Review: Castlevania Lords of Shadow (PC)

I’m not too familiar with the Castlevania series as a whole, but when I played 2010’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow last year, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the game. Now, nearly three years after release, Konami has decided to once again support the PC platform by bringing their popular titles over, with Lords of Shadow being one of the first. I’m not gonna get into the game’s mechanics or story all too much, because Jorge already covered that in his review, but I will be addressing the quality of the port and my own opinions on the overall experience.

PC ports of console games can be a scary thing due to a wealth of shoddy ports or a lack of optimization seen even from the biggest publishers. Thankfully, Lords of Shadow developer Mercury Steam and Climax Studios have developed quite the fine port. Lords of Shadow runs exceptionally well on my rig [Intel Core i5 3570k, Sapphire Radeon HD 7970, 8GB DDR3-1600], maintaining a constant 60FPS while at max settings. A downside one graphic enthusiast can find here is that the graphic settings are somewhat limited. The only advanced graphic options available are shadow quality, anti-aliasing (low, high, max), anisotropic filtering (off, 2x-16x), and ambient occlusion. These options are limited, but the game manages to run well while looking pretty (minus a few jaggy looking cutscenes).

Now, for my personal opinion on the game itself. I quite enjoy what Lords of Shadow has to offer. While the combat is enthralling and filled with options and combos, and environments wonderfully crafted and beautiful to look at, the game suffers from a dull protagonist. Gabriel Belmont is a tragic figure, one that seeks to stop the dark forces that invaded his home and reclaim the life of his deceased wife through revenge, but his plight is never fully expressed to the player.

Mercury Steam underdeveloped Gabriel’s emotional journey by rarely having him express himself verbally and visually within the game. Instead, we’re given narrations by companion Zobek (played by Patrick Stewart) on Gabriel’s state of mind and descent into rage and anguish. Voiced by film and television actor Robert Carlyle, I expected much more gravitas in Gabriel’s performance. If there’s one thing I desperately want to see in the sequel, it’s an improvement in the character depth of the protagonist.

As much as I like the overall game, starting Lords of Shadow from the beginning feels like a chore. The first two hours of the game are pedantic and disjointed. Early levels don’t share the same balance between puzzles, platforming, and combat that later levels do, and the two Shadow of the Colossus-esque boss battles feel grossly uninspired. Thankfully, these unappealing levels of the game are overshadowed by the lump sum of the experience. Now, this is not to say that the game is devoid of repetition; there are few tedious recurring obstacles littered across the game that don’t feel necessary.

If you’ve yet to play Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and have a capable gaming PC, it’s hard not to recommend this version. The game comes with the two DLC packs “Reverie” and “Resurrection”–epilogue chapters that give some context to Gabriel’s role in Lords of Shadow 2. Which is good, considering the game’s vanilla ending lacks an explanation on an important plot element that the sequel follows. Lords of Shadow is already quite the lengthy game, clocking upwards to 20 hours or more. With the DLC chapters included, the game’s length reaches an impressive and exhausting amount.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition is leap in the right direction for Konami. Not only did they faithfully bring over a great game to the PC, but they included all of the DLC and sold it for a decent asking price of $30. There’s not much of an incentive to buy the game over again, unless you’re itching for 60FPS and clearer visuals, but this release is well worth it for those looking to finally jump into the Lords of Shadow saga in time for the finale later this year.


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