Finished Lords of Shadow 2 last night and with that my revisit of the Lords of Shadow trilogy for the first time in almost 10 years is now concluded.
So let's talk about Lords of Shadow 2 and I have a lot to say and not really for good reasons either.
Out of all the games I've played in my life this is definitely one of the ones I am most mixed on. For everything I like about the game there's another thing that I dislike and for every moment I'm having fun and enjoying the game the next area right after might be so miserable that I just want to quit playing the game. It's honestly impressive in its own right.
The story in Lords of Shadow 2 is really weird and while I like elements of it I just think the execution could've been much better and it comes off as very convoluted. You play as Dracula who after waking up for the first time in hundreds of years is weakened and must recover his powers so he can stop the resurrection of Satan on earth. Seems simple enough right? Well the problem is the story jumps back and forth between modern day segments where Dracula has to hunt down the acolytes of Satan in the modern day and some weird dream-like parts where Dracula gets brought back to his castle in the past and is guided by his dead wife and child to recover his powers. The narrative goes back and forth between present and past, modern and medieval, but that isn't even the confusing part...
What's most confusing is how some things are very vague and never fully explained and then other things just completely contradict each other. Like Dracula going back to his old castle is very symbolic of him facing the guilt and trauma he feels about being the reason his family died and he has to learn how to forgive himself to unlock the powers deep within him, hell you even fight a boss called 'Inner Dracula' which is the most literal sense of "facing your demons" and I love all this psychological exploration of Dracula, it's really cool because it humanizes him (With thanks to Robert Carlyle's incredible voice acting performance) and makes him more of a multidimensional anti-hero than a pure villain. However there's a scene where his dead wife completely contradicts this because she says she was brought back by GOD himself to help guide him??? So I guess that means the castle ISN'T just symbolic and Dracula is quite literally going back to a real version of his castle through some kind of magic? What makes this even more confusing is the Alucard DLC where Alucard goes to the castle as well, but young Trevor exists in the castle world and Alucard is Trevor so like....I really just don't get it. It just doesn't make sense.
That's just the biggest and weirdest inconsistency in the plot and there's definitely many others, but we'll be here all day if I break them all down so I'll just leave off with the plot should be very simple, but how it was told was in a messy and convoluted way and the fact it constantly goes back and forth also completely destroys the pacing. Oh yeah and the ending feels insanely rushed and anticlimactic. Like this was always meant to be the ending to the trilogy with no plans for another game, but they leave so many loose threads and it just makes me angry, not to mention the final boss in the first Lords of Shadow is one of the best final bosses ever, but the final boss in Lords of Shadow 2 is very disappointing by comparison.
So how is the gameplay you might be asking? Well I can inform you that it is just as damn mixed as the plot. The past segments are the highlights with the level design genuinely being well crafted with some stunning scenery that is fun to explore with a solid metroidvania design which encourages backtracking for upgrades when you get new powers, but the modern parts of the game takes place in a really bland pseudo open world city (Which is literally called "Castlevania City" due to being built over the remains of Dracula's castle and that'll never not be funny to me) where a lot of it is focused on forced stealth sections where Dracula has to turn into a rat and hide from enemies. This is also another way the game's pacing gets destroyed because going from past segments with more emphasis on combat and boss fights (Though even the castle segments have some awful forced stealth moments too) into present day where you are forced to hide is just jarring and it happens many times throughout the game making up at least 25% of the game's runtime. To make matters worse the first Lords of Shadow had some cool puzzles and those are almost all completely removed here to add the new stealth sections.
However credit where credit is due, the combat which is the primary focus of the game is genuinely great. It's similar to the first Lords of Shadow being very fast and fluid, but expanded and even more complex due to the fact the Light and Dark Magic systems which heal and do more damage now have new weapons attached to them being the Void Sword and the Shadow Claws and these come with their own move-sets and skill trees just like your main weapon the Shadow Whip. You also have a phase dash now instead of a dodge roll and the camera can be controlled freestyle compared to the first game that had fixed camera angles which definitely helps combat play smoother. Most of the boss fights are genuinely very fun and look awesome as well and whenever I was in combat was when I was having the most fun with the game.
Unfortunately the enemy variety is severely lacking missing many classic staples from the old Castlevania games and even many that were in the first Lords of Shadow. You mostly fight demons that look like they came straight out of DOOM, mechs that wouldn't be out of place in MGS and some skeletons so it ends up getting very repetitive and a lot of it just doesn't even feel like Castlevania. Lords of Shadow didn't feel like Castlevania a lot of the times either, but it still felt like a grandiose adventure which made it great in its own right. Lords of Shadow 2 takes place in a completely secular environment so it doesn't even have that adventurous feeling to enhance it.
At the end of the day Lords of Shadow 2 was a game plagued by a very troubled development process (Look it up on YouTube, there's multiple videos explaining what happened) and that certainly did no favors for it. This is a game that 2 separate teams of people worked on without tight coordination between each other and it shows because between the old school metroidvania style castle parts and the bland modern-day stealth sections plus the confusing, convoluted and contradictory story, Lords of Shadow 2 feels more like 2 different games that were mashed together to form 1 game and for this reason while the combat is great and there's plenty of interesting ideas spread throughout, at the end of the day it is very disappointing as both a Castlevania game and a Lords of Shadow game and a truly lackluster finale to a sadly very mixed and confused trilogy that unfortunately put the final nail in the coffin to one of my all time favorite franchises.