Konami made quite the showing at E3 with the Metal Gear Solid V trailer, showing everyone just what they’re capable of for the coming generation. But that’s not to say that Konami is sitting out the end of this generation and focusing solely on the future. At E3, they also had Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 to show us, and we walked away impressed.
The absolute, very first thing pointed out is that the camera is now fully controllable. The first Lords of Shadow was the odd man out in the action genre in that all the camera angles were static. While this always allowed for the most cinematic angles possible, it sometimes got in the way of gameplay, especially when you would move to the wrong spot and the camera angle would switch unexpectedly. With Lords of Shadow 2, however, the camera is fully controllable via the right analog stick.
LoS2 picks up where the first game and its 3DS sequel left off. Gabriel Belmont has ascended to the dark throne and become Dracula, lord of the demon castle Castlevania. The demo we played opened with an assault on Castlevania, with mortal forces besieging the castle both on foot and with a gigantic, castle-sized walking tank while we take control of Dracula. Combat is similar to the first game (very inspired by God of War) but is mixed up a little with the addition of new weapons. Other than the whip-like combat cross, Dracula can also switch to a sword that leeches health from opponents or to a set of fiery claws that are useful for breaking through shields and heavy armor. Some enemies also have unblockable attacks that cannot be blocked or countered, and the game gives a short tutorial on how to know when these attacks are coming and the appropriate way to dodge them, as well as basic guidance on good blocking and countering techniques. Also, Dracula now has a finishing move where, being a vampire, he can suck the blood of a nearly defeated enemy, thereby defeating them and restoring his own health. The demo was also very liberal about throwing multiple enemy types at us at once and forcing us to switch weapons and tactics.
The demo began in Dracula’s throne room as wave after wave of soldiers threw themselves at you to help you get a hang of the combat system and learn how to work the new weapons. From there, we were sent out into the rest of castle, fighting a few more enemies before being reintroduced to the series’ climbing mechanics. Things have changed a little; whereas the first game relied heavily on the combat cross to pull Gabriel/Dracula to far off points, LoS2 seemed to once again take inspiration from God of War and left the hero feeling more acrobatic than before. Climbing and jumping from wall to wall was very swift and – as we were directed by the game to climb across archways and columns – they started to collapse, showing off the new QTE system. There are no button prompts; now all you have to do is wait for two circles to come together on the screen and press a button – any button – when they line up. After this climbing section, the action then moved outside to the balcony where, after defeating a few more soldiers, we were confronted with an enemy wearing angelic, golden armor that was much tougher than the regular soldiers. He would dive down from the sky to attack, and – after taking enough damage – would flee to the safety of the walking tank. We then pursued him onto the tank, fighting our way up each level.
On the tank, the demo became half combat and half puzzle. More soldiers would attack but, at the same time, our angelic adversary would dive from the sky, telegraphing his attacks with a glowing ring. In order to progress, you would have to trick him into targeting latches on the ground in order to break them and swing open doors. Eventually, this gives way to a few short platforming sections that see Dracula jump between parts of the tank and climb up moving gears, all the while avoiding being sucked into spikes and once again tricking our enemy into breaking latches to proceed. Having to climb, dodge, and jump all at the same time was a little tricky, and it wasn’t always clear where exactly you were supposed to proceed (although, if it took too long, the next available hold point would glow). It eventually gets to the point where Dracula is climbing on the tank’s arms and has to hold on as it repeatedly smashes into the castle. From a graphical standpoint, this was ridiculously impressive. The goal of this section is to pass the QTEs in order to hang on and again make the enemy target latches to release metal couplings and slowly tear the tank apart.
This all ends with a climactic battle where we finally defeat the angelic nemesis and watch the walking tank crumble. We’re then treated to a final cutscene showing the result of Drac’s devastation and we catch a glimpse of Alucard before it cuts to black and promises a Fall release date.
All in all, the demo lasted about half an hour and gave a good taste of what to expect in the final game. Lords of Shadow 2 isn’t likely to win over anyone who wasn’t a fan of the first game but it will be a real treat for anyone who enjoyed the new style of action-oriented Castlevania.