Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Preamble to Lords of Shadow 2: How I feel about Lords of Shadow

at 7:00 PM
Been playing Lords of Shadow 2 of course. I was a big fan of the first game, thought it was one of the better action games of last generation with its simple no-combo heal/powerup mechanics that emphasized reactive opportunistic combat through two magic modifiers - that is, take advantage of a pattern opening early on in a fight and you could use it for a huge punish that allowed skipping through mundane grinding or break-waiting. It was also nicely paced coming off something like Bayonetta that is just fight-fight-fight - not that I object to that, just that Lords of Shadow found its own niche making for a relaxing play exploring mini-labyrinth environments peppered with a pretty steady stream of new enemy and boss types. It had its cinematic moments but it wasn't drilled to the cutscene/variety-fest that is God of War where the combat is really just thin filler/icing on top of a core of event gameplay like kicking a box up a hallway or flying a pelican across the Mediterranean.

The weird enemy design was largely worthy of the Castlevania name
And even the most generic Tomb Raider environments were loaded with detail
Lords of Shadow was a confident game that felt like Castlevania - you walk around some and appreciate noxious swamps and desolate cliffs and dank dungeons where unholy abominations crawl out of the woodwork to challenge your progress. It found its own identity within the series - it wasn't a Platformervania like the early games; it's light press-in-a-direction-to-get-there climbforming was more in line with later games like Symphony of the Night or Dawn of Sorrow, yet like those games it also had a Clock Tower and a few later areas (those cliff areas whose name I can't remember atm) that brought challenging platforming to the forefront and happily threw the player to their death repeatedly, reminding us of the series origin. Without a continuous world it wasn't a Metroidvania either, but it still contained traces of that design pattern, from multi-pathing in the large stages to dozens of collectibles that could be reached only by backtracking after obtaining abilities during the story's progression. Chunky enemies with tight patterns that challenged the player to weave through a flurry of attacks to land a single whiplash have been an integral part of the series since Simon met his first Axe Armor - mid-period games like Rondo of Blood and Circle of the Moon were loaded with these tough enemies like Minotaurs and Arch Demons. It's this combat that Lords of Shadow brings to the forefront - instead of using battles to drain life and hinder progress through a larger obstacle course, they are the only obstacles, and the player has to string together perfect hits and dodges to survive each one. It's Combatvania for sure, but there's no reason that's not a valid paradigm. Fighting enemies was probably my favorite part of the other games and I enjoy comparing the principles on play there with those in Lords of Shadow

This computer chess match probably brings back nightmares for players who got this far, but I liked the occasional stumper - it's not like you couldn't go back to other levels while you were stuck to hone your combat or find collectibles, and you never had to play the puzzles again thanks to the stage format
The presence of climb-able bosses was lambasted as a Shadow of the Colossus ripoff, though it fit quite well as a translation of the sky-high screens-tall bosses of 2D Castlevanias
So why am I wasting all this time talking about Lords of Shadow when I actually just want to post about Lords of Shadow 2? Because I'm about to levy some complaints at the sequel - something that it's been taking a lot of. Actually I'm mostly having a great time (the excellent combat and boss fights are still in tact, the climbforming seems to be at late-game levels from the beginning, and the castle environments in particular might be more gorgeous than ever), I just needed you to know I'm not one of those people that has hated this entire reboot series and that I do not in any way shape or form conform to the prevailing current opinion that this is a bad game. I have no objection about it being a "real" Castlevania. I have no problem with elements supposedly "stolen" from God of War or Shadow of the Colossus. I even loved the twist that the hero of Lords of Shadow, the first Belmont, ends up becoming Dracula, and felt it fit perfectly with the story of that game and the tone of the series. I couldn't wait to see where they were going with things. 

Admittedly I kinda thought the sequel should be played AS Simon vs. this new Dracula (what's the point of turning your protagonist into a villain if he's going to stay the protagonist?), but Konami did give us that story in the form of Mirror of Fate. Unfortunately that was a handheld spinoff that I didn't really want to play - why put a crucial plot chapter there? Regardless, the Simon/Trevor/Alucard chapter DID happen in whatever form, so it's expected that we're back in the shoes of Dracula. He's now had his fall and his time as a villain, so it's time for the redemption chapter. How do I feel about these vampiric slippers? Well I should have a moment to talk about that tomorrow....

No comments:

Post a Comment