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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (Xbox 360 Game Review)

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has been announced as the final release in the Lords of Shadow series from developer MercurySteam and publisher Konami. Fans won't know when the next console release for the Castlevania franchise will arrive or who the development team behind the release will be next, but Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a highly entertaining game that should be able to hold them over for what will likely be a next generation release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a first for the series in many ways, as players take control of Gabriel Belmont once again as he battles against Satan and all of the other demons and monsters that would stand in his way. Playing the game as Dracula is easily the biggest change for the new release, but there are plenty of other new features for the game as well including open world exploration, new combat mechanics and a variety of different types of missions, although some of the new features would have been better off left out of the new release.

The game begins many years after the events told in the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Gabriel has gained new powers from the Dracula curse and is summoned by an old nemesis named Zobek to team up and fight against the forces of Satan that have returned to the realm. The duo work together in the game to stop Satan from destroying the world, though there are plenty of missions to complete and other characters to meet between the beginning and inevitable showdown with the master of evil. Some of the characters are more interesting than others, but there are plenty of memorable appearances from noteworthy heroes and villains from the entire series including Alucard, Victor Belmont and Medusa. Players will battle through the game against the strongest of Satan's Acolytes before eventually meeting up with the boss himself, and there is a pretty good storyline for players to enjoy along the way.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 sees the return of a strong voicecast from the first release in the series that helps make the storyline that much more enjoyable. Robert Carlyle and Patrick Stewart return as Dracula and Zobek respectively, while voice actor Richard Madden delivers a strong performance as Alucard as well. There is a good variety of missions in the game that help piece together the game's campaign that will last most players a good 15-20 hours. Players can expect to face off with hordes of monsters, robots, soldiers and the like as well as search for hidden collectibles throughout the world and locate key items to satisfy NPCs. There are also some new stealth missions where Dracula will find his powers useless, and players will need to sneak past enemies without being caught in order to progress. These missions often take a great difficulty spike that can be somewhat frustrating, while the missions also just seem out of place in the action game as well.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 introduces new mechanics to its previously used battle system. Players will need to carefully balance the use of three different powers for Dracula in combat to be successful against different types of enemies. The primary weapon in combat is the Shadow Whip, which can be used to chain together light and heavy attacks to whither down even the strongest of opponents. Blood will drop from enemies during combat that can be collected to activate the other two weapons at Dracula's disposal that includes the Void Sword and Chaos Claws. The Void Sword allows Dracula to slice up his enemies and regain some health while dealing damage. The Chaos Claws offer a completely different fighting style that forces the player to get in close and deal devastating attacks capable of breaking through even the toughest of enemy shields. Each weapon has its own powers as well as its own set of combination attacks that can be performed in combat to varying effects. The refined battle system is one of the most enjoyable new features for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and the biggest reason players will keep coming back and playing the game months from now.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 also changes the way players will progress through the single player campaign. The world is now available to fully explore from early on in the game with plenty of different items to find and characters to interact with. The new open world covers two different time spans that includes his own castle the game series is named for as well as a modern city where forces from the Brotherhood of Light and the demonic armies of Satan are both out to kill Dracula. Though the entire map is available to explore from early on in the game, Dracula will need to gain new powers to explore every inch of the city and castle with a progression system similar to what the series has been known for in the past. The new ability to explore the world is a nice feature, and the game looks good enough that players will want to see everything in the current release for the Castlevania franchise.

Dracula will gain new powers by exploring the game and completing various mission objectives throughout the campaign. The mist form returns to the game that is helpful in all three facets of the game whether dodging incoming attacks from enemies, using the mist form to pass through certain doors while exploring or hiding from enemies that would otherwise spot players during stealth sections. Dracula also gains additional powers during the game such as a double jump, a special artifact that can be used to stop time and an ability to enter a form of rage and deal damage to enemies more quickly than normal. There are a good variety of special moves and equipment available to players in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, and it helps keep the game from ever feeling too repetitive.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 features solid controls that are easy to understand and use in and out of combat, even with the introduction of many new weapons for the series. The learning curve is lessened with a special prologue mission that allows players to link the storylines of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate with the new game, as Gabriel battles against the Brotherhood of Light in a scene featured in early promotional trailers for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. Players can easily switch between attack types on the fly and use the different powers available to Dracula to take on armies consisting of many different types of enemies at once. The game also features plenty of boss battles against massive monsters that the series has been known for, and new camera controls help fix problems the larger monsters have been know to cause in previous releases.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a great looking game, though this much is clear by simply looking at a few screenshots captured from the game for promotional use. The shots hardly do the game justice though, and most players will be surprised with how great gameplay looks during combat and exploration with plenty of good animations to make movements look realistic. The game runs smoothly during battles with large amounts of enemies on screen at once or when facing off with giant boss enemies. The game has great voice acting as previously mentioned, but the game does a pretty good job of matching its voices to characters as well, though there are still some games such as Halo 4 that have done it better.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a good game and a worthy successor for the original release. The new title may be the last for the Lords of Shadow series and the last the Castlevania franchise will see on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but it gives a good ending that will stick with fans long after the game has been completed. The action beat 'em up genre is known for its diverse battle systems that uses tons of combination attacks to take down enemies, but Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 features one of best battle systems any game in the genre has seen. That action is complimented nicely by a great world to explore and a good variety of missions that may change what some gamers thought they knew about the Castlevania franchise. Pick up a copy of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or PC today!

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is now available from all major retailers for the MSRP of $59.99 and can be purchased for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is rated M by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language & Nudity. For more information on the game, check out the official Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 website.

Game Features:
  • Single Player
  • Harness the Powers of Dracula
  • Open-World Exploration
  • New Weapons and Abilities
  • Trophy/Achievement Support

Game Information:
Developer: MercurySteam
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed) & PC
Release Date: February 25, 2014

Score: 8 out of 10
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