E3 2010: Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow Hands-On Impressions

By Colin Tan on June 21, 2010, 5:31PM EDT

The Castlevania franchise has seen its share of 3D outings before, but none have managed to capture the charm of the original side-scrolling adventures that debuted back in the late 80s. Konami and MercurySteam are looking to change that with the latest reboot of the franchise, Lords of Shadow, which will be available on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game tells the tale of a brand new protagonist and goes the route of fast-paced action adventure games, à la God of War and Devil May Cry, in hopes of bringing the world of Castlevania to a brand new level.

Lords of Shadow is a reboot of the classic Castlevania franchise. The world has been threatened by a mysterious force known as the Lords of Shadow, thus bringing about creatures of the darkness that run rampant as well as keeping souls of the deceased in limbo. Players will step into the role of Gabriel Belmont, a knight from the Brotherhood of Light, who is in search of a way to resurrect his murdered wife. It is the Lords of Shadow who are responsible for the murder; however, there's more to the story as each hold a piece of an artifact known as the God Mask, which has the power to resurrect the dead.

According to MercurySteam, Lords of Shadow isn't part of the main stories and although the main character shares the same name as previous heroes, this Belmont is in no way related to them. The game also boasts quite the cast of voice actors, Robert Carlyle voices Gabriel, Patrick Stewart voices Zobek and Natasha McElhone plays Gabriel's murdered wife.

MercurySteam looks to take Lords of Shadow the way of many popular action adventure games on the market today, such as God of War and Devil May Cry. There's a good mix of brawling, platforming and puzzle-solving involved. Playing the demo at E3, the combat does feel very reminiscent of God of War, especially with the combat cross which utilizes both short and long range attacks, but it still manages to keep things fresh. Attacks seem to be a bit more strategic and timing also makes a very big difference. Belmont can also throw knives and that comes in quite handy when dispatching smaller foes from a distance. Grab attacks depend heavily on proper timing, whenever Belmont grabs an enemy, two rings appear on-screen with the inner being static and the outer constantly shrinking. This indicates the right time to press any button for a good clean kill. Strung together, the combat proves to be quite streamlined and easy to get into.

The demo also showcased a chase scene wherein Belmont, riding a rather special horse, is chased down by Wargs. Attacks are used against either the enemy riders or the Wargs themselves. Knocking off an enemy triggers a quick time event, allowing players to hop onto the Wargs to deal a deathly blow. Enemies don't simply give chase either, they do their best to knock Belmont off his steed. Chances to recover are done via a timing ring sequence, similar to the aforementioned grab attacks, thus making the whole chase feel like quite the rush. It's quite wicked that players won't die if they do indeed get knocked off. Instead, a ground battle sequence ensues and the horse riding continues once all foes have been felled.

From what we've gathered from the E3 demo, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow isn't just a 3D take on the classic franchise. It looks to reboot it entirely with brand new characters and story-driven gameplay and presentation. Not to mention, Kojima is involved somewhat in the development of the game and has given his approval to the story, saying that it's "quite moving." Sounds like there's quite a bit to look forward to when Lords of Shadow releases later this year.

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