Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow review – Kojima-influenced reboot topples even the mighty Kratos


I’m only going to mention God Of War once. And that’s to say that this is better. More surprises, greater variety, satisfying combat and the sense that it never stops trying to impress you. It’s the kind of experience where you look back on early levels and can’t believe they were in the same game because they feel like a lifetime ago. In terms of the story, progression and changing settings, this is more on par with Uncharted 2 than the efforts of the tall, bald and angry one.

Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow review

It all starts with killing, and it doesn’t really stop. Early on, plot is happily skipped over to keep the action coming thick and fast. Monsters are sliced. There are chases, breathtaking views and soaring music. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know much about what’s going on. Like a movie that refuses to get to the titles until it’s blown up at least one helicopter, you’re instantly hooked and along for the ride.

Where you’re going is explained later, but by then you’re knee-deep in werewolf guts and hours into honing your fighting skills. All you need to know is that hero Gabriel’s wife is dead, he’s really angry and he’s set out to do something about it. Something nasty.

The core of the game, then, is fighting. Swirly, slashy violence using the Combat Cross – a long, spiky chain whip that arcs around you. To start with that’s all you get, plus some throwing knives, a dodge and a block. It simple, but that’s because it’s there to teach you the basics. Perfecting these is a pleasure in its own right as you learn to dive clear of attacks, unleash your own on some hapless monster and time blocks to stun enemies.

But it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the game you’re given light magic to replenish health as you attack, shadow magic to power up blows, a glove for punching, the grenade-like holy water and more. All these weapons can be manipulated by using different types of magic – knives thrown with shadow magic explode, and holy water used with light magic creates a protective shield.

Combos change too, so not only do you unlock moves as you play, you also find new ways to use them against increasingly dangerous enemies. It approaches an RPG-like level of strategy as you face monsters and work out the best way of ripping them into chunks.

And if that was it, you’d have a pretty good fighting game in its own right. But Castlevania constantly finds new ways to keep you clutching your DualShock. It starts with a few titan battles – huge Shadow Of The Colossus-style creatures that you have to clamber up in order to kill.

They feel like massive set-pieces, and are hugely satisfying when you finally down them, but they’re small potatoes in the grand scheme of Castlevania. Small potatoes that crush entire villages underfoot, admittedly, but there are more impressive and angrier things to come.