review triple: castylenvia lrods of shadow 2

casylevnai lords of shadow 2 is a video game for the sony pc and microsfot xbone gameplay systems. it was developed by spanish developer mercury steam, which is kinda cool since i wasn’t sure that spain knew how to make video games, let alone games with good graphics

[pictured: good graphix]

ofc. this game is part of the long-running casylevnai franchise dating back to the 80s or something. i fucking love castlevnia and followed it through many visual, mechanical and narrative changes through the years. broadly there’s two types of casltevnia games: the combat focused action games and the more rpg-styled exploration games. lorcs of shadow 2 is both, but also neither because it’s god of war. let;’s take a closer sneak peak:

the very first thing that happens is that the main character drac gets beat up by a angel robot and he has to do combos to save himself. actually the first thing that happened is my resolution wasn’t supported and i had to edit the .ini file but this was shortly after that. immediately this presents a big change from castelvnia 12 which had you playing a guy who hates vampires and robots weren’t invented yet. choosing to make drac a playable character is interesting but also kind of stupid and redundant when alucard exists i think. this is a different storyline from the rest of castlavnia though so they wanted to set things apart.

drac still knows whip tricks, but instead of using a whip made of like, leather or something idk, he has a blood whip. you would think that a vampire would be extremely conservative with their blood considering they have to bite ladies’ necks on the reg just to get more, but lorbs or shadow 2 throws all that out the window. every 5 minutes drac shoots his blood, bites his arm open, sticks his hand through an spiky bit, and many more. it’s genuinely impressive how many stupid ways the developers found to make drac bleed on things, and they present you with fresh new takes on pointless bleeding throughout the gamexperience.

the blood whip is kind of shitty though since it doesn’t have special moves so you’re better off with the blue sword and the fire gloves. the sword is pretty dang fast and lets drac shoot ice all over, while the fire gloves are really fucking strong and break armor/blocks. this is nice since every single enemy loves to just stand still blocking forever instead of letting you play. basically you would want to use the sword or hulk hands all the time, which is why they cost meter to use

[pictured: drac spending all his meter on a big combo, probably]

in order to use the fun weapons drac has to fill his style meter by being really cool. doing whip combo and perfectly blocking increases it, while getting hit or being an overly passive little bitch will empty it out. it also decreases when you use the sword or fisties. when it’s full enemies will shoot dust bunnies out of their bodies, which can be sucked up and converted into blue or orange kool-aid to power his wepon. you will want to do this all the time because, as mentioned previously, every fucking guy is heavily armored and blocks constantly, pretty much forcing you into equipping the hulk hands in order to get a chance to hit them.

this is kind of a fun little system but it’s also massively over-complicated. why do i have to stop attacking and suck all the little blobs in to get meter? why can’t i keep the meter filled when i’m using the gauntlets or icy sword? why do i need to manage three seperate meters just to equip weapons? doing perfect blocks to fill the meter gauge quick was exciting, but there’s still another three steps between that and actually getting to use the cool weapons.

compounding this bizarre design is the sameyness of the weapons. there’s a fast attack button, an area attack button and a projectile button, and they absolutely refused to vary from this design in any way. each weapon has like 20 moves but 15 of them are pretty much copy-pasted. why do i have to buy counter-attacks on every single weapon? it reduces the enjoyment of getting a new move when it’s just the blue or orange version of a move you already had

so as it stands the game would be a fun, kinda stupid beat em up if it was just drac running around beating up monsters with his blood string and big meaty claws. however the good boys over at mercury steam spent big bucks on the plot and god damn is it astounding. you’ve probably heard that patrick star trek is in this game. he shows up right after drac kills all the robots to spew some thrilling exposition.

[pictured: patrick stewart reprising his role from sci-fi vampire classic Lifeforce]

basically it’s been a jillion years since the last game and drac went to the future. satan owns big pharma and has converted drac’s house into a mix of detroit and the vatican called – and i promise you i am not editorializing this at all – Castlevania City. patrick stewart wants drac to kill satan so drac can have a cross and stab himself in the chest. drac does not think to buy a cross at wal-mart and instead embarks on a quest through time and space to kill the prince of darkness.

right out the gate, this set-up is fucking hilarious. dracula is in the future sneaking into science labs and having embarrassing run-ins with the coppers. this would be great on its own but we’re treated to another wrinkle when drac accidentally goes inside his own brain back in time to the original castlevania because he loves his son. and yes, that is the only given explanation as to why he can do this

[pictured: drac’s son]

this is a fantastic excuse to just cram whatever bullshit they want in the game and i adore it. one minute drac is dodging missile strikes and casting ice spells on metal gears, the next he’s jumping over lava and punching medusa in the face. these weird interludes show up all the time to get new powers and, i guess, to add a more introspective side to drac’s story. there’s almost no logic to what will happen in any given castle section: drac may have a stand battle against a lady vampire, find the long extinct dodo bird, reconnect with his dead wife, discover that he has the ability to become a big dumb dragon, or watch a puppet show.

as the so-called plot ramps up the real life sections become equally ridiculous and great. drac takes a ride on a rocket, battles against people afflicted with a disease that turns them into demons, teams up with a kamen rider, gets into a fight with emperor palpatine and spars against a whip-wielding vampire hunter. there are twists and turns, which i won’t spoil because they aren’t particularly interesting anyway, but i was still kept fully on-board just to see how crazy things would get. the climactic final battle is pretty fucking sweet and basically the very last thing in the entire game, aside from a 15 second cutscene where nothing happens.

[pictured: some block spamming fucker getting exposed online by a hulked out drac]

it seems like the team just went all in on designing as many cool things for drac to fight as possible. the boss battles are exciting and varied. eventually the game starts introducing new mechanics like the ability to turn to mist, double jumps, enemies with special unblockable attacks and all sorts of other weird shit. managing all of your different vampire abilities while trying to maintain Smoking Sick Stylish combos becomes really intense and gratifying. to get the most of the game i played on the hard mode, and while it was certainly frustrating at times when i’d chain 7 deaths to the same POS cop turtling behind a shield, the challenge was always fair, and it felt good to master the system and overcome the odds.

overall, despite some occasional hiccups in quality and coherence, i thoroughly enjoyed my time with casltenvia lords of shoadow 2. it’s genuinely one of the better action games in recent years, and i’m interested in going back for a second run at some point. i award this game the alucard seal of approval

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