At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Matt Bailey PlayStation 3 Konami MercurySteam 28th Februrary 2014

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 preview

If you think it's been a long wait for a sequel to MercurySteam's highly regarded Castlevania: Lords of Shadow then you may have missed the 3DS follow-up Mirror of Fate which arrived on the handheld earlier this year. If you did, not to worry as a HD follow-up is on the way in October both digitally (on the PS Store and Xbox Live Marketplace) and as part of a new Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection retail release. This package includes the original game, the two pieces of story-based extra content, Mirror of Fate HD, and a demo of Lords of Shadow 2.

That last part was being shown by Konami at Gamescom, and is essentially most of the new game's pre-title prologue. While the 3DS game features a different gameplay style with different characters, Lords of Shadow 2 is the full sequel that continues the story of Gabriel who became Dracula at the end of the last game. Later on he will lose all his powers, but the section here acts as a tutorial, introducing you to the new combat mechanics and abilities, so Dracula is in full swing right now. Even if you're familiar with the previous game, the tutorial is useful as the mechanics have changed a bit. The magic system has been replaced by two new attack types you can switch between. The Void Sword replaces light magic by allowing you to replenish health when attacking, while the Chaos Claws are useful for attacking armoured enemies and delivering powerful blows. When not in either of these modes you have a Blood Whip, which replaces the Combat Cross from the original.

Time for the Chaos Claws

Time for the Chaos Claws

Despite the acclaim the first game won, there are some important changes in Lords of Shadow 2. Most notably, the camera is no longer fixed when exploring, and can be rotated with the right-stick, which should avoid the sometimes awkward switch from scene to scene where the angle is notably different which could leave you unprepared for an attack. When you do get into scrapes, there's now less dependency on quick-time events. While there are still options to finish off an enemy with a stylish move that requires a correctly timed button press, you don't have to do this, and while the mini-boss fights in the first game often involved QTEs to make progress and complete these sections, what we've seen here had none of that, and had a more natural flow to the action. Although we didn't get a chance to see it in the prologue section, a more open world has also been promised to make the game less linear.

One particular aspect I enjoyed in my time playing Lords of Shadow 2 were the climbing parts; while the combat has some similarities to the God of War series, for the parts where you're clambering along ledges and jumping from pillar to pillar it's Uncharted which comes to mind. The new camera really helps in this aspect, allowing you to get a clearer view of where you're going, while hovering bats provide a subtle hint about where to go next instead of an obtrusive arrow pointing the way. The running, jumping and climbing parts aren't just filler between combat areas, they are interesting parts in themselves, offering up opportunities to explore a little more. They also play an important part of the first boss fight, where you have to climb a giant robot who is attacking Dracula's castle. You need to climb up this mechanical creature, which is a difficult task considering all the rotating blades you have to avoid; the non-combat parts can be almost - if not more so - dangerous than the combat elements, so you need to be careful with your timing.

That's a long way to climb

That's a long way to climb

The only downside, them, of my time playing this long-awaited sequel is that it's going to be a while longer before we can play more. The demo will be out as part of the collection soon, but the full version of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 sadly isn't out until next February. By that point I'm sure there will be many of you who, like me, will be fully invested in a next-gen console, but from what I've seen, Konami and MercuryStream's latest entry in this classic series should be something worth dusting off the old machines for.

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