Castlevania's first round of downloadable content, called Reverie, instantly evokes the environmental beauty of Lords of Shadow and the incredible attention to detail that makes even the most mundane object appear as a wondrous piece of scenery. In fact, Reverie takes place in one of Lords of Shadow's more spectacular locations, Carmilla's castle, where Gabriel begins a new quest to answer the call of the deceptively young vampire, Laura. She explains to Gabriel that the defeat of the Lords of Shadow has unleashed an even fiercer foe. The two then set out through the ruins beneath the castle to confront this new enemy. While this has all of the makings for an epic battle, Reverie actually has a lopsided focus on puzzles, which allows for little in the way of entertaining action sequences or even opportunities to highlight the original game's finest quality: its satisfying combat mechanics.
Gabriel Belmont--still sulking from the loss of his wife--has opportunities to put his combat cross to work. Foes sporadically materialize either just before a puzzle or right after solving one, but these confrontations are with familiar and surprisingly low-rung foes. They don't put up much of a fight against a battle-hardened Gabriel, with his entire arsenal of moves and special abilities unlocked. Interestingly, these otherwise low-key fights become more dynamic when given the opportunity to separate and play as Laura at designated spots where Gabriel can't progress on his own and requires her help. A limited number of attacks, combined with her ability to transform into mist, force you to carefully consider where you position her so that she can safely deliver bolts of electricity from her fingertips or feast on enemies to restore some of her health. Her deceptive frailty works in wonderful contrast to Gabriel's brute strength in these scenarios, but they don't occur often enough to make a lasting impression as the duo spends most of its time solving puzzles.
Many of the major brainteasers in Reverie follow the structure of placing objects in their proper position on what amounts to a board. In one instance, you simply place figures on specific squares as denoted by tapestries that line the room; in another, you have to place a single block into position to prevent a controllable monster from walking into a wall of flames. One of the final puzzles requires you to arrange platforms in such a way that allows a small object to find its way to a designated area. Despite the structural similarities of key puzzles, they offer a different and fun challenge and they aren't overtly frustrating because the ultimate goal is usually clear from the very beginning. This also means that they aren't that difficult and it won't take much time to solve them.
These traditional puzzles are rounded out with environmental puzzles where Gabriel's agility is put to the test. In one section of Carmilla's castle, Gabriel has to sprint across water inhabited by some particularly nasty aquatic creatures. If you collide with any portion of the wake caused by their swimming motions, then Gabriel has to start back at the previous platform. Unfortunately, many of these puzzles are adversely affected by poor camera placement that makes it difficult to judge Gabriel's distance to certain hazards, which results in repeated deaths and subsequent retries. Still, checkpoints in Reverie are pretty forgiving, so you won't start too far from where Gabriel met his end.
There are three separate sections in the Reverie DLC punctuated with these puzzles, obstacles, and minor battles, but it only takes an hour or two to complete all of it. Additionally, the continuation of the Lords of Shadow story it tries to tell gives greater--albeit predictable--context for Gabriel's surprise transformation revealed at the end of the original game. But much of the story--told in starkly animated cutscenes with dialogue between Gabriel and Laura--serves as merely a setup for the next portion of Castlevania downloadable content, which makes this adventure thoroughly unfulfilling from a narrative perspective. It's unfortunate because the dynamic between Laura and Gabriel is actually quite good--both from a story and gameplay perspective. But Reverie never completely embraces it; instead, it gives bits and pieces and just when it feels like their relationship takes shape, it ends.
At the very least, Reverie succeeds as a teaser for future downloadable content, but for $9.99 it's a pity that this DLC missed an opportunity to showcase what Lords of Shadow does best.