Castlevania News! A First Look at Lords of Shadow 2 and Mirror of Fate
There was a bit of exciting Castlevania news over the past few weeks, with the announcement of both Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (Let’s have the naming department at MercurySteam try a little harder next time, shall we?). With the excellent job these guys did with the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, I’m really looking forward to seeing where these next two games take the series. Possible spoilers ahead.
The DLC for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has left many fans dying to play as the newer, much more powerful Dracula, and it looks like the sequel aims to deliver. From what I can see, it looks like they’re taking a page from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, promising you some wild, interesting vampiric powers to keep the game fresh and fun.
In the trailer, you could see that Dracula has become quite powerful, using different kinds of smoke/mist to move around and attack the enemies. That sequence where he bit the knight and made him start to rot held some interesting potential as well. It might have just been meant to look cool, but I’m wondering if there’s a possibility to make zombie allies for yourself. I’m probably reading a bit too much into that last bit, but it’s still a neat idea.
One contention I have is, if I’m supposed to be Dracula, why am I still using a whip? I know the guys at MercurySteam have come up with an excellent combat system, one that borrows from God of War while vastly improving that combat system, but it doesn’t really fit thematically. The whip is the characteristic weapon of vampire hunters in this mythos, and I think having him abandon that style of weapon altogether would be a better indication of the main character’s condition. Also, I don’t really understand why he would continue to use a similar weapon after his own was destroyed during the DLC. It could be that he’s trying to hold onto some old aspect of his humanity, and that his version of the whip is a sad reminder of what he’s lost, but I don’t know. All the same, if I’m playing as Dracula, the big baddie of the entire Castlevania run, I don’t expect to be whipping things.
There’s also the budget colossus near the end of the trailer. Now, I don’t know how other people felt about the colossi in the last game, but they really felt tacked-on and dull. Sure, fighting Death as a huge dragon was neat, but the other two just did nothing for me. I was kind of hoping I would never have to fight one ever again, but seeing that huge wooden monster told me we’d be right back at it again. It’s not something I’m happy about, but if they manage to recapture the scope of the fight against Death, I’ll still have a good time with it.
Finally, there’s the appearance of the white-haired fella at the end of the trailer. I’m guessing medieval teenage girls liked mopey vampires as much as modern ones do, since it looks like that character is supposed to be Alucard, Dracula’s son. That’s another tie back to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but I really don’t know what they’re going to do about it. Alucard is famously unhappy with his old man most of the time, so I’m guessing he may play the antagonist in this game. I’m hoping this will lead into some kind of over-the-top vampire fight, and I couldn’t think of anyone better suited to pull that off than MercurySteam. These guys made some of the coolest boss fights I’ve had in years in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, so I’m excited to see what will happen when these two guys fight. It’ll be nice to be on the other side of the match, that’s for sure. Let someone else climb up platforms trying to hit my head while I fill the room with fireballs for a change.
While I was only speculating about Alucard, it’s been confirmed that he’s going to be a playable character in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate for the 3DS, so that really has to be him in that trailer. As for the 3DS game, there is already a release date and some video of the demo available out there. It doesn’t look bad, although it looks a little odd compared to many of the previous handheld versions.
MercurySteam seems to be shooting for something like the “Metroidvania” style that has consumed the handheld market over the past few years. I expect the same drill: explore locations, find items that allow you to access different places, drool over character models and artwork. Sure, the perspective is tilted to make it look like 2.5D, but it still operates the same. Instead of making a game with beautiful, hand-drawn artwork, they’ve decided to go with the 3D polygon approach, making the game look like something from a high-end N64 game. It makes it look unique compared to its predecessors, but I’m not exactly dying to buy it. It’s the same problem I had with the ports of the Final Fantasy games to the DS: they look like crap. Give me hand-drawn sprites, or 16-Bit animation and detail, any day over this terrible polygon look.
The combat is similar to previous sidescrolling Castlevanias, but bears a few slight differences. Sure, you’re still sneaking in hits here and there when an enemy is weak, but you land a lot more of them. The character looks like he’s flailing away compared to the solid, targeted strikes of the previous games. It makes the combat look a bit more frantic, but all it really means is I’m hitting the buttons a lot more times to achieve the same effect as a single hit in the older games. Looking at it makes me feel like I’d gotten less powerful, or that the enemies took a stupid amount of hits before they finally died.
I wasn’t impressed with the boss at the end of the demo, either. Sure, it looked kind of cool, but it used the tired old trope of having to jump over the charging creature and then attack its back when it hits the wall. I would have been yawning anyway, but then they threw in a hint telling you how to get away without being hurt. Really? Jump out of the way to avoid damage? I’d never thought of that before. It’s not like the escape window was that hard to figure out, nor was it when the creature dove at the character. Honestly, if this sort of stuff is going to throw you a curve ball, then you probably ought to give up playing games for good.
All of my complaints feel like minor gripes, but they do pile up to form a bleak picture for Mirror of Fate. This game does have a lot of promise, but from what I’ve seen of the demo online, I’m not impressed. It’s trying too hard to be like a portable, 2D God of War, and I don’t think the end product is going to be that much fun to play. With an ugly, generic look and combat that looks like a chore, I just don’t see this as being something I’m going to like all that much. Just the same, I had fun playing Castlevania 64, so who knows what I’ll end up thinking about it. We’ll all just have to wait for its Fall release to find out.