E3 2013: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Hands-On Preview – Feeding Time
Written Thursday, June 20, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
If you were lucky enough to play the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, first of all, well done. You have impeccable taste. Lords of Shadow was a fantastic hack and slash title that put Spanish developer MercurySteam on the map, despite it having a few issues in need of attention, the most pressing of which was the game's fixed camera. Not a game breaker by any means, the camera had a tendency to obscure potential avenues of exploration and make certain platforming sections a chore. In Lords of Shadow 2, that's hopefully a thing of the past.
MercurySteam has implemented a free camera for Castlevania: LoS 2, so using the right stick you can look around the game's richly detailed environments or you can leave it alone entirely, and the camera will still behave much like it did in the first game. The free camera means that MercurySteam is no longer able to fixate on a stunning vista like it did in the first game, but it does mean you have more opportunity to explore the Lords of Shadow 2's vast game world, and discover hidden nooks.
Our hands-on demo fittingly opens with a tutorial section that picks up with Gabriel Belmont sat brooding in his castle, drinking a drop of blood from a goblet. He's Dracula at the height of his powers, but being viewed as a monster, he's the target of the overzealous Brotherhood of Light, who take it upon themselves to besiege the castle in an attempt to shove a stake through Belmont's heart.
Like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the sequel possesses a dual weapon mechanic as well as Dracula's standard Blood Whip, which keeps enemies at bay with lashing ranged attacks. Hit the left bumper and you'll select the new Void Sword, whereas the right bumper switches to the funky Chaos Claws, used to break down enemy defences, smashing shields to pieces. These new weapons are indicative of Belmont's status as the Prince of Darkness, possessing powerful properties, such as the Void Sword's ability to restore your health, displayed on screen as a vitality bar filled with blood.
Alternatively, you can sink your teeth into your foes' jugular and drain them of a few pints of haemoglobin-rich red stuff, exploding them out of existence once you're finished with them. Either way works, although there's a lot to be said for getting up close and personal to bite some neck, even if it does require a very simple, single QTE button press. Speaking of which, QTEs in general will apparently play less of a role in Lords of Shadow 2, although during this demo we still encounter a few at certain intervals.
Our hands-on takes us from reintroducing familiar mechanics like blocking and dodging, the latter of which is now a short teleport that momentarily turns Dracula into a bloody fog that will also enable him to pass through certain gates later in the game. Here it presents a quick and efficient way to evade and counter, which certainly comes in handy once you've traversed a climbable route out of the castle and into the open, where the terrifyingly garish and overbearing Gold Paladin awaits.
He's the leader of this motley crew of zealots, wielding a pair of flaming swords (probably given to him by God, we'd imagine) and armour so gold, it'd fetch a small fortune on the Antiques Roadshow or at your local pawn shop. Juggling light, restorative magic and dark, offensive magic with your Void Sword and Chaos Claws respectively, cleaving a path through the Brotherhood of Light minions and taking the fight to the Gold Paladin is every bit as rewarding as it was in the first Lords of Shadow, presenting just the right amount of challenge without ever seeming too insurmountable.
There are more titans to tackle too, although this time around they're far greater in scale. In the demo we tackle a Brotherhood Siege Titan, who's almost an entire level in himself; a towering walking church of sorts, armed with huge clawed fists capable of punching through walls. Hanging from his arm, we need to scale rivets in his wooden armour to make our way up to the mechanical beast's shoulder, avoiding rotating cogs and gears to navigate the way round to his chest. It's worth noting that you can switch on a guide that marks out the optimum route to take, if you ever find yourself lost or confused during platform of climbing sections like these.
While climbing, the Gold Paladin makes a nuisance of himself, flying around and firing explosive arrows at Dracula as he attempts to scale the titan. These explosive arrows come in handy when there are pieces of the titan's armour to be shattered and removed, opening the path ahead. Arriving at the of the titan, a glowing blue cross shines through its head as you take on more Brotherhood of Light soldiers, while avoiding more projectiles from the unrelenting Gold Paladin. Tearing off the titan's helmet, Dracula vomits blood all over the crystal beneath, blotting out its power source, causing it to topple and crash to the ground. Lesson learnt: don't mess with Dracula.
With a seamless open-world, no clearly delineated stages to speak of and plenty of opportunity for exploration, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is poised to make good on the promise of the first game with the same level of rich detail and texture as its predecessor, but with more of everything. Dracula will lose his powers after this prelude chapter, meaning you'll need to go through gathering XP to unlock new moves and upgrades, but with such fine combat mechanics, it's almost impossible to not relish the prospect of entering Dracula's world in both the past and the modern day, to restore his power to its former glory.
As a taster, this first hands-on offers up one hell of a spectacle, pushing our already high expectations through the roof. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was incredible. We're expecting Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 to be even better, and on the basis of this demo, it looks like MercurySteam knows exactly what it's doing, with Gabriel's sons Alucard and Simon also promised a look-in during the story this time around in a nod to the classic Castlevania narrative and timeline. In short, LoS 2 is shaping up to be a game with real bite.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 vants to suck your blood in winter 2013.