The original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a shocking revelation for the franchise when it launched back in 2010. Put simply, after more than a decade of missing the mark, the videogame proved that Castlevania could work in 3D. It took the talents of an external development team to show Konami where they had been going wrong, and the commercial success has lead to that studio being given a second crack of the Belmont whip.
Of course, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is actually the third Castlevania title developed by MercurySteam, with the highly praised Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate proving that the first title wasn’t just a fluke. MercurySteam have grand ambitions for the Castlevania franchise, as Electronic Theatre’s recent hands-on time with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has proven.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 begins its story as Dracula awakens many years after the events of the two previous Castlevania: Lords of Shadow titles. He has been warned by Zobek of the return of Satan and sets out to regain his powers so that he may face Satan once again. However, the famed Belmont clan and his own son Alucard seek to kill Dracula once again.
The preview build was clearly taken from a very polished section of the videogame, which Electronic Theatre would suggest was near the beginning if not the very start. An immaculately presented cutscene throws you straight into the action: a combat sequence that doubles as the tutorial. The player is free to punch, slash and whip til their heart is content, but along the way will be given prompts as to exactly how each different move is conducted. The combat is swift and brutal, very obviously influenced by the God of War series – which is no bad thing – and the choice of whip, sword or claws at this early stage hints that there’s much more variety to come.
The combat of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is both elegant and intuitive. The player is taught basic attacks, area effect, block, dodge and counter in sequence, as well as the ability to grapple stunned enemies and drink their blood. This allows for more powerful manoeuvres to be performed as an associated meter fills. The system is engrossing and, most importantly, fun. The standard attacks make you feel powerful and the air combos are perhaps even more enjoyable than those of DmC: Devil May Cry. This is due in part to the animation and also to the immediacy of the control system, making Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2’s brawling a smooth and rewarding experience.
The preview build presented to Electronic Theatre on this occasion didn’t go much deeper, though Konami has already suggested that there will be another opportunity to get hands-on with the videogame in the not too distant future. Given the quality of the experience on offer here, it can’t come soon enough. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in February 2014, and Electronic Theatre will keep you updated with all the latest details.