Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Ultimate Edition Review

CV LoS UECastlevania: Lords of Shadow – Ultimate Edition (Available exclusively on PC)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Mercury Steam & Climax Studios
Release Date: August 27th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Castlevania: Lords of Shadow M for mature because of violence, nudity,and blood and gore. Much like the God of War series, the action is fast-paced and brutal. There are close-up depictions of decapitation, eye gouging, and all sorts of overly grotesque scenes of violence. Clearly you shouldn’t allow your children near this game.

Plays Like: If you played the console version you know exactly what to expect here. It’s a 3D Castlevania game done right. The action plays out very similarly to Sony’s God of War series in that you defeat wave after wave of enemies, solve puzzles, and tackle some minor platforming challenges. Overall it’s a modern day action game that plays almost exactly like all the other big third-person action games released during this console generation.

Review Basis: I originally played through and completed the console version, and played through a good portion of this PC port just to see what was improved or altered.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2010. When it’s follow-up title was announced, it was revealed a PC version was going to be released as well. Konami thought it might be a good idea to give PC fans the original game before the sequel hit, so the question now is how has the three year old gameplay held up? Is it worth reinvesting in for those that already played the console version, and what about those who never played it at all. Is this the ultimate edition as the title would suggest?

CV LoS UE1The Great:

It lives up to its namesake, and no I’m not talking about Castlevania, I’m talking about the Ultimate part. For $29.99 you get what is hands-down the best version of the game released to date. It runs at a silky smooth 60 frame-per-second, features far crisper textures and visual fluidity, and includes two full DLC packs that add hours to an already lengthy game. There’s no denying, if you have a powerful enough PC to handle the game on max settings and haven’t played it before, this is clearly the version you want.

CV LoS UE2The Good:

+ The story is just as enjoyable the second time through as it was when I played it three years ago. Evil has spread throughout the land, and as Gabriel your job is to try and find out what’s going on while putting an end to the madness. Along the way you have to come to terms with your own internal demons, resulting from the death of your wife. Sometimes the story’s cliche, but for some reason it all comes together, especially with that kick-ass ending, which sets the tone for next year’s Lords of Shadow 2.

+ While linear, there are branching paths that reward further exploration. Each area can be revisited later on once Gabriel has acquired new skills. You might find health upgrades, or other goodies that were just out of reach the first time you went through.

+ God of War-like combo system. You have a melee and ranged attack, and by using these two attacks in conjunction with each other you can create powerful combinations. Defeated enemies reward experience which can then be used to unlock more advanced techniques such as aerial combos.

+ Light and Dark magic system remains interesting. Light magic allows you to gain health while fighting enemies, while Dark magic grants you more powerful attacks. The system allows players to diversify how they play.

+ Excellent boss fights. Taking inspiration for Shadow of the Colossus, boss fights pit you against giant beasts that look downright awesome. Actually taking these things down requires both skill, and timing.

+ Gorgeous graphics. Every new environment looks dramatically different from the last. From old towns to gorgeous forests and mountain sides, the game never ceases to impress. That doesn’t even include the particle effects, great lighting, and fluid animations.

+ Load times have been dramatically improved over the console versions.

+Spectacular orchestrated soundtrack, and superb sound effects and voice acting. Both Robert Carlyle and Patrick Stewart are the standout actors, and do a fantastic job, but everyone else sounds equally involved.

CV LoS UE3The So-So:

+/- Fixed camera angles are typically a blessing and a curse at the same time, and that’s true here as well. For puzzles and platforming sections the camera works perfectly, but once Gabriel reaches open arenas things take a turn for the worse. Enemies will often attack from beyond the camera’s reach, leaving you wide open to attack even though you had no clue there were enemies there.

+/- As with all action games like this, combat wears thin when you unlock enough moves that you create combo-sets you enjoy using. The game constantly wants you to try new things, but once you learn a great combo that works every time, there’s little reason to mix things up.

+/- Quick-time events can be fun when used sparingly, but I found they’re overused here. Virtually every grab and end move require some sort of QTE, and that gets repetitive quickly.

CV LoS UE4The Bad:

– Keyboard controls are awkward and cumbersome. This is a console game that’s been ported to PC, so do yourself a favor and pick up the awesome Xbox 360 controller for Windows. The game plays like a charm with it.

The Ugly:

Cutscenes remain completely untouched from their console counterparts and can be a little jarring when you go from a cutscene to the excellent visuals of the in-game graphics.

CV LoS UE5The Lowdown:

Sure Lords of Shadow is a three-year old console game that can be found on Amazon for $20, but this really is the best version available. Time and care went into this port. Not only is it the best looking version, but it’s also very affordable. It includes the two DLC packs, and the remastered game for only $10 more than the current asking price of the console versions. To me this is a no-brainer, just make sure you pick up a controller though. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow comes highly recommend for those who have never played it before, and for those that have, I’d say to wait for a Steam sale and then jump in.

Final Score: 8.4/10

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