- Xbox 360
- PlayStation 3
I don’t know if a secret contest is taking place among the slasher game developers for the most over-the-top prologue; but if there is one, then Lords of Shadow 2 is a shoe-in for the grand prize. First game of the series reboot by MercurySteam has greeted you with a slow gothic fantasy. This time the game gets right into the action. The protagonist is Dracula himself. He uses his own blood as a whip. His castle is under attack by an army of thousands. This army has a giant humanoid robot. The stakes are high, rivalries are thousands-of-years-old, prophecies are dark, and angels are fallen. And then there’s the usual removal of all those nice abilities which used to allow you to perform a complete massacre on poor grunts of the army which was attacking you.
The combat system looks exactly like the one of its predecessor: accentuated counter-attacks and two bars of special energy used to break blocks and heal. Both kinds of magic now have unique weapons, but controls are still the same. What stands out is a free-floating camera as opposed to static angles from the first game. A lot of delightful improvements to what already worked perfectly before aren’t the biggest surprise. The game looks back at the series’ legacy and remembers where the second part of metroidvania term came from. The world is a holistic labyrinth with inaccessible high passages and grates standing in your way. This promise of big and small secrets is the foundation for everything else here. The story progression path goes in big stretches only occasionally offering to come back to the earlier places. You could replay levels in the first game to access locked upgrades once you’ve acquired the required ability, but you also had to go through the repetition of story scenes and routes weren’t particularly interesting.
The second installment simply blends the secrets in the world as a part of a bigger picture. The scenery is grotesque most of the time and is occasionally filled with details for you to look at for some time. Half of the locations are in the future, of course, so it adds up to a final result of a truly bizarre over-stylized collage.
The wild outlook in accompanied by an equally wild script. It defies logic in favor of having more and more bizarre characters and spectacular action scenes. If there’s a fight on a moving train it’ll end with a crash, explosions and acrobatics. You can’t just kill the giant boss — you have to rip out its heart. It is completely normal for the protagonist to ride a giant gas bottle because he needed a new entrance in the building. The headcount of unlucky enemies of Dracula is in a thousands range. Relentless postmodern carnival wouldn’t give you a break, so at some point you just can’t be surprised by anything. Raisa Volkova, the daughter of Satan? Sounds completely normal!
Lords of Shadow 2 wants to go further than its predecessor so desperately and tries so much new stuff, that sometimes it ends with stuff that is just too cringeworthy. Clumsy stealth sections simply don’t hold up to the pace of the game and are irritating rather than entertaining.
Still, you get transformations into blood mist and rat pack out of this torture. Two more instruments for world-exploring toolset. You can see in it the reminiscence of what Symphony of the Night did to Rondo of Blood. The story of the series also goes in circles on the moebius band of time-travelling nonsense. The game may pass a self-parody for the long franchise with a few dozens of titles in it. And that may be a good thing sometimes.