The land of the dead now feels truly alive... and kicking
That old trope about visuals not being important; the “beauty is only skin deep” approach to games criticism? It’s nonsense. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is evidence of that. You see while its core gameplay has been tweaked and improved in a whole bunch of ways, it’s the resolutely visual addition of a free camera that has made the most difference.
The original LOS was a beautiful game set in a beautiful world, but one that never really felt truly inhabitable thanks to its totalitarian fixed viewpoints. The experience was like looking into a gorgeous scale model through a small window. And worse, it was a window that marauding enemies had a nasty habit of hiding just outside of. The overall effect was distancing and irritating in equal measure. But LOS2 fixed all that, and almost feels like a different game as a result.
The flowing combat--still built around powerful, focused attacks, weaker area-of-effect moves and delicious juggles--finally gets a chance to really fly, unbridled as it is by sticky viewpoints. Crowd control and spatial management are now smooth, flowing exercises in instinctive control, given a more accessible tactical boost by the ability to quick-change between standard whip attacks, armour-busting hits and a health-generating spirit blade. All that was great was still there. It’s just more immediate and empowering now.
The platforming has benefited from those additional twiddles of the right-stick too. Gabriel's lighter and more fluid than his LOS1 self, which helps now that the Prince of Persia-style obstacles are much more intricately, oft-brutally designed. That 360-degree camera control facilitates a great deal more clarity and accuracy to his moves, while also imparting a tantalizing sense of peril and scale that the original game could only hint at.
The kind of multi-directional climbing, savagely-timed acrobatics and physical freedom on show in LOS2 just wouldn’t have been possible in the first game. And if you thought the Titan fights were impressive in the first game, just wait ‘til you tangle with one here. And this was all before we reached the game’s Arkham City-style, condensed urban open-world. This could be the most improved sequel we’ve seen in a good long while.