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E3 10: Hands-on with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

12:05 AM on 06.16.2010 // Jim Sterling

What happens when you marry one of the most respected developers in the industry with one of the most revered franchises in history? Kojima Productions and Castlevania may have sounded weird when Lords of Shadow was released last year, but my hands-on impressions of the game seem to indicate that the concept is a potential success when put into practice.

Read on for my full hands-on impressions of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

Lords of Shadow is set in the year 1047, featuring an ancestral vampire hunter by the name of Gabriel Belmont. Gabriel is fighting to bring back his dead wife by obtaining a magical mask and conquering the game's sinister evildoers. Although werewolves were the only enemies available in my demo, I was informed that old school baddies like Old Armors and Medusa Heads are set to appear, providing obligatory nods to previous games. 

The game is a straight-up action title, with light RPG elements. Fighting is combo-based and simple to get into, with Gabriel performing chain attacks with his whip in a very gory, very violent combat atmosphere. Belmont will gain experience points to spend on new combat moves and items, and the item purchase screen is rather cool, set inside a "travel book" and featuring rather pretty illustrations that give a visual presentation on what new combat moves do. I've also been told you can buy a wooden stake attachment for the end of your whip, which is badassery of the highest order. 

The combat is tight and fluid, with responsive controls, and block and dodge moves that work really well. In addition to button mashing combat, Belmont can grab enemies for humiliating power moves. Once grabbed, a large circle will close around a smaller circle onscreen. Once the circles align, pressing any button will see Gabriel take them out with a sublime jumping chokeslam. 

As well as combat on foot, Gabriel is pretty handy on horseback. Here is where the game gets ridiculously awesome, as Belmont fights werewolves... that are riding werewolves. That's right -- while Gabriel's horse speeds ahead of its own accord, Simon's ancestor is fighting lycanthropes that ride on the backs of larger lycanthropes. Gabriel has the option of attacking the rider or the steed, and can jump onto the enemy rides for cutscene-driven carnage. I was informed that Gabriel himself will get to ride a werewolf later on, along with other creatures that can be tamed. 

It seems that there will be quite a bit of depth to the game, with areas that can be replayed later with new items to reach fresh areas, and a whole host of new attacks and upgrades, along with air-based combos and boss battles. I heard the game will sport a 24-hour long campaign, so there should be a decent amount of gameplay for your money. 

My time spent with Lords of Shadow was brief, but wholly pleasant. It's hard to say how well the overall game stands to fare based on my playtime, but the E3 demo was solid and fun. It's not the traditional Castlevania you're used to, but the Dante's Inferno and God of War set will love it. If you want traditional Castlevania, however, don't worry. Just keep reading Destructoid where we will have a preview of Harmony of Despair on XBLA.

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Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
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