Release Date: March 25, 2014Platform: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PCDeveloper: Mercury SteamPublisher: KonamiGenre: Action-adventure
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 was a strange beast of a game. For every step forward, it seemed to take ten big steps back. The game let you play as the all-powerful Dracula, but you had to sneak around and avoid most enemies, rather than fighting them. It was built around a more open-ended world, but constantly regenerating enemies and extensive backtracking made it a chore to actually explore. Now with the series fan-favorite Alucard taking center stage in the game’s first story-based DLC, Revelations, can Dracula’s son make everyone forget the moody, inconsistent mess his father left behind?
The story in Revelations is as simple as simple gets, and it takes place before the events of Lords of Shadow 2, A.K.A. Dracula’s Teenage Growing Pains. Alucard is visited by the spirit of his mother and Dracula’s late wife, Marie, and tasked with recovering the Void Sword and Chaos Claws so Dracula can later use them to fend off Satan’s army. That’s really all there is to it, and the only apparent revelation to be had from the narrative is one we’ve kind of already understood just from playing through the main game: how Alucard ended up assuming the role of Zobek’s lieutenant.
Thankfully, the majority of Revelations takes place in the Castle portion of the world, and so there’s no convoluted jumping back and forth between different realities like in the main game, and best of all, no incredibly forced stealth sections that completely bog down the Castlevania experience! The environments themselves, including extensions of areas already traversed as Dracula throughout the main game (Overlook Tower) and completely new ones entirely (The Forbidden Wing), are brimming with the same kind of creativity and engaging level design that we saw in the original Lords of Shadow. It’s kind of bittersweet in a way, because Revelations often feels like a brief glimpse of the game that Lords of Shadow 2 could have been, and then it’s gone.
There’s a welcomed emphasis on solving environmental puzzles this time around, which is due in large part to Alucard’s new set of abilities. And don’t worry – they’re a lot cooler than turning into mist or possessing a rat and then sneaking around in the shadows. One of the best new mechanics is Alucard’s ability to reverse time on specific environmental objects, reforming collapsed bridges and platforms for a limited time, and allowing access to previously closed-off areas. This is often coupled with the wolf transforming ability, which lets Alucard make bounding jumps, and also functions a bit like Dracula’s mist to enable passage through grates or bars. Finally, Alucard can fly short distances as a swarm of bats, which really puts a thrilling and fast-paced twist on the game’s platforming segments.
As for the combat itself, Alucard controls largely the same as Dracula from the main game, save for a sword-based weapon instead of a whip. You’ll even get to unlock new skills for your weapon and achieve different levels of mastery through continued usage in battle, which gives the short and sweet add-on a little something extra in the replay department. Unfortunately, given the brief length of the game (you’ll be able to complete the whole thing in under 2 hours), there are only two boss encounters, and neither of which are all that striking or memorable, to say the least.
In many ways, the Revelations DLC serves as a blatant reminder of how great the first Lords of Shadow game was, how awful the second one became, and how even Alucard’s presence isn’t quite enough to gloss over that latter fact. With fun combat, a dark and imaginative world that’s actually encouraging and easy to explore, and thoughtful environmental puzzles to tackle, Alucard’s brief stint under the player’s control is a better experience than Dracula’s long-winded adventure was as a whole. The only bad thing about it is that you’ll need to own Lords of Shadow 2 first before getting to play.