Review: Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow — Mirror Of Fate HD Has Undeniable Charm
Zipping up my boots... going back to my roots!
- Worth The Time?If you're into side-scrollers or old-school Castlevania then yes.
- Things LovedThe combat is distinctly 'Castlevania' with whips and powers; The atmosphere of the castle is just the right amount of eery; The story goes along quite nicely; The music in this game elevates it to another level of awesome; There is a lot to do in this game.
- Things HatedThere are noticeable framerate drops at times, telling of a poorly optimised HD port; The mini-map can be horrendously confusing to navigate; controls can get clumsy during navigation and combat; it's still not the prettiest game to look at.
- RecommendationThis game is one for the fans; therefore, if you're one of those gamers who misses the old style of Castlevania games then this one pretty much caters specifically to your needs. Doubly so if you're a fan of the Lords of Shadow series and are looking to fill the gaps between the two bigger titles. Definitely look to get your fangs in this one as soon as possible if you're a fan.
- Name: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD
- Genre: Side-scroller
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, DS
- Developer: MercurySteam
- Publisher: Konami
- Price: $15
- Reviewed On: PC (Steam)
Nowadays when we talk about the ‘hardcore gamer’ we are likely referring to someone who plays a lot of Dark Souls and thinks that anyone who plays games on anything other than the highest difficulty is a n00b, but some time ago the ‘hardcore gamer’ was really into the Castlevania series, a bunch of games which offered frustration in droves which said ‘hardcore gamer’ would call challenging, and a deep and complex story to tie in all of the things that happened between the so-called challenge segments. Puzzles were also involved.
The term ‘metroidvania’ is actually borne of this concept, most notably with the ‘vania’ coming from early Castlevania titles now multiple decades old, and with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate HD, that’s exactly the kind of game MercurySteam was trying to pull off. You see, to any Castlevania fan, there are four words you can whisper into their ears that will drive them wild. Those words are, “Symphony of the Night.” Ever since, fans of the series have been clamouring for more but have been left consistently disappointed. And when MercurySteam decided to take the Castlevania series in their own entirely unique direction with Lords of Shadow, you can bet your ass that it was met with more than a whimper from irate fans of the series.
Cue Mirror of Fate, essentially MercurySteam’s idea of what the Lords of Shadow games might look like if they adopted the ‘metroidvania’ style of gameplay. The result is a 2D/3D hybrid title that looks perilously like a fish out of water, and yet, somehow, has an undeniable charm to it.
I have to admit that I’m fighting myself quite a bit to try and find criticisms for Mirror of Fate. But then, I’m not an old-school ‘hardcore gamer’ and I quite enjoyed the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series thus far, so perhaps it’s not a massive surprise then that I’m willing to see the positives of the game. At its heart, Mirror of Fate doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be. It knows that it wants to be a side-scroller like the old Castlevania games, with the old-school mini-map at the top that absolutely nobody in the world can interpret, and the excess of puzzling through a castle setting, with the ultimate goal being to destroy Dracula. That’s all there.
However it’s also trying to be the Lords of Shadow games, with that deep and complex story thrown into the mix, often confusing and unnecessarily convoluted and yet somehow interesting as well. Also, there’s the excess of battling with weapons and powers that you might be familiar with from playing the Lords of Shadow games. Also, that combat cross makes a reappearance. So what exactly is Mirror of Fate, but a confused and shockingly awkward hybrid game that is neither here nor there?
Well you see, it’s a game that has boundless amounts of spirit and while it will never be Symphony of the Night, I can’t help but feel that it was never the intended point of the game to even so much as try.
It’s for this reason that I can respect MercurySteam for what they have tried to create here. Mirror of Fate follows three generations of Belmonts beginning with the ever-popular Simon Belmont, grandson of Gabriel and son of Trevor, and moves on to each of the others as well as Alucard, whom players will know is actually [SPOILERS] after he was bitten by Dracula, whom players will know is actually [SPOILERS]. The result is a bit of time-jumping here and there but what it does in terms of the story is present something that is, well, deep and complex. And yet thoroughly intriguing.
Throughout the story you will be navigating Dracula’s well-publicised castle and fighting all sorts of different enemies, which sounds great at first but then we get down to it and the combat is… well. I mean, it exists and it works insofar as things will die if you hit them enough times, but I feel as if this style of combat was more suited to the 3D style of the Lords of Shadow games. That said, the whip-action attacks combined with the powers do at least feel like a proper Castlevania title even with the Lords of Shadow touches. It’s just a shame that sometimes fighting enemies can be clunky and clumsy rather than smooth and flowing. I want to blame the port but I think the problem here actually lies in the fact that the combat system from Lords of Shadow was basically turned into a 2D version of itself here, rather than entirely reinvented. A bit lazy there, MercurySteam?
Characters level up along the way and new combos are unlocked per level, with later playable characters inheriting the levels of former ones, meaning that there is effectively shared experience in this game, across all characters. Each character does have their own set of weapons and powers but for the most part they’re just re-skins or slight variations of each other so while the characters themselves are interesting, the combat is kept more or less intact across characters. Navigation is another story, with some characters bringing the likes of a double-jump into the mix.
At this point you could be forgiven for going, “But I don’t see the appeal yet, Cavie. What gives?” And I would forgive you for this transgression. In fact, there are yet more criticisms of the game to be mentioned, the likes of framerate drops, which I couldn’t figure out at all; were they the fault of my PC or the fault of a shoddy port? Further, I mean, this is essentially a game made for 3DS so no amount of HD remastering is going to make it look anything even remotely resembling pretty with this visual style.
And yet, do you see these cutscenes? Are they not the coolest cutscenes you’ve ever seen? Okay sure they lack the visual crispness and clarity of something from Diablo III but in their own way, they’re gorgeous. And it doesn’t stop there, either. The entire atmosphere of the castle is a direct result of one thing and one thing only: The sound. This game has undoubtedly some of the most hauntingly beautiful and eery soundtracks that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in a very long time, and it absolutely does the job of getting you into the perfect mood to play this game. If I had to describe it in words, I’d probably call it ‘desolation meets wonder’.
So in the end what we have is MercurySteam’s best attempt at an old-school Castlevania game, without sacrificing the core elements of their Lords of Shadow series. It has the side-scrolling platforming, albeit far easier than the Castlevania games of old. It has the deep and complex story, albeit told from the perspectives of multiple characters. It has whip-based combat system, albeit ripped directly from Lords of Shadow. It is by no means a perfect game and a lot of the old-school ‘hardcore gamers’ would likely shun it but you know what? I don’t care because while playing this game, I was enjoying myself. I had fun. And something about the word ‘fun’ tells me that it ought to count for something. Wouldn’t you say?
Mirror of Fate is all charm and spirit and sometimes a game that tries and only half succeeds is better than a game that never even bothers in the first place. It’s for this reason that I cannot help but like the game and consider it to be a worthy addition to the Castlevania series. Sure it’s no Symphony of the Night and the Vampire Killer granddads of the world might hate it but for a new generation of Castlevania fans, this game is just about right.