Thursday, February 28, 2013

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Demo Impressions

I've posted previously about some of the 3DS games that will be coming out in the next couple months, and some of them I was really surprised to see getting demos after the last Nintendo Direct presentation (correct me if I'm wrong.) For Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and the Castlevania title (its too long) it was just what they need. In a fairly quiet eshop environment, these niche titles could easily catch the eyes of newcomers to the series, people on the fence with the allure of a free demo version.

Aside...[I still don't understand why they need to limit the demos to 30 uses, or less in some cases. What is the advantage of that? And in fact, its easy to get around it. It counts every time you launch the software...and in this Castlevania demo and the MH3U demo, you can restart a new shot of the demo without quitting to the system dashboard. I don't actually know what happens when you run out of uses, but I guess this aside rambling has gone on too long now...]

So I'll be doing some quick impressions of the game (at least based on the demo version they uploaded to the 3DS eshop.) I should add, that I'll be doing a second demo impressions post shortly afterwards, with impressions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. But for now, lets get into what I thought of the game, and my level of hype for this game, which releases on March 8th in PAL regions (at least the Europe portion of PAL.)
After seeing the trailers for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (see, theres a reason I was saying 'this game' instead of that mouthful) I was surprisingly ambivalent about the game-it was just lacking of the special ingredients that great Castlevania games have. The graphics, characters and just overall aesthetic of the game didn't immediately jump out at me from the trailers that we saw many months ago. I was surprised by how a new Castlevania could be announced and I could be a little disappointing that it wasn't an all new Castlevania-instead they looked to be interested in making the Lords of Shadow thing something of a mini franchise. Now I liked the game, but it lacked the x-factor some of the GBA and DS metroidvanias had. Anyway, would my opinions change with the release of the demo?

First things first, I noticed the screen resolution and what I can't really describe very well-the 'zoomed-out' 2.5D feel to the graphics. Everything on top screen (where your attention will be mostly) is a little smaller than I'd wanted. I miss the days of big bold sprites in the GBA games like Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow. Initially this was weird, as I couldn't really tell what the enemies were actually doing, but on getting used to the screens and controls, you start to get quite immersed, especially with the 3D, which I really think adds to the depth and grandeur of the backgrounds. Its done quite well, and I can imagine me leaving it on more than other games, although against one mini boss they did fling an enemy right at the screen like in those silly 3D films which are horrendously overpriced at the cinema.

The controls are nicely mapped, with a lot of different options for chaining together intricate combos of attacks, dodges and blocks. Once you remember there is a dodge button that can lead into back or forward rolls, you won't end up dying so much (I admit, I struggled early on.) I'm really looking forward to the game when you will slowly unlock artefacts and relics to upgrade your character and add to the pool of moves you can make. Its always a satisfying feeling getting the ability to double jump for example =)

Combat definitely feels nice and fluid, as does the platforming, with the ability to grab onto ledges, hang and jump from said ledges, use the whip to grapple onto objects, and perform a nice range of attacks. In the 42 or so minutes I played the demo for (I completed it once) I never thought it felt repetitive or stale, and the enemies used a range of attacks against me, using shields, charges, ranged attacks such as axes and bombs etc. The bosses required even more strategy, and you have to use moves such as the double jump or roll to get out the way of some of their nastier attacks.
I really hope the full game won't feel repetitive, as I thought that was one downside of the original Lords of Shadow game on the PS3. I'm not a huge fan of action games such as Devil May Cry or anything, and felt the combat got a bit mindless at times, with even normal enemies taking way too much of a beating. Hopefully this one is more in the direction of the metroidvanias where you can get some ridiculously overpowerful weapon such as the Claimh Solais and tear through the enemies with zeal!

One thing I really like the sound of is the world building and story tidbits that the demo shows. It adds to the atmosphere of the game in the little scrolls you find (I can't remember what they are called.) They give you a little experience points each time, and I suppose that is one way to add incentive, but I really like the way they have little excerpts of stories and tales in them, sometimes relating to the area that you are in. I entered an area called the Crypt and immediately was drawn to the backdrop of the stage, where I thought I saw some kind of ethereal apparition dragging chains along behind it for a few seconds. I move on, read one of these scrolls on the ground in front of me, and it tells us:

"Heading into the depths of the Crypt, I hear the pitiful sobs of a woman.

Consumed by love for a knight who betrayed the Bernhard family, she threw herself into the pit, searching for him.
For centuries, her sorrow has echoed off the catacomb walls, under the light of the guardian angel."

You start adding things up in your head, connecting what you see in the backgrounds and environments with these scrolls. The result is a real boost to the world the game is set in, making it more atmospheric and eerie.These little dialogue breaks from the action impressed me with only two or so of them included in the demo, and look forward to playing the game and finding more of these. I just hope they are well written and add to the game. I don't want to end up skipping past the dialogue without reading it.

So I should probably wrap up now and go to sleep. Definitely interested in this game more than I was previously before the demo came out, and its way up on my list of games that are coming out soon. In fact, I preordered it today from ShopTo, partly to get some awesome looking posters as a preorder bonus, but mostly because I really enjoy the Castlevania games. Even the poorer outings in the series usually end up being pretty solid games, and I believe this will be a solid title, building upon the lore of the previous Lords of Shadow game, and taking it 26 years later.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate releases for the Nintendo 3DS in North America on March 5th 2013, Europe on March 8th 2013 and in Japan on March 20th 2013.


Chalgyr Vokel said...

Great impressions - this is one of the 3DS titles I have been watching rather closely and am looking forward to playing myself

Berserk_Alucard said...

Thanks =) Yeah, I've been a big Castlevania fan for a long time and this is one that has snuck up my list of games I'm looking at fairly quickly but quietly.
I feel its not been talked about a huge amount so far, which is kind of a shame