Friday, October 29, 2010

[FAUX-REVIEW] Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

This is not a real review for Castlevania. It's more of a decry of the game itself:

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is an awful fucking game.

For starters, there is nothing original about it. From the health/magic regeneration fountains (Dante's Inferno) to the quick-time sequences to take down a larger foe (God of War) to the giant Titans with weak spots scattered across their body that you must climb to (Shadow of the Colossus), there's too much borrowing from other games and not enough thought put into making something truly unique. The only thing that this game has in connection to it's roots are names; the name of the game itself and the protagonist, Gabriel Belmont. That's it. There is nothing Castlevania about this game.

Yes, I am aware that it is intended as a "reboot" of the franchise. To be honest, the franchise didn't need a reboot. It needed new thinking. Multiplayer-driven titles and 3D titles are not what the franchise needs. It needs a good, 2D romp through Lord Dracula's castle. The game borrows content from two prior games - Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia - in that the game is not one, huge land, but rather broken up into various, smaller places. There are 12 chapters, but you don't realize that they are chapters until you reach chapter 2, to which the "world map" is opened up for you to see.

I have only gotten to the point of the second Titan fight, and I couldn't do it anymore. The combat engine is severely broken (more on this later), health fountains are scattered few and far between, and the story is, by far, the most un-Castlevania thing about the game.

The combat system, as I said above, is broken. Take God of War's combat system, then remove everything that made it awesome, then put it in Castlevania, and you've got what Konami tried to do. It's what happens when someone tries to imitate Western development (and we've all seen what happens when Western developers try to imitate Eastern developers). It is possible to fight off multiple beings at once, but it's not very effective. The combos you can learn don't necessarily do a good job (however, I will say, the X (air) > X (hold; release on ground) > X to do that wicked-ass spinning chain thing is pretty BA), and that brings me to another gripe: the Vampire Killer. The Vampire Killer is a whip, not Beatrice's Cross with a chain embedded in it. If I'm looking at a Lycan and I press B to throw a dagger, you would expect the dagger to hit said Lycan, right? Apparently not, as it will whiz by him, but 10 feet to it's left. Fighting enemies in the air also has a disadvantage, as the larger Lycans that are primarily on all fours can knock you out of the air with their claws without even touching you (huge collision detection issue here). There have been times when the Lycan will swat me out of the air, yet it's paw is roughly 5 feet away from me, and I'm still taking damage.

If you are to make any progress in this game, you would expect to have plentiful access to health fountains. I can only recall about 10 fountains in the game that I've come across; it may seem like a lot, but trust me, it's not. To restore health in-game, you must use your Light magic abilities, which will replenish your health with each attack you dish out. In order to get Light magic, you must not be using your magical abilities (which are mapped to LB and RB) and kill enemies; neutral magic orbs will fall from each felled enemy. With each successful attack, a Rune meter is filled; if you take one ounce of damage, the meter is immediately emptied. Once the meter is filled, each attack - not each enemy death - will result in neutral orbs being dropped (in order to pick them up, you have to click either LS or RS, which corresponds to the Light or Shadow magic). The problem here is that the orbs give you so very fucking little magic, it's unbelievable. There are magic-restoration fountains, but up to the point where I gave up (near the end of chapter two), there had only been two fountains. Yes, you read that right, two. Dos. Zwei. Ni. Deux. The magic system is way too convoluted for any game. Even Final Fantasy.

Finally, the story. You are trying to revive your wife after she has been killed, and you must track down the three Lords of Shadow (Lycans, Vampires and Necromancers) in order to do so. From what I can gather on Wikipedia - and spoilers for those who care - the game is not about vampires and vampire hunters. It's about Satan and God. Yes, Castlevania is now a battle ground between opposing Christian forces, not Dracula. It turns out that Zobek - someone who is supposedly a part of the Brotherhood of Order - is actually the Lord of Necromancers, and he had taken control of your body, to which you actually killed your wife. During this conversation, Satan appears, and corrects Zobek, saying that he was orchestrating all of the events of the game, including Gabriel's wife's death, and that he was using them to get back at God (I am not making this shit up). After Satan's defeat by Gabriel, all of the souls that he was holding in limbo venture to Heaven. Gabriel's wife's soul approaches him, tells him she cannot be revived, and heads for Cloud City. Centuries later in modern times, Zobek finds Gabriel as a vampire hiding out in a church. Gabriel corrects him, says he calls himself Dracula now, Zobek retorts, and tells him Satan is preparing to take his vengeance out on both of them, and if he helps him, he will "cure him" of his immortality.

Who the fuck at Konami thought bringing Satan and God into this was a good idea? I'm not Christian - Agnostic, actually - but bringing a Holy War into what should be killing Dracula is not acceptable. And sorry Konami, you've already done the "you play as Dracula" bit. It was back on the GameBoy Advance called Aria of Sorrow.

Bad, Castlevania, bad. After Lament of Innocence, you would think you would never dabble in 3D again. Hell, after Castlevania 64, you would think they learned their lesson. Of course not. We're subjected to this shit.