Ya know, I’d like to say I love the Castlevania series, but, in retrospect, I’m not sure I really do.  The only game I’ve played through to completion is Castlevania 64, the first 3-D entry in the franchise that everyone seems to hate.  I loved Super Castlevania, and the first and third games in the series…but that’s about it.  For a game series with over 30 entries of variable types, that’s not really a lot.

Recent entries of the series have included a fighting game that everybody hates, and a couple of retro-2D side scrollers which appeal to the gamers looking for nostalgic gaming…but just seem a little, kind of, I don’t know, like a step back.

I was given Castlevania: Lords of Shadow as a Christmas gift, and, after finishing James Bond: Blood Stone (review here) in less than two days, decided to jump into something a little more involved.  I’d heard Lords of Shadow was a bit lengthy (it actually encompasses TWO XBox 360 discs), longer than the type of game I typically like to play (just because, once they get over 5-6 hours, I hardly ever have time to complete them), but I was determined to give it a shot to see how it was.

And it’s AWESOME.  Castlevania: Lords of Shadow doesn’t suffer from its length – rather, it actually makes me happy that there’s that much game to play.  The graphics are absolutely fantastic, the gameplay varied; I really enjoyed the hell out of the game.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has plenty of references to earlier games in the series, but it’s a complete reboot of the franchise.  Seems to me that, with my limited knowledge of previous games, this one actually contradicts them, so you can jump into it without having played any of the previous games, or knowing the story.  Gabriel Belmont, a knight in the Brotherhood of Light, journeys through the woods, seeking out the Guardian of the Lake, so that he can communicate with his recently deceased wife.  Not much is actually explained at the beginning of the game, but the story is actually explained throughout the game.  It’s a slow burn type of story, which is a little tricky at first.  I found my first couple of hours wondering just what the hell was going on, but as the story pieces together (mostly towards the end of the game), you’re liable to leave the game with your jaw dropped on the floor, especially with the post-credits sequence (MAKE SURE you stay for it).

The controls in Lords of Shadow are similar to a God of War-type game – there’s lot of button mashing, jumping and climbing walls, quick-button moments…it’s not entirely innovative, but it never gets confusing.

My main qualm with the game is with the voice acting.  Robert Carlyle voices Gabriel Belmont, and Patrick Stewart his companion Zobek, and, despite being impressive actors, they seem to be overdoing it in this one.  The voice acting is WAY overdone, and actually had me rolling my eyes in a couple of places.  And the number of grunts gets a little annoying.

Still, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is more than worth the price of admission and will provide enough length, challenge, and story to more than make you feel like it was money well spent.  Highly recommended.

Paul's Awesomeness Score - 8 out of 10