"Lords of Shadow 2 is loaded with game breaking bugs, but still offers the same brilliant action as the original."
The original Lords of Shadow was a profoundly faithful evolution of one of my favorite franchises from the 8-bit and 16-bit era. The visuals, the combat, and the narrative all blended exceptionally well, despite rigid linearity and lack of compelling gameplay innovation. When I found out a sequel was in development, I tried avoiding all trailers and previews because I wanted an entirely unspoiled experience. Was it worth the wait? Well, to an extent yes…but sadly LOS 2 is loaded with game-breaking bugs and bizarre design decisions that hinder an otherwise solid adventure. A few extra months of ironing out the buggy programming would have done wonders and it’s a shame that the end result feels disjointed and oftentimes completely broken.
Let’s get the really bad stuff out of the way. The game is buggy. I had more crashes and freezes in the first four hours of Lords of Shadow 2 than with most titles from the past few years. Yes, it’s that bad. And no, it’s not my system, it’s a one-year-old slim model and it has no issues otherwise. (And yes of course the game was installed to the hard drive). An hour and a half into the game, LOS 2 froze during a brief cinematic while the save icon was still spinning. After rebooting my system, the save file was gone! After finally getting passed the first few sections, I came across the Gorgon Sisters, a bunch of creepy underground creatures that look like they emerged from a Japanese horror flick. I guess no one cared to properly reference Greek mythology. With each Gorgon Sister encounter, the sound would screech during cinematics (no dialogue, only very loud screeching) and the game would freeze. I restarted the Xbox 360 again, and again, and again…and eventually skipped every cinematic with the sisters because I couldn’t get past the system crashes. It’s 2014 and this type of poor performance is absolutely unacceptable.
Secondly, Lords of Shadow 2 introduces stealth. Not real stealth, but you know the type…where the game tells you exactly what to do and holds your hand every step of the way and where one tiny hiccup results in failure. Yea, that kind of stealth. Aside from poor mechanics, the inclusion of stealth is nonsensical. Dracula can effortlessly take on hordes of massive monsters with his deadly whip and acrobatics…so why is he forced to sneak behind random guards? These sections are clearly shoehorned to make the game seem longer.
If it sounds like I’m bashing the game too much, it’s because these issues may be enough to turn away some gamers. For everyone else, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has plenty of exciting action to justify the purchase. The combat hasn’t changed much since the first LOS, but it’s still as satisfying as ever. Gameplay is still reminiscent of God of War with power upgrades, platforming, and massive boss fights. It’s fast, visceral, and absurdly violent.
I’m not going to discuss the story much because Lords of Shadow 2 is best enjoyed without any narrative spoilers. The game takes place thousands of years in the future and Gabriel is quite a different persona from what we’ve seen in the predecessor. Even if you missed the original title and the later 3DS release Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, LOS2 fills in all the gaps with a lengthy intro cinematic that covers everything you need to know about Lords of Shadow’s lore. The game is much darker and more gruesome, which is not only reflected in the plot, but the grim environments. A combination of modern industrialism and Victorian architecture results in gorgeous backdrops that are filled with matriculate detail and care. You barely see any vegetation, which is a stark contrast to the lush scenery of the original, but MercurySteam has managed to make the cold steel and barren stone look remarkably exquisite.
"Despite major problems, I still had a blast with Lords of Shadow 2 and fans should definitely pick this one up."
Much like the original, Lords of Shadow 2 is a linear 20+ hour adventure. Despite its linearity, each environment contains many hidden passageways and secrets that can only be accessed once certain skills are unlocked. This Metroid-style structure gives the world of LOS 2 a sense of openness and will keep the completionists busy for a long time. The game is still challenging, but it’s more due to the monster’s huge HP gauges. Even the average foe takes several strikes to defeat, which can be especially hard on the higher difficulty settings.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has many flaws and is one of the buggiest games I’ve played in years, but I still enjoyed myself all the way through. If you are a fan of the original LOS, this is a no brainer…even though its split personality may disappoint hardcore fans. For everyone else, you’re better of picking up the predecessor from the bargain bin for a more polished experience and wait until LOS 2 drops in price.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox 360