The Lords of Shadow
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a reboot of the classic Konami platforming series known to gamers across the world since 1986. In it, you play as Gabriel Belmont in the year 1047, where a sinister force known as the Lords of Shadow has threatened Earth's alliance with Heaven. Now, a dark spell has been cast over the world and the recently deceased are incapable of leaving the earthly plane to travel to an eternity of peace in the heavens above.
With this malevolent force comes an army of fierce creatures including werewolves, vampires and huge beasts that roam the land and attack the innocent. Gabriel, a member of the Brotherhood of Light, an elite group of holy knights who protect the land and defend the people from the creatures of the night, must set out on a journey to save the world and find the mystical God and Devil masks that have the power to resurrect his dead wife, Marie.
The game also features a cast of Hollywood superstars that lend their vocal talents including X-Men star, Sir Patrick Stewart, Natascha McElhone and 007: The World Is Not Enough villain, Robert Carlyle, as lead character Gabriel Belmont.
A hint of Kojima
Although Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was created by Spanish developer Mercury Steam, superstar game designer, director and producer Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame offered a helping hand to the team. Kojima's involvement in the game included helping to redesign Gabriel in order to create a more heroic figure for you to take control of and relate to as you battle the minions of darkness. And if you look closely at the characters that each of the Hollywood actors portray, you can see that the team has cleverly included aspects of their features in the design.
Kojima and Mercury Steam have also crafted an art style that is much darker in tone than previous Castlevania titles, borrowing elements from films such as Guillermo del Toro's award-winning Pan's Labyrinth. Famous Spanish composer and photographer Oscar Araujo, who also worked on films such as 2008's Transsiberian, starring Woody Harrelson and Sir Ben Kingsley and Mercury Steam's Clive Barker's Jericho, created the haunting soundtrack for Lords of Shadow.
Performed by a 120-piece orchestra and 80 choir members, the soundtrack features a wealth of samples and musical themes taken directly from some of the previous Castlevania games in the series.
Battling the forces of darkness
Taking control of Gabriel Belmont in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, you wield a special weapon called the Combat Cross. At the outset of the game you're equipped with a small number of moves, and as you progress you can unlock a huge variety of additional attacks including grapples or wide, sweeping moves. Attacks range from light to heavy and are performed by tapping the Square button or Triangle button. If an enemy is weakened enough, you can reel them in using Gabriel's grapple attack and finish them off in style by following the on-screen prompts that pop up.
Gabriel can also take down enemies with special magical attacks that are both light and dark. Triggering the light magic increases your health over a period of time, whereas the dark magic dramatically increases the strength of your attacks and is especially useful during some of Castlevania's enormous boss battles. These gargantuan creatures are as large as buildings and require an extremely tactical approach to defeat them. The best advice is to quickly work out each one's weak spot, which is normally highlighted by a glow. Once you've spotted it, attack it and repeat the process while dodging attacks.
There are additional weapons at your disposal including special daggers that are ideal for performing long-range attacks on some of the game's creatures. They are low in supply, so be sure to use them wisely. Magical attacks are varied in scope too, from wiping out swarms of enemies all at once to increasing your speed in battle for swifter takedowns. The game isn't just focused on slaying an endless supply of enemies; it features a wealth of robust platforming sections too that require you to use the grapple on Gabriel's cross to progress.
Gameplay puzzles play an integral role in gameplay by rewarding you with upgrades for your magic and arsenal the quicker you solve them. Make use of the handy hint system if a particular puzzle stops you in your tracks and bear in mind that if you use it, you will forgo the chance of winning upgrades on offer.