Lords of Shadow - It's not just a game, it's ART!: If you're one of those gamers who developed "Western Gamer Complex" which symptoms are to always complain about games not being innovative and developers keep playing safe in their comfort territories on one hand while on the other hand keep saying Symphony Of The Night or Golden Eye 007 will always be the best Castlevania (and James Bond) game ever made, then you should stick to playing those old games until you die. The choice is yours.
But if you are a gamer or person who actually loves playing games, and on top of that, good games, you should give Lord of Shadow a try. The game is not your regular 2D side scrolling Castlevania, but it is indeed a really good 3D adventure game. On the technical side
, the controls are responsive and the actions in the game are really fluid and intense. The platforming (climbing and stuffs) sections are 'okay', they worked but I'd imagine them being more fluid like of those in Assassin Creed, Prince of Persia or Saboteur games. It's not a hack and slash game where you can pound through hordes of enemies by constantly pressing the attack button, there are many puzzles in the game (with unlockable hints which would prevent you from receiving EXP for clearing them) and the difficulties of the puzzles are moderate and reasonable. And there are a lot of moments which you face non-stop enemy respawning unless you clear the puzzles which intensified your gameplay experiences. The enemies are interesting to fight with because they all had different behaviors and fighting patterns as well as methods to kill them, boss fight are epic and difficult but not cheap at all. Hidden items and collectibles are easy to miss, but usually visible if you're careful enough, they were never placed in some crazy secret caves like some other games that forced you to go use walkthroughs or go nut.
There are quicktime events, but not quite 'quicktime-esque' because instead of matching the colors which appeared on-screen with the correct face buttons on your controller, you will have to match the timing with any action button which I personally think are more challenging and they work better than the regular quicktime events in any other games. If you failed, you would know that it was your mistake and can't blame it on excitement, the intensity of the battle and adrenaline-rush for making you press the wrong button. Quite a smart move on the developer side.
Replay value is high because you can try to finish all stages playing hardest difficult and try to clear them 110% (just like how you love the recent Castlevania games to be) and each stage also has its own trial challenge which you will have to clear it under a specific condition which I think is really fun. The graphics are nice but definitely not topnotch and the game has bugs here and there but from my experience, I haven't faced any problem that prevented me from advancing and finishing the game. The usual bugs which happened to my experience were getting stuck in free fall animation when land on breakable objects after a double-jump (the object will break eventually and you will land safely after), clipping to the ground (which can fix by just jumping out of it) and sometimes I was able to get behind wall or boundary which led to a free-fall death (most annoying but happened only twice since I started playing the game for almost a month already). There are some freamerate dropping moment but not too often.On the art side, this game is one hell of a gold pot.
The first things I need to mention are musics and voices. It has one of the grandest and most beautiful music I've heard from games this past few years. It's really difficult to describe, you just have to hear for yourself to believe. The voice actings are awesome, especially the story was narrated by Patrick Steward and his voice was full of emotions which helped connecting players with Gabriel and his adventure. The story and script are epic, there are parts you can guess the twists but you wouldn't know there are twists within twists and those, my friends, will make you scream.
The game has really nice animations and character designs (although some secondary characters' models should definitely receive more love) but the best part of the animation aspect is in the combo tutorial pages where the previews of your moves were hand-drawn animations and they looked beautifully gorgeous! I can just keep switching pages and enjoy looking at them for really long time (I'm an animator after all
One thing (western) critics and gamers complained a lot is the fixed camera angles but because they are fixed you've got to see great compositions that you would never have seen with behind-the-character cameras. And the cinematic qualities are topnotch! I was able to buy the boss fights storyboards from the 'extra' menu but I would love for Konami to release official art book with all hi-res concepts and detailed storyboards! The ending cinematic was just WOW! It hinted for a possible of a sequel but not in a cheesy way because if the sequel actually follows the ending movie of this game, it would definitely be one really interesting Castlevania game!
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. PLAY IT IF YOU HAVEN'T!