Konami's newest entry in the vaunted Castlevania series, Lords of Shadow, goes for the three- dimensional feel, fresh off the recently released side-scrolling retro look of Harmony of Despair.
For fans of action-adventure games such as God of War, this will be a welcome change, but not so much for others, including the longtime Castlevania faithful. Developer Mercury Steam has done an adequate job of creating a fulfilling action adventure, but it won't feel right for most Castlevania fans.
The game itself, separate from its Castlevania connection, is quite solid. It looks, sounds and feels good during gameplay. The main character has a rich and rewarding leveling-up system to take advantage of, and there is plenty of length to the game.
The main character, Gabriel, is tasked with taking down the "Lords of Shadow" to bring back his murdered wife. The story is easy to follow and maintains a good interest level throughout. It at least rises far above the storytelling of so many other third-person action games. The combat portions feel solid, and there is a good variety of enemies for Gabriel to encounter.
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That said, the camera has to be one of the worst elements to this game, leading to near-controller-smashing frustration. We're in 2011, and I can't fathom why developers are releasing games with fixed cameras in third-person action games. It cannot be due to technical limitations, so that can only mean it's a deliberate design decision. With a fixed camera, players are pretty much guaranteed to run into situations in which they cannot see what is happening. With a controllable camera, this never happens.
If this game didn't have the Castlevania name or history behind it, perhaps it would have fared better. By itself, it's a solid action-adventure release. It has its quirks, yes, but it holds up against the behemoths that it tries so desperately to emulate.
But once you add the Castlevania lore, history and hype, there is no way it could compete with Symphony of the Night for the king of Castlevania games. The story is just not close enough to the Castlevania canon to seem as if it belongs in the series.
In fact, if Lords of Shadow has done anything for me, it has made me want to go replay SotN for the umpteenth time.