by outsourcing the game to a Spanish studio (ala Capcom) and by rebooting the series (ala Hollywood), and bring Kojima and his pals to help create the game. Is this 3D Castlevania game, any good though?

Story
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You play as Gabriel (voiced by Robert Carlyle) is a member of a elite group called The Brotherhood of Light, who fights against monsters and defend innocent people. Unfortunately, Gabriel's wife, Marie (Natascha McElhone) is brutally murdered by one of the members, leaving her soul stuck in limbo. Angry, Gabriel goes out to seek the God Mask, who can revive Marie.

The story is a good one, it moves along at a even page, and Gabriel is likeable enough, that you care about him, and even may get a bit emotional at the ending, and there is one or two surprises in the story, especially at the epilogue, which makes the future of the series interesting.

That being said, the story is not perfect. There's a few moments that's stupid, and while the story is good, it does start off rather fast, and despite Gabriel being likeable, most of his character development (the emotions he goes through and his state of mind) is described in a narration between the various levels by Patrick Stewart (who plays Zobek in the game). The narration is good, but some cut-scenes depicting these things about Gabriel, should have been included. Fans will likely end up hating the story, given it doesn't have anything to do with Castlevania, at all. But for the most part, it's actually a good story

8.5

Gameplay
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Castlevania is more or less a copy of God of War, with hints of Uncharted scattered around. The fighting is really similar to God of War. You got magic (dark and shadow magic precisely) and Gabriel's weapon even feels like the Blades of Chaos, from God of War. You do have some special items you can use though, like Farris to distract enemies, a crystal that summons a monster, and the Castlevania standard daggers and holy water.

The exploring is similar to Uncharted too, platforming and puzzles (Which is also from God of War) and all that feels like it's been pulled straight out of Uncharted. There are also 3 titan bosses, just when you think the game couldn't possibly rip off another game (Shadow of the Colossus).

So yea, the game is as unoriginal as Uncharted, borrowing elements from several games, but like Uncharted, Lords of Shadow uses them so well, that it doesn't really matter if it's original or not. Despite a few control issues (which I will mention later), the combat flows really well and are generally great, especially the boss fights, which ranges from amazing to pure epicness. In keeping with ripping off games, Gabriel is upgradeable too, which makes the game seem more rewarding.

The levels themselves are linear, but there are a few that has a few alternative paths, and though while not required, your encouraged to go back to previous levels, as you get stronger. Completed levels also unlocks trials, which is your usual "complete puzzle with x amount of movements, kill x amount of enemies, etc." Some of them are tough, while some of them are pretty easy.

The puzzles are great too. They may look, or sound tough, but they fall into the sweet spot of difficulty. They're not so hard, that you need a walkthrough, but they're not that easy, that you can figure out the solutions right way.... or well, you can collect scrolls which give you the solution to the puzzles, but doing so removes the rewards for them... though some might feel it tempting to use them. It's recommended to do the puzzles though, because they are well designed.

The platforming is great too, and the controls usually works really well and smooth, and have you see some good sights in the game.

The game isn't perfect though. As mentioned earlier, the game has some control issues. Sprinting is done by nudging the analog stick forward twice, quickly, and it can be clumsy to activate. Dodging is odd too. You have to hold down L2 to block, before you can dodge. It takes some time getting used to and makes you wonder why they haven't bother to move it to the right analog stick, given that it's not used anyway.

The fixed camera normally isn't an issue in the game (to me anyway), but there were moments where they annoyed the hell out of me.

There are a few bugs too. One of them prevented me from continuing, though restarting to the nearest check point (of which there's plenty), seemed to fix this, and the game also crashed on me at one point.

While it's a long game, there are a few levels, that doesn't really do anything, but distract from the overall plot. Though some of these levels are well designed, like the music box level.

That being said, despite control issues, the game is fun, and the various mechanics does work really well, and it's a bit of a joy and epic to play. The game is long too, taking around 15-20 hours to complete. Couple with trials of each level (on which there's 50) and hidden upgrades, and you got a lot of replay value.

9.0

Graphics
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The graphics are beautiful. The environments are beautiful and the characters look really good. It's one of the most beautiful multiplatform games yet, and Kojima Production's involvement can defiantly be seen. That being said, the game does tend to stutter from time to time, and there are a few moments where the frame rate dips down, but for the most part, it's a really beautiful game.

Sound
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The voice acting is pretty good, which is sort of expected when you have movie actors like Robert Calyle & Patrick Stewart voicing, and the dialogue's pretty good too. The music is incredible, making every moment of the game feel epic. It's academy awards material, it's that beautiful.

10

Overall
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So is this the first good Castlevania 3D game? Undoubtly. It's not original, but what it does, it does better than most of the other games out there. The only problem is, that it's not really a Castlevania game. Nothing in the game has any relation to the original series, and it just comes off as a game that was just given the name Castlevania, just for marketing reasons. If you like God of War, Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, then you'll love this, but if you're a Castlevania fan, then you'll probably end up hating the game.

But as for me (who's not a fan, but likes the series), I love the game, and is one of my choices, for the best game of 2010.

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