My first few hours of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow were a struggle. I struggled with the controls (I really need to stand still and press in the left stick in the middle of combat to collect magic orbs?) I struggled with the platforming (I really just lowered myself down a rope into a bottomless pit?) I struggled with when to block (earlier than it looked) and even when to hit a button for a quick-time event (later than it looked). I struggled with trying to figure out what the game was trying to tell me – having to refer to guides for how to fights the first two Titans (awkward Shadow of the Colossus knock-offs) since I couldn’t figure it out from what the game was showing and telling me. The game even actively mislead me, teaching me about the importance of blocking using an enemy whose attacks mostly can’t be blocked.
I struggled with awkward, branching, looping level layouts, rendered inscrutable by the lack of a map, and the static camera angles that tend to completely flip orientation between screens. It’s near-impossible to build a mental map of the levels under these circumstances, and it’s particularly frustrating since the game is fond of requiring meticulous exploration of these environments to collect pieces of keys or whatnot in order to progress.
And I struggled to care about the story, told more through the bland, overly serious narration of Patrick Stewart between chapters than within the game. I find it hard to form a connection to the character I’m controlling when the primary insight into his internal life is delivered via this third-party narration.
I almost gave up at one point – just after aforementioned blocking misinformation session – but I’ve decided to persevere. I came across a forum post mentioning that specific encounter as the worst difficulty spike in the game.
The magic system, now that I’m starting to get the hang of it, seems smartly designed, requiring interesting decisions about resource-management while rewarding good play. And now that I’ve realized this is a game as much about dodging as blocking, I’ve gotten into a good, satisfying rhythm of rolling around while slipping in some well-timed attacks. And, apparently, the environments become better in the second half, transitioning from the bland jungles and ruins of the first two chapters into something more gothic and dramatic, and, frankly, more Castlevania-like.
Plus, the story is actually starting to pick up. Everything is still too serious and overwrought, but at least we’re starting to move a little beyond Hero saves the world/saves the girl stuff. So things are looking up and I’m going to stick it out for now.