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My thoughts on the Lords of Shadows reboot

LaVey August 18, 2014 User blog:LaVey

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OVERVIEW

Lords of Shadow ruined the series for me, I'm being honest. I really gave this reboot a chance, believe me. From the moment I saw Gabriel with that Simon's Quest inspired costume, the beautiful graphics and ambiance of the stages, the little homages to the original series' music... man, I thought I was in Heaven! Who could have guessed that I was just about to sink into a river of sadness and disappointment?

I am a completionist, so I collected every little achievement, item, upgrade, etc. in the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow... up until I decided I didn't want to play anymore...


COMBAT

The combat system is an abomination. A weapon in a Castlevania game just can't be that weak! Even the weakest of the weak enemies require many hits to kill with a fully upgraded weapon. The game forces you to rely on a complicated combo system, whether you like it or not.

I remember I got every upgrade possible, up to the point that any more experience points were completely useless, and still after dozens of hours of gameplay, and having learned to make some fancy moves combining powers and using that glove thingy in the middle of fights, I can say I never felt comfortable with what Gabriel could do.

Oh, and that perfect-blocking mechanic... man, how I hate when games add the damned perfect-block gimmick! Yeah, I was able to master it, but even then, I hated it. The most satisfying battles I've had in videogames are when you're presented with an enemy who has his own skills, strengths and weaknesses, as you do too, and then have to demonstrate who has developed the best combat tactics to be able to defeat the other. Take for example the fight with the T-Rex in the original Tomb Raider. Out of nowhere that thing is coming up to you, you draw your pistols, and then an awesome battle starts! Yeah, the T-Rex can kill you in a couple of stomps, it also can kill you instantly with its bite, it can close-in on you very fast, and has an enormous amount of HP. But you're not left defenseless, you can attack at range, you have better maneuverability, and you can look for cover in one of the many caves surrounding the area. Either if you kill it or if it kills you, you must admit that the fight was fair, and if you kill it, the feeling of accomplishment is very satisfying.

What happens in Lords of Shadow? A boss fight starts, you connect your first hits (which feel very weak and sound pretty lame, by the way) and find that you are depleting the boss' life about one pixel width at a time. You think: "Man, it's gonna take forever to kill this thing!", only to discover that after a while of struggle you are presented with a Quick Time Event! So, all your previous fighting was only a requirement so the boss can be hurt the way the programmers are forcing you to kill it. If you fail the Quick Time Event, then you must satisfy their requirement again so the game gives you another opportunity to kill the boss the way it is forcing you to kill it.

I remember having to use two kinds of attacks, one red which did more damage, and one blue which healed you with each hit (sorry, can't remember the names, it has been over one year since I haven't touched that game because I lost all interest on it). When I was presented with that gameplay mechanic, I swear the only thing running through my mind was: "Man, they really ran out of ideas and they threw this stuff just to make the game seem more challenging, while in reality it's just a poor mechanic...".


CONTROLS

Which bring us to the controls. Why did they have to make so over-convoluted controls?! These kind of games, if made right, can be simpler while still allow you to execute some fancy moves. For example, I remember Legacy of Kain: Defiance, the combat system was far from perfect, but overall the fighting felt pretty good and satisfying. You could lift enemies in the air and throw them to their demise in a pit, you could air-combo them, and do many other things too.

And another thing to keep in mind is that the game is more cheap than difficult. I remember that many enemies (specially in the later levels) had at least one kind of area of effect attack, which basically just turned the whole area surrounding the enemy into a harming field. What is the point of learning the game's rules if suddenly the enemies will become just a big sphere that inflicts damage?

Speaking of enemies... just how more lame can they be? In the very first stage you are fighting werewolves. WEREWOLVES! I mean, I love werewolves and it was so sad to see they decided to degrade them as the weakest form of enemy in the game. A werewolf doesn't deserve that, but the programmers just didn't care and made cannon fodder out of them. Same with vampires. I hate how vampires are depicted in this game. Remember those awesome vampires present in Legacy of Darkness, reminiscent of those in the film Fright Night or in The Lost Boys? In Lords of Shadow they said "Right, to make a good vampire... uhhh... oh, yeah, let's put them filled with big muscles, with super wings, and awesome horns, and uber-claws, and making faces, and make them look like comic super villains, yeah, yeah, that will do it!". And this way they ended with so run-of-the-mill designs, they were so disappointing, no matter how many muscle-headed they made them look, and no matter how many one-liners they would make them say to make them look more badass, at the end, they ended up looking like any enemy you can find in many modern games, where it seems it's more important to make them look like comic characters.


STORY

And the story... damned be all new over-produced games! I WANT TO PLAY A GAME, NOT WATCH A FUCKING MOVIE!!!

It is terrible how programmers now want to force you to watch their cutscenes, many times including Quick Time Events so you won't be able to skip them. They have gone as far as, instead of pressing a single button to skip one, you have to press a button to go to a menu, choose the option to skip the cutscene, and then be prompted if you really want to skip such cutscene. That tells you what the programmers were thinking when making the game. They focused in telling you the story. The parts where you actually play were treated only as little requirements you had to satisfy so they could throw you another block of the story, and so on. And something I have found in newer games is that no matter how intelligent and well written they want to make their stories look, and how complex elements they try to add, at the end of the game it always ends in something cheesy and corny.

Quick Time Events are not a real play mechanic, no matter what they want to make you believe. They are only button presses required so a cutscene keeps rolling, and nothing else! Think of it as pressing the PLAY button while watching a movie, just that in this case, if you don't press it in time, the movie will start all over again. Man, how I despise Quick Time Events!


GAMEPLAY

Another thing that disappointed me were the extremely short stages. Really, if you look at them carefully you will notice that they are just a few hectares long. What the programmers did in those reduced spaces was to make you advance and backtrack again and again, or make you spend time climbing walls in a tiny stage to make it look like it's bigger than it really is. I remember there were many situations where you had to climb structures, and it's not that you were really in danger of falling or something. They were lengthy parts where you had to traverse every little notch of a building, from all angles possible, sometimes having to climb down just to climb up again. Again, the programmers showing off how cute they think they made their building models, and forcing you to "appreciate" them from every possible angle. It was just a collection of vistas, with no gameplay elements whatsoever.

Think I've said enough? Think again! I haven't mentioned the horrendous, boring and annoying Chupacabras mini-games! Man, how I hate those! I hate them with passion! You are advancing in the game and suddenly you are stuck in one place playing a hide-and-seek game which maybe you are not in the mood to play. The original Castlevania games were filled with horror themes: fighting the Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Gill-Man, Medusa, etc., all this while killing vampire bats, skeletons, zombies, etc. Yeah, they have also added some debatable humoresque items in the classic series as time has passed by (the Dodo Bird, the Rare Ghost, the big-breasted Witches which look like supermodels, etc.), but after all the horror theme has been kept in the series, even if it has been washed out a little. But the problem with the Chupacabras is that it goes too far, suddenly I felt like I was watching a kid's cartoon. Hmmm... something like the feeling I get when I watch one of those new My Little Pony episodes. I understand that they want me to have a laugh, or at least some fun, but ultimately they don't succeed. And I'm being honest, the Chupacabras mini-games just make me want to finish them as soon as I can just to end with the pain as quick as possible. Even more, why do you think they added the Chupacabras mini-game that many times (like four or five times, I can't remember) in the game? Because they ran out of ideas! And since the mini-game was a way to make you stay in the same spot for a long period of time, they just decided to throw as many as they could.

And the puzzles...

PUZZLES IN A CASTLEVANIA GAME?!!!

Somebody kill me! KILL ME NOW!!!

Who was the "genius" who thought adding puzzles to a Castlevania game was a good idea?! This in not Resident Evil, THIS IS CASTLEVANIA, FFS!!! I want to kill monsters, jump on platforms, explore graveyards, send vampires to Hell! Not stay in a couple of rooms punching buttons so some lasers make a way to let me leave the place. I don't want to remember to put colored gems in a specific order in a piano-like thing to see where I can go next. I don't want to drop balls in an allowed number of tries to see if they fall in the necessary holes. Damn it, let me skip these puzzles, please, let me play the frickin' game!

MUSIC

OH - MY - GOD...

What happened to the music? This is so sad. Really, as I'm typing this I'm feeling very depressed. What happened to all those beautiful melodies from the previous games? Those great tracks from the Japanese version of Dracula's Curse (Akuma-Jou Densetsu), the incredible music from Super Castlevania IV? Those orchestrated themes from Symphony of the Night? And those in Order of Ecclesia, or in Belmont's Revenge?

No, instead of those legendary music scores, which have become a staple in video game music, we got YET ANOTHER game which tries to do the Carmina Burana thing. Lords of Shadow is another game that almost has no music unless you fight an enemy, and then you're presented with the same generic "fight music" over and over, every time a battle takes place. No, no, no, no, no, sir, this is sooo wrong. Damn, how sad... really, how, how sad...


LAST WORDS

A couple of weeks ago my PC burned out. My GPU and PSU stopped working and I have not been able to buy another ones yet. So I'm stuck with a crappy laptop that can't even play the original Deus Ex or Painkiller properly. Still, I can play all Castlevania games from the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation games and under (haven't tried with PS2 games yet, but I really doubt it). And you see, my love for Castlevania has seen a new level of appreciation for the classic titles. You just don't know how satisfying it is to pick the original Simon Belmont, encounter the first zombie and kill it with one slash of my whip. How great is to freeze an entire aqueduct with Sypha Belnades. How awesome is to beat Sir Grakul again! And listen those fascinating tunes of Belmont's Revenge one more time. Of course, nostalgia kicks in a little, but after a while I forget that there is a Grand Theft Auto V out there, that I haven't explored some locations in Skyrim, that I haven't completed all missions in Dead Island. No, I'm concentrated playing a Castlevania game like I did when I was a kid.

Lords of Shadow ruined all of that for me. I really gave this game an opportunity. I read some reviews that said the game was great and others that said the game was poor. I ignored all of them and concentrated in forming my own opinion. The game (the series, that is) simply is no fun for me. I honestly don't like it. This comes from someone who has beaten thousands of games (literally), someone who loves playing E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600, no matter what other people say. Who appreciates Pac-Man, also for the Atari 2600, knowing that it is bad, but somehow having fun with it. Someone who thinks Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is great, and that it would have been incredible if the technology when it was released had been more advanced.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this. I didn't want to write a post because I knew I was gonna extend myself, ha, ha! But anyway, it was fun writing this too.

Bye!

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