The world is plagued by dark forces. A man, once orphaned, grew up with the combative arts under the watchful eye of an old order. As is the way of such things in such small places, the boy loved another. As time went on he matured, and as a man, was loved in returned. The two were wed, but she was taken. Overcome with unmatched desire for revenge, the man sets out. Hit name is Gabriel Belmont.
Controls: As I hopped between many similar games, the nuance of each is difficult to work past. When fighting with a chained weapon, collecting orbs… It falls into the overarching “God of War clone” many of my friends site. It is familiar, and it works. That said, I found the progression of power attainment very easy. You start the game off with your whip, you have a small introduction to Silver Daggers as a sub weapon, and you use those for a few stages. In a lot of cases new items are not just for combat, but for puzzle solving. If you stumble across a place you don’t have the power up for? It tells you the type of action you require. When you start removing foes and obstacles akin to them later on you can go “Oh! I can open that path now!” or just do another play through As you solve puzzles and traverse the terrain you can understand how to utilize the skills in combat, which I love. They are responsive which is always good, and it takes a bit to learn each powers’ nuance. There is not much of a learning curve, so you should have no problem with it.
Story: Ah… the story. Straight forward games like this normally leave me at a want fr more development. It may be because I am a Castlevania fan and have played many of the titles, but I found the story to be complete. Actually… this game did not require any knowledge of previous titles. Knowing of the Belmonts as I do, and finding out that Gabriel chose his name… I believe he is supposed to be the beginning of the Belmont bloodline. I could be wrong. I played this game straight through, nearly non stop. It was just that pleasing to me.
Characters: The development of each character is wonderfully done.
Gabriel: Through the use of in stage cut scenes and the genius use of loading screen narratives, a lot comes through about Gabriel with with little in the way of wasted downtime. Most of his motivations are expressed from a third person viewpoint. Only in the DLC do we begin to hear Gabriel speak about himself. By that point he journeys as the man from the end of the game rather than the one at the beginning. He is tired, brooding, and distraught, but not melodramatic about it. More rather, it is his fuel for tearing the world apart.
Zobek: The voice of the primary narrator. As each stage loads there will be a third person perspective on what is going on. A lot of the revelations and development come here. And being voiced by Patrick Stewart? I have a bias and will listen to whatever he has to say.
Lords of Shadow: The subtitle characters play large roles, have a great affect on, and drive Gabriel through the game. Their opinions on him and his actions caused a mental conflict for me. Doesn’t change Gabriel’s mind at all though.
Music: In the Castlevanias I have played the music has always been punctual. It sets a mood, evokes emotion, and is neither too overpowering or too subtle. Spoiler: Fans enjoy the Music Box level.
Replay Value: I went through the game with no backtracking. As such, an additional play through to at least get hidden items is needed. However, at the Stage Select screen you can see just how much of a stage, the hidden items, and the like were completed. A change of difficulty can be done at any time. Completion of a stage at the highest difficulty available clears it out for the lower ones, and you can complete the stage-by-stage trials on any difficulty and get credit. The fact that once you earn an ability or buy a power it is yours, it makes going back through the game something of a treat. I am a big proponent of New Game+ functionality I find the game worth playing again, and the achievements more sane to hunt down than in many other games.
DLC: The downloadable content takes place after the main game, and requires you to have beat it before you can access it. It is merely additional story, talking about what happens after Lords of Shadow. There is an ending cinematic that teases a sequel, and this DLC explains the in-between. It centers around the awakening of The Forgotten One, a being or disastrous might once sealed by the Lords of Shadow. It is a nice way to round out the tale, and a wonderful, more hands on explanation that just a cut scene.
Save options: There is only one save file possible, but I never hit a moment where there was a decision to be made or test where more than one was needed. If not stated previously, you are able to move back to any stage once cleared, each time as the first. As such, any “mistake” or curiosity can be indulged, consequences suffered, and you can open the stage up as done the first time (but with all your collected items).
Overall, I say this is a solid stand alone title. Not available for digital copy purchase, but it is not something I regret keeping in my collection. If you enjoyed Castlevania previously, this is not a let down to what has come before. It is my first 3D installment, and if the others are like this I will have to seek them out.