In 2010, the rather enjoyable Castlevania: Lords of Shadows ended with a major plot twist revealing that Gabriel Belmont was alive during modern times and was now called Dracula, taking on the famous vampire’s persona and visage. This left fans to wonder how the sequel would continue the story, either as Dracula or fighting against the protagonist from the original game. Four years later, Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 answered the question, but it’s a question that probably was more interesting to think about than how Konami approached it.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 chooses to continue with the same protagonist of Gabriel Belmont, now called Dracula, and picks up the story after a second game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, though it quickly glosses over those stories, even when they play a pivotal point in the development of a few characters.
With the player now in charge of one of the most fearsome vampires, one who the franchise has used multiple times since the beginning, it would be a chance to deliver an interesting look at both the character and mythos at the core of the Castlevania franchise. Instead, Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 feels like it tries to stay true to the formula the series has embraced with the main character fighting some great evil with numerous minions.
The biggest problem with Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 and one we will return to multiple times is that this isn’t a generic Castlevania game, in which you usually fight against the forces of Dracula. Instead in Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2, you’re playing as Dracula, and yet the game fails to make that feel like anything other than an inconvenience to the story that the game wants to tell.
In Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2, Dracula is fighting against a greater evil in the form of Satan and now must battle his forces of evil. While Zobek from the original game returns as a guide for Dracula, this feels strange considering how Zobek was used in Castlevania: Lords of Shadows’ plot. Besides, much of Dracula’s personal forces turn evil adding new fights, and ultimately Zobek has Dracula hunt down various forces of Satan. All three of these stories happen simultaneously in Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 and if they sound confusing, that’s because they are.
Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 also suffers from an excess of cutscenes that are either unnecessary, or longer than they should be, and this makes the player less engaged with the story, and experience because sitting through a 2-minute cutscene to see a hint on how to beat the next room doesn’t feel that much different than sitting around to hear two characters the player isn’t interested in talking among themselves.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 isn’t a game that has a clear narrative to tell, but rather talks about bits and pieces from numerous storylines and acts as if it’s a story that needs to be told, and should be told. Instead, it’s mostly just a jumbled mess of scenes that happen.
A similar thing happens with the level design of Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2. The game constantly moves Dracula around to different locations, as well as teleporting him to spots and leading him to the next objective. But in general, the map feels strange and misshaped. The buildings and levels that Dracula finds himself in don’t feel particularly interesting.
Even the few times you revisit an area you notice how similar it is to every other area and city street you’ll come upon. There’s not a memorable map or interesting location in Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 and that really hurts the experience of exploring these locations.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 also tries to add a bit of open-world exploration but contains a completely linear story and progression so the major benefit of the open-world format is lost, and it just becomes a way to explore for unnecessary benefits as the game itself is rather easy. Having to backtrack to just find the upgrades with new abilities doesn’t help this process either.
I mentioned that the biggest problem with Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 is Dracula, and it’s in the gameplay that I find it to be the most egregious. The player never feels like Dracula, Dracula is a blood-sucking vampire who is known for his absolute brutality and violence. He’s been the antagonist or final boss in so many Castlevania’s that one might wonder what it would be like to control him and possibly terrorize the Belmonts, or the civilians he might find. Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 starts with Dracula attacking a woman in a cutscene to draw her blood into him to regain his strength. This is the first and last civilian the player even sees in Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2.
Instead Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 focuses only on combat with the forces of Satan, and while Dracula can suck the blood of his enemies, they’re the same type of villains any game could have. Even the “sucking blood” type of gameplay could be done in numerous ways, such as the Glory Kills in the newest Doom releases.
This is Dracula, and yet, everything the player is told to do is “fight the bigger evil.” If the character was switched out for any human Belmont, the gameplay could operate the same, even the summoning of a health regenerating blade, and stronger attacking gauntlets don’t feel like part of Dracula’s normal weaponry.
Then there are the stealth gameplay sections, that really feel out of place when talking about Dracula, repetitive enemies who seem to be able to take huge chunks of the player’s life force away, and Quick Time Events which are always a mistake, but feel like a major one with when the game kills your character and then repeats the same segment over again. Players can disable QTEs in the options menu, but having better cutscenes that didn’t require QTEs would flow better in both formats.
Not everything in Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 is bad. The enemy designs and the bosses look particularly good. In fact, every boss is both very interesting and unique, it makes the issues with the level design stand out more with so many locations feeling so uninspired. Quite a few bosses are exceptional fights, and that’s when Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 earns a lot of the credit.
But ultimately the boss fights are the only thing I really enjoyed with Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2. Otherwise, the entire experience was uninteresting and boring, and when you’re playing as Dracula in a Castlevania game, that sounds wrong.
A few changes and I might have enjoyed the core of Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2. Better level design, a few gameplay additions which feel more like playing a major vampire such as attacking innocents, or using them to restore your health, or just interesting levels to explore could have helped.
As it is, Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 is quite uninteresting, and feels like a game that I can’t recommend, nor is it one that makes me feel bad about this fact. It’s also the last entry into the Castlevania franchise and now that I’ve completed it, I don’t feel like I should mourn Konami moving away from video games. I instead mourn that Konami couldn’t continue producing interesting video games that I wanted to play.
I ultimately give Castlevania: Lords of the Shadows 2 an arbitrary
It might be higher if this was a random game but coming after so many games in a famous franchise, not being able to find an interesting game here feels particularly insulting.
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