Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is nothing like any other Castlevania game I’ve played. And by that I mean it’s not good.
The Lords of Shadow series was supposed to be a reboot for Castlevania, with new canon and a whole new take on the gameplay. But Mirror of Fate feels like a game that turned back from that path — trying to recapture the best elements of past Castlevania titles — but tripped along the way. The result is a game I’m not sure what to compare it to. So, I’m just going to compare it to all of them, pointing out how it came up short in almost every regard.
This is the easiest thing to get in Castlevania. We just want Dracula, a cool plot twist, and maybe a glimpse at the characters’ inner turmoil. I can appreciate that the series wants to show us how much the Belmonts sacrifice, and how evil Dracula really is, but Mirror of Fate just tries too damn hard.
Everywhere I go there’s another scroll from a dead soldier saying the same thing. “Dracula did something evil and I died!” It’s a classic example of telling, not showing. Previous games were more effective by simply dangling some skeletons over a row of torture devices. You can pretty much put the story together yourself from there, and I didn’t have to stop the action every five minutes to read about it.
What’s more annoying is the clichéd writing. About half-way through the game you get to play as Alucard, who has that special kind of amnesia that only hinders plot-convenient memories. He doesn’t even remember who he is at first, and has forgotten all his special powers. But he has no trouble remembering who Simon Belmont is, or that he has to kill Dracula for some (undisclosed) reason.
Though I like the idea of playing though important scenes as Simon, and then later replaying them as Alucard helping Simon from behind the scenes (usually by solving a puzzle), it’s not interesting enough to make me want to see the story through to the end.
Unlike every other Castlevania, where you encountered three new monsters per room, here you can go five to ten minutes without even seeing an enemy. And when you do fight, it’s the same five or six creatures everywhere you go. Half the battles are staged ordeals, with magical barriers showing up to lock you in place and force you to fight in a flat, featureless 2D space.
You’d think that switching to Alucard half-way through the game might spice things up, no? Well, he’s almost identical to Simon, down to them both using the same whip-style weapon.
And what a waste of Alucard’s transformations! In Symphony of the Night, Alucard could turn into a wolf that ran like the wind and barreled through enemies. His mist could float through foes and obstacles as an invincible haze. In this game, wolf form just turns Alucard into a furry biped who deals extra damage (and still uses a whip!). Mist form gives you one new move that steals HP when dashing through foes. It just feels like lazy work.
What happened to the awesome soundtrack that got me pumped to battle? What happened to the epic organ-infused rock that welcomed me into the dark castle’s embrace and let me know, “It’s on!”
There’s hardly any music in the game at all, really. It’s mostly ambiance that I assume was meant to instill a feeling of dread and darkness, but it just kind of depressed me and reminded me how alone I was in the castle (e.g., not fighting monsters).
The last Lords of Shadow was simply a linear game where you fought your way from point A to point B. This one tries to pretend it’s different by putting you in a castle with lots of interconnected rooms and side paths you need to open with special powers. But, that doesn’t change the fact that you have to follow a rigid path in order to progress.
There is almost nothing to discover on your own, as you run into a locked path almost immediately after straying. The game even puts a little red arrow on the map pointing where you have to go next, which at first I thought was nice to prevent me from getting hopelessly lost. But over time, I realized it took away any thrill of exploration that the game might have had.
The Little Things
Though not worth mentioning on their own, altogether these pissed me off more than any of the above:
- Taking damage from falls when the characters can clearly leap several stories in the cut scenes.
- Tapping B to open chests and doors (I don’t need carpel tunnel just so you can convince me the lid was heavy!).
- The animation is rough.
- Alucard looks dumb.
- Simon Belmont has a Scottish accent.
- Bad guy wants you dead, sets you on fire… then tosses you into a moat.
- The name’s too long.
As I said, I really do appreciate that Konami is trying to go in a new direction with the series. But that alone does not make this a good game. The original Lords of Shadow proved you can make a great Castlevania that’s unlike the classic titles and the “Metroidvania” ones. But somehow this strayed from even its prequel’s direction. Still, I hope they get their act back together and take another stab at making a a great Castlevania for 3DS.
Did the game have any redeeming qualities for you? Did something not mentioned here bother you? Tell us in the comments!