Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review

Kid Safe: Low                     Game Quality: High

Genre: Action/Adventure
-          This game is identified by its action-based tone of gameplay that focuses on one or more characters being faced with a challenge and going on an adventure to solve it through puzzle solving, avoiding obstacles, and battling enemies with multiple forms of weapons and attacks.

Internet Requirements: Low
-          This game features no internet gameplay to speak of, restricting you only to single-player modes. Some extra content will be released for download from the internet in the near future to increase the available gameplay.

Story Summary: In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, you take the role of Gabriel Belmont, an orphan
turned warrior fighting as a member of the Brotherhood of Light; a group of knights fighting to defend the world from supernatural forces. The Brotherhood has their work cut out for them, as the world is progressively being overrun by supernatural creatures as the world has become cut off from God. Now Gabriel is on a quest, with the help of his dead wife Marie and the old god, Pan, to find and destroy the Lords of Shadow, the leaders of the different supernatural forces assaulting the world. On this quest, Gabriel will not only fight werewolves, vampires, and even monstrous Titans, but he will also come to terms with himself and his own personal demons.

Kid Safe: Low
-          Foul Language: Low
o   Castlevania: Lords of Shadow features a low amount of foul language in the form of the words h*ll and b*tch. These words were heard only twice each.

-          Violence and Gore: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Castlevania: Lords of Shadow features a high amount of violence and gore in a variety of ways. To begin, this title is focused primarily on fighting supernatural forces with a vicious chained weapon. While enemies will generally fall backwards when attacked, a heavy attack will result in them exploding into a spray of blood and viscera. Aside from this, while mounting and riding monsters in game, you must strangle them to death to dismount; most often resulting in strangles sounds of pain or breaking of necks and limbs.

o   There are also multiple scenes of violence while in cutscenes: some examples being multiple times when individuals are repeatedly stabbed in the chest, leaving the dagger protruding from their ribs; another example being when a werewolf like creature is impaled on a large stake of wood.

o   Certain monsters are highly grotesque and may be of concern. Some of these monsters include "Creeping Corpses" that appear to be a bound zombie that is crawling towards you, "Deadly Toys" which are disgustly mismatched monsters made up of stitched together pieces, and your standard fair of zombies and skeleton monsters.
-          Sexually-Related Content: Moderate
o   CastleVania: Lords of Shadow features a moderate amount of sexually-related content primarily in the form of nudity. Several different forms of a female monster-like creatures including demon-creatures and small fairies that appear topless with visible breasts. While there is not an overly sexual focus on this fact, they are present nonetheless.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: Very Low
o   Castlevania: Lords of Shadow does not contain any usage of drugs or alcohol.

Game Quality: High
-          Graphics / Visuals: High
o   Castlevania: Lords of Shadows features a high quality of graphics and visuals with a particular emphasis on environmental design. Sprawling, magnificent castles. The winding, forgotten streets of a lost city. Dusty, crumbling ruins. Sheer cliff sides with elegantly trickling water. Sparkling sun piercing sharply through fluttering leaves. Stinking, toxic swamps. Castlevania, for its lack of fanfare upon release, has some of the finest environmental graphics and visuals to date short of the Uncharted franchise on Playstation 3; most of it appearing photorealistic. Not only this, but every level is fully fleshed out and features a complex and interesting design that always has something else to discover.

o   Complimenting the gorgeous visuals of the environments is the lighting. Once again, this title features some of the finest lighting effects short of the Uncharted franchise. Light glitters softly across running water or halos above you as you descend deeply into a chasm. Glittering softly through tree leaves as it escapes from view, you feel like you are truly watching the sun set.

o   For all of its finery when it comes to the environments, however, Konami failed in one department: people. While each monster is fleshed out and fascinating, each with their own special designs and appearances, the actual human people fail to impress. Humans have an incredibly generic look that appears to be from the earlier years of the technology. Hair is little more than colored clumps that lie together on a character's head, ironic given monsters with fur have hair that flows softly in the wind. Likewise, the characters show little real emotion on their faces, falling into generic almost comic-esque expressions.
-          Audio: Very High
o   Castlevania has an extremely high quality of audio that is most pronounced in its musical score and ambient noise, as well as some impressive voice work from the actors. First, the musical score. I highly encourage anyone interested to in fine music to look into the soundtrack for this title, which is available for sale. The music was professionally composed specifically for the game and demonstrates Oscar Araujo's mastery of his craft, especially his knowledge of the tone specific instruments set for a scene and his usage of a subtle crescendo. A person who has never played this title can listen to the music and tell that every one of the over 20 songs has a musical soul and a story attached to it, and that story is played out and demonstrated by the level that players must live out. I very rarely encourage you to actually listen to video game soundtracks, but I feel Castlevania: Lords of Shadow deserves a listen.

o   The voice work behind the characters is generally of an equally impressive value compared to the music, with a single exception. To begin, any lovers of theatre or film will almost instantly recognize the talents of Patrick Stewart as he leads players through the story of Castlevania, acting both as the narrator for every one of the dozens of levels as well as a character in game named Zobek, another Knight. Other talented voice actors fill the world with a sense of passion and emotion on their voice alone with Aleksander Mikic as Pan and Natascha McElhone as Marie Belmont deserving special mention.

o   The only audio problem, shockingly, comes from renowned actor Robert Carlyle's rendition as Gabriel Belmont. Gabriel, the main character of the game, tends to have a strange problem deciding what mood he is in and what darn accent he has. Over the course of a single accent, I heard Gabriel switch from being heavily Scottish, then over to English, and then suddenly American. Without the problem of randomly switching nationalities, Gabriel often has the emotive qualities of a dead fish. Luckily, Gabriel doesn't often speak and therefore does not retract heavily from the gameplay.

-          Gameplay / Playability: High
o   Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has a generally high level of gameplay and playability. To start with, the controls are simple to understand and use but a challenge to master. Every control is explained before it is necessary and then examples are provided so that these moves can be used. Likewise, should a player ever forget said moves, they are always able to reference the "Travel Book" which has a list of all relevant skills, powers, magic, and even monsters. The Travel Book will also allow players to buy new skills as they play through the game and develop their character's fighting prowess however they would like. Players will also be rewarded by a fair number of extra points and capabilities available for their ability to master the controls and fighting

o   Outside of combat itself, players have a multitude of options. Traversing the environment is extremely smooth and intuitive, allowing individuals to seamlessly climb up the leg of a massive stone titan, shimmying across crags in his stony body, and vaulting off just in time to launch a grappling hook and pull himself onto the hand that was about to crush him in retaliation. While sounding overly complicated, this series of actions can but accomplished within three simple button presses. Likewise, players are able to ride different animals into combat or to solve puzzles; horses are a given, but players can also ride such things as giant spiders, large warthogs, and even troll creatures.

o   The one problem with Castlevania's playability comes from its camera system. Now, to explain, the average action/adventure game allows players full control of a camera that essentially free-floats around the character; thus allowing them to see every angle of a situation and decide their best course of action. Castlevania suffers from having a fixed camera that was chosen to provide players with the most cinematic view of a situation or level. While this sounds good, it can be an overwhelming frustration when a platform or enemy is just outside of your vision and causes the player to fail or die over and over and over again.
-          Dollar-Value: High
o   Castlevania has a rather high dollar-value that is especially highlighted through its game length. Not to mention the other finer points of this title that were previously mentioned, Castlevania has a simple but engaging story that will keep players going for anywhere from 15 to 20 hours; featuring more than double the content of the majority of games that are currently being released to date. On top of this, for players that are connected to the internet with their Microsoft Xbox360's, this title will have two expansion packs that will be released that will extend the available gameplay and story just that much more.

o   The only reason that the dollar-value suffers slightly is due to this titles similarity to a fair number of other games on the market including, but not limited to, such titles as God of War and Dante's Inferno. While it is not the exact same, and obviously has a different story to offer, the gameplay is highly similar. That said, both previously mentioned titles are sold at lower price points and thus make it hard to justify buying this title at its initial starting cost.

-          As yet another action/adventure game is released, I can only continue to recommend more of the same. If you would like to enjoy a good Star Wars title, I can only heavily recommend the first Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. If you have already enjoyed this title, you might also try out titles like Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter. If you are looking for an equally good and M-Rated title: Devil May Cry, Dante's Inferno, and God of War are also great choices.

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