Following the reboot of the Castlevania franchise in 2010 with the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow comes this year’s sequel; Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD, Originally released earlier in the year as a 3DS title and now finding its way to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Those of you familiar with the sideways-scrolling Vampire-whipping action of the previous twenty plus Castlevania games can probably skip over this entire review, look at the score at the bottom, shrug and play it anyway. I think the last one I’d played was Castlevania: The Adventure on the GameBoy back in 1989, and to be quite honest I didn’t exactly feel bowled over by new, exciting and genre-redefining features. It continues to be, as it has almost always been, a sideways scrolling hack and slash game with very light puzzling elements and a tiny dash of RPG style character progression.
The game opens with you playing as Gabriel Belmont, leading members of the Brotherhood of Light in an assault on a demonic stronghold and its master. This sequence serves to explain the basic combat mechanics and gameplay. Armed with a Combat Cross (or as most other people on the planet would call it, a whip with a fancy handle) you’re introduced to the concept of direct attacks versus area attacks and the rudimentary combo mechanics the game offers. Before you know it you’re facing down the demonic master of the castle,(one can only guess he either has six henchmen, or is new to villainy as they tend not to stand outside the castle), in the first of the game’s boss fights.
The entirety of the game itself is broken into 4 chapters; the initial prologue chapter mentioned above that has you playing Gabriel Belmont and then 3 equally sized chapters which see you playing the Grandson of Gabriel; Simon, his father Trevor, and the mysterious Alucard. The general gameplay of each chapter is broadly similar – you start out ill-equipped and progress your way through Dracula’s castle acquiring new abilities and equipment as you go, with the eventual goal of reaching and defeating the titular Lord of Shadow himself.
The game tries its hardest to differentiate the skills and abilities of the multiple characters you control but doesn’t really manage to do so; while Alucard may be a vampire and able to fly short distances or summon bats to attack Dracula’s minions it’s really not very far removed from another character’s ability to dash jump and throw boomerangs at his foes. The puzzle elements further in the game attempts to make each character feel different, but it once again boils down to nothing more than slightly altered names- you’ve got doors that can only be opened with Shadow Magic versus doors that require your Werewolf form to open.
Despite not offering anything particularly new or astounding to the well-worn genre of side scrolling action-adventure games, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD isn’t a bad game. It took me just over 7 hours to complete the main storyline and a further 4 to go back and find all of the secrets I’d missed. Not once during this time did I feel bored or fed up with the game; it simply does what it set out to do in an above average way. I can’t see people looking back in 20 years and calling this the heyday of the franchise but it’s certainly an enjoyable game with a reasonable amount within it to keep you occupied. Even once you’ve completed the game you’ll find yourself trying (vainly in my case) to battle through the no second chances onslaught that is the Boss Rush mode or returning to poke around the castle in the hope of improving your leader board positioning or even just trying to pick up the last few elusive secrets.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Format: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 Release Date: 25/10/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 8 days on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.