If you take a good look at the history of video games you'll eventually find some big franchises that managed to survive through decades. Those series are the reason, why lots of people love video games: You can see the development in gameplay, you can understand the progress of characters and graphics – and you feel the pain and joy in the storyline. One of those games is the Castlevania-series that started in 1986 and can look to more that 30 titles. There are some parts of the series that are less great than others, but the newest games are so good that even today, everyone in video gaming knows the name "Castlevania" - and its newest piece "Lords of Shadows 2" is no exception.
The protagonist is Gabriel Belmont, who became Dracula himself when he defeated the evil in his last life. But he became tired of humanity and the world and therefore started to sleep for hundreds of years. Now the present is in need of his help, because the Devil is trying to invade the earth – and kill every human as well as make Gabriel his pet. To fight the evil in this world, Dracula needs to use his powers: He gains strength from blood, and killing his enemy is a good start to find the energy needed for his blood-powers. He also can freeze water and attacking monsters, which will give him a good advantage in speed. On the other hand he also uses fire to attack opponents and force his way through walls. But you have to be careful while using his powers, because if there is no energy left and you have to use it to solve a puzzle – talk about shooting yourself in the foot!
There are lots of different places in Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 that require different kinds of approach: Mostly you navigate the protagonist while using the third person perspective, but sometimes it changes and then you feel like you play a completely different game. During stealth missions you change your perspective to top down view to get a better overview at your current location and get the chance to run away from guards. And when you sneak behind guards to use your power to overwhelm them, you change into first person view. Also, if you transform into a rat, you get to play in a semi first person view that lets you run through the different places.
I really like games where you don't have to work yourself through hard-to-understand and way-too-much-information-in-the-last-10-minutes tutorials. I like to get to know the different aspects slow and Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 does a great job explaining every new ability when you get it. You start with some fighting, climbing and later on you gain control over your sword that gives you freezing powers. And after that you have to find your chaos-power to fight with fire – but you will always learn more – so in the end the whole game is a kind of a tutorial!
You already read about the Void Sword that sucks up souls of defeated enemies and lets you freeze some parts in the world. But it also regenerates your health while attacking with it. But you start your first fight with the Shadow Whip that comes with lots of different combo-attacks and gives you a few meters reach. Once you gain control of your chaos-powers, you can enhance your attacks and break through big shields and stone-defenses and also upgrade your own shield and defense.
I truly belong to those nerds that spent hours and hours to finally get that one achievement: You have to fight that one boss without using your main powers? No problem, just give me 200 tries. Should I try to find every single power-up in the game? Yeah, I'll spend that 350 hours, it is for a good reason! So when you play on Steam you'll be able to fight your way through 56 different achievements – they are a lot fun to get, but will most likely soak up a lot of time. Especially if you try to get all upgrades.
Well, to be honest the graphics are not that big of a deal in the sense of giving you a better feeling while playing the game. It is, however just amazing how good the animations are and how lovely the videos look. You can see water reflecting light and obstacles and you can see the fire of hell burning in its hottest colors. The creatures of hell are evil just by their looks and the big city of the present is a beauty on its own. I really do enjoy exploring the levels just to find interesting places to look at.
If you start playing Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 you get the feeling that this game is just an ordinary Hack'n'Slay with some elements from Jump'n'Run. But once you're up a few hours of gameplay you understand that this impression was so wrong: You often have to find a way to stealth through certain zones of the game. Therefore you need to transform into a rat and crawl through the vent duct or find little holes in the wall – and you should never ever get caught by the guards or they will make shashlik from your rat body. Sometimes you have to climb around unbeatable guards and pray that they will never look up to you.
#2 Fluid Climb
Climbing is also a big part of the game and it is the most fun to do: You often have to find the right path around walls and frameworks but there are way more creative parts in the game: For example you have to climb up a mill wheel that starts turning once you step on it and will eventually become too fast for you – so you have to find the right moment to jump over to the next one that also starts turning. Those parts are not that hard if you find the right timing but its really fun to play and the jump animations are really cool.
Well, even if you are one of the best gamers in the world (which I am not) you will see yourself dying a lot: You often have to figure out how to beat a boss, what powers you should use, and you have to figure out the attack patterns of your enemy. This will most likely take more than one try, so it is really good that you respawn at fixed save points. Same is true for the harder parts of climbing and jumping as well as the stealth missions which often need the right timing. This feature really helps to enjoy the game as you don't have to re-walk through all the parts you already managed to beat, which is why I think it is the #1 feature in this game.