Castlevania: Lords of Shadow in the test - demonically good

Author: Florian Heider
Date: 2013-08-28 13:30:00
Three years after the console version was released, Gabriel Belmont finally knocks his way through a PC version of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and wipes the floor with many other action adventures.

Oh dear, a console version of a three year old game. There is reason to fear that it was transferred to the PC as well as Dark Souls - so very neglected. But far from it: The action adventure Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Ultimate Edition is also one of the best in its genre in the PC version (the Ultimate Edition).

Admittedly, the predictable story of Gabriel Belmont, who tries to save his murdered wife from limbo, really doesn't reinvent the narrative wheel. But the outstanding staging and the perfectly thought-out combat system down to the smallest detail make Castlevania: Lords of Shadow a great game.

Instead of combo counters or wild button mashing, Castlevania relies on tactics. If we don't block, dodge, and counter properly, we're regulars on the game-over screen. So there is a parallel to Dark Souls, even if Castlevania with four levels of difficulty is not that rock-hard and thanks to the easy-to-use controls it plays flawlessly. We should already have a gamepad at the start, unfortunately, the pure keyboard control is scary.

Let there be light

With each defeated opponent, we collect experience points, which we in turn invest in meaningful new attacks and upgrades. For example, we learn to smash enemies in the air or to let go of spectacular area attacks that keep large chunks off our necks and effectively sweep smaller enemies off the screen in rows.

Another tactical component comes into play through the successful integration of the so-called forces of light and the power of shadows, which we automatically learn in the course of the adventure. When the light forces are activated, we receive life energy for every hit we land, while the shadow force increases our combat strength. But we never become too overpowering because these special forces are only available to a limited extent and only have to be recharged after use.

It works without a whip

By the way, Gabriel does without the Castlevania-typical whip and prefers to rely on his battle cross instead. Sounds uncool, but it's exactly the opposite: The thing is attached to a chain, so it is ideal for ranged attacks. If our all-purpose crucifix is not enough for once, we use additional weapons such as holy water bottles and daggers, which cause a lot of damage to certain types of enemy.

Good thing, because the selection of demons, vampires and other monsters is enormous. In addition to the already terrifying standard opponents, the game surprises us again and again with famous boss fights against wonderfully detailed designed and often huge monsters that we simply cannot tackle without the right tactics. When, in the fifth of a total of 50 levels, we take on a huge titan on a frozen lake, it's not only breathtaking, but just the tip of the iceberg.

Seven miles of boots

If such a boss is defeated, we are usually rewarded with additional pieces of armor. These in turn activate new special abilities. With the right boots, for example, we jump over previously insurmountable chasms, but with a power glove we beat obstacles out of the way. That looks cool and actually gives us the feeling that we are slowly developing Gabriel into a powerful fighting machine that has the right maneuver for every situation.

The newly gained properties not only help us to make progress, but also open up new areas for us in sections that have already been played, in which we only find smaller bonuses such as higher dagger capacity or the like. In contrast to other Castlevania parts, we don't necessarily have to visit old areas again. This significantly reduces backtracking, but we would have been happy about additional levels or opponents.

But that's criticism on a high level, because there is more than enough to discover in Lords of Shadow. The main game lasts 15 to 20 hours, and if you want to get all the bonuses you can add a few more. The PC version also contains two DLCs (see box), which also extend the adventure by about three hours.

The solution to the riddle

In addition to the fights, climbing is also on the program. Some of them offer wonderful views of the varied levels, but due to the fixed camera perspectives, it is not always possible to correctly estimate where we should actually jump.

On the other hand, the game is more user-friendly with the pleasantly varied puzzles: If, for example, we cannot get the right order in a rune puzzle, we can also have the solution displayed on request. But then there are no experience points.

Visually, Lords of Shadow can't quite keep up with current graphics crackers, after all, it's been three years under its belt, but the nicely animated monsters, the well-designed locations (including visiting swamps, jungles, forests and castles) and the plain grandiose staging make up for the technical deficits almost easily. In addition, a fantastic soundtrack accompanies the action, and the first-class speakers (including Robert Carlyle and Patrick "Captain Picard" Stewart) know their craft.