First let me start this review by saying that while I thought God of War (2018) was a very good game and liked it a lot I was never of the opinion it was a masterpiece or one of the greatest games ever made like a lot of people claimed. However I truly believe God of War Ragnarok is a genre defining masterpiece that only comes around once in a generation and improved upon God of War (2018) in genuinely every way imaginable. Ragnarok is the kind of game that even when I wasn't playing it because of work and other things all I could do was think about how much I wanted to play it and I know it is an experience that will stay with me until the day I die.
Like all good sequels God of War Ragnarok only expands upon what its predecessor set-up making everything bigger and more grandiose and turning it up to 11. The action and set-pieces (Seriously some of this stuff is so over-the-top it could give DMC or MGR a run for its money), the cast of characters, the bosses, the references to Norse myth, the side quests and most importantly the scope and stakes of the narrative, there's just so much more of ALL of it.
Speaking of the narrative, it is just simply incredible and not an exaggeration to say this game has some of the best writing in all of video games. Picking up 3 years after the events of God of War 2018, we see Kratos and Atreus trying to survive through Fimbulwinter in Midgard when Thor and Odin give them a surprise visit asking for peace in hopes of staving off Ragnarok and from there on things spiral out of control into a massive adventure across the Nine Realms with a complex narrative about prophecy, fate and war tangled in a web of character threads that span multiple families and all their interpersonal drama which slowly unravels and at the heart of it all is a story of a father and son with a bond so strong they would do anything to protect one another even if it means pushing each other away in the process with the hope of defying prophecy and fate itself all the while inadvertently slowly causing that very same prophecy to come true with every action they take to so desperately avoid it. Honestly never thought I'd see the day that a God of War game would make me cry, but Ragnarok got me not 1, but 3 different times. One of the most emotionally charged narratives I've experienced in awhile.
However a great narrative is meaningless without equally great characters to support it, but thankfully Ragnarok has them in spades. From the protagonists and heroes to the antagonists and even the side characters, every single one is written fantastically with realistic personalities and relatable, human goals they strive towards. Also not a single character feels underused, every one has their own arcs that give them time to shine and the sheer amount of character development and growth everyone in the game goes through is just staggering.
You simply can't talk about Ragnarok without mentioning its stellar blockbuster acting performances that are every bit as impressive as any movie. This game without a doubt has some of the greatest voice acting performances I've ever heard and they're paired up perfectly with the hyper realistic character models and animations that show just as much raw emotion as the voice performances themselves. From Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic as Kratos and Atreus to Danielle Bisutti as Freya, Alastair Duncan as Mimir, Richard Schiff as Odin and Ryan Hurst as Thor among many others, every single performance is masterfully acted and genuinely any character on the screen at any given time has the ability to steal a scene and make it their own because they're just all that talented and captivating.
Now I could talk about how much I love the narrative themes, characters and acting performances all day long, but since I want to keep this review relatively spoiler free lets talk about the gameplay now and it is rare a big budget AAA game has gameplay as captivating and enjoyable as the story because they usually focus more on the story, but Ragnarok manages to have its cake and eat it too so to speak because the gameplay is just as amazing as everything else.
Combat feels vastly improved upon having access to two weapons that have expanded move sets and skills right from the start of the game and eventually getting a new 3rd weapon adds so much more diversity and depth to the combat system allowing for chaining together much more satisfying combos than in 2018 that during my entire 45 hour playthrough I found the combat consistently enjoyable and entertaining.
One of my biggest complaints about God of War 2018 was the unnecessary pseudo RPG elements and I figured they'd be worse in Ragnarok, but somehow they are much better thanks to being expanded upon (Including a better and more in-depth crafting system) and right from the beginning of the game you have more choices available to you since you have both your weapons from God of War 2018 immediately at the start alongside a decent size skill tree for each weapon, 3 different types of armor and a shield and new mechanics and skills that are slowly unlocked and added on top of all that. One minor nitpick for me is that your level is still determined by your gear instead of actual battle experience and stat allocation so it's still not a true RPG, but it is very close to it in every other way.
Another minor complaint about 2018 I had was the lack of enemy variety and re-skin troll mini bosses, but Ragnarok also improves on that adding so many new enemy types, various creatures from Norse myth and fun mini-bosses and of course the main bosses which are without a doubt some of the coolest spectacles I've ever seen in a game.
Finally my biggest major complaint about God of War 2018 was the boring open world segments and despite having much heavier emphasis on exploration and more open world segments in Ragnarok they were consistently more enjoyable thanks to the beautiful and stunning art direction and incredible graphical fidelity that breathes so much diverse life into all of the Nine Realms and actually incentivizes you to explore them more. Also the fact the exploration is much more linear at first and slowly opens up as you progress further through the story unlocking various things reminded me of a Metroidvania style design and encourages you to backtrack to previous areas to find new secrets and thanks to heavier emphasis on platforming via grapple points and Uncharted-like climbing and there being legitimate dungeons to explore in the overworld with valuable loot to find exploration is both fun and always feels worthwhile. I also can not express how much I love that all your weapons are utilized as tools for puzzle solving and platforming as well enough because it makes for some super creative design choices which also helps to always keep exploration fresh.
I have to mention the side quests as well because they are much better compared to 2018 since they actually add to the world-building or provide extra detail and depth to characters. Honestly some of the side quests in this game are better written than most games main story, that's just how great the writing is in Ragnarok. Even side quests that you think are probably pointless busywork usually end up revealing some small detail about the world, a character's backstory or even just give you a meaningful interaction between Kratos and Atreus or other various characters so it is always worth doing aside from the quest rewards (like new gear or crafting materials) you get which are quite valuable in their own way.
Bear McCreary's score deserves to be mentioned as well because it is simply masterfully composed and from triumphant to melancholic it and just about everything in between it adds so much more emotional weight to every single scene that I just can not imagine the game without it.
God of War Ragnarok is the big budget Sony Blockbuster formula at its best. A true masterclass in both storytelling and game design that everyone deserves to experience. Ragnarok is one of those rare games where every single thing about it is just as perfect as possible, from the narrative and characters to the acting performances, gameplay, art, visuals and score there is simply nothing about this game I would change and when it all comes together it creates something truly special that will stand the test of time for decades to come and be remembered as not only one of the best games of 2022, but one of the best games of all time as well.

I like God of War 2018 a lot, I'd go far enough to say I love it and it is a great game, but it is not without its flaws. The narrative is well written, compelling, emotional and has some great twists with some of the absolute best moments in the whole series. Kratos gets amazing character development and the whole dynamic between him and Atreus is heartwarming and feels very organic and realistic especially thanks to the incredible voice acting performances of Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic.
The core combat is lots of fun and quite challenging at times since there is a bit of a Souls feel to it. Despite only having one weapon for half the game the Leviathan Axe can do so much that there's still a lot of variety to the combat and you do eventually get a 2nd weapon halfway through, but at the same time the combat does feel much simpler and watered down compared to old God of War titles, not being able to jump alone drastically reduces combo variety. There's some incredible boss fights, but also far too many reskinned troll mini bosses.
Back when I first played this game 4 years ago I remember saying I enjoyed the open world and RPG elements and I don't know if this is because I played 5 super linear action games back to back or if it is because I have grown even more increasingly disgusted with the checklist gaming open-world design of every modern day AAA game (maybe a little of both), but exploring the world and doing remedial tasks just to find gear you're going to replace in a couple hours or resources for upgrades feels like such a slog and it breaks up the pacing of the story as well.
I can't help but think that God of War 2018 would be a much better and more cohesive game if it was a linear story driven experience akin to the old God of War games or Uncharted and didn't have the shoehorned open-world and RPG elements thrown in just because that's what is popular and what sells games nowadays. However a lot of people will complain if a $60 game isn't long enough so developers add a bunch of pointless filler side content as padding to say 'See our game is 50 hours!' and honestly it is just exhausting and detracts from the experience as far as I'm concerned.
I will still say God of War is one of the best AAA titles to come out in years and still mostly delivers on the hype it generated with a beautiful story, enjoyable combat and breathtaking visuals, but there's still a few pitfalls of modern gaming design tropes that the game would've been better off without and I'm sure that stuff won't even bother a lot of people who play the game, but I guess I'm just too much of a boomer who misses old school game design nowadays.

Let me start off by saying I have no nostalgia for this game, I didn't grow up with a PS3 and the very first time I played it was back in 2017 so this is only my 2nd time playing the game so when I say it is my favorite in the series it is through a fresh experience and not rose-tinted glasses.
God of War III features bigger and more grandiose set-pieces and locations, the sheer scale of the game is just insane exploring everywhere from Hades to the heights of Mt Olympus and who could forget the breathtaking, awestriking view as you climb the Chain of Balance or move the Labyrinth cubes in the cavern. I still think God of War I&II have more of an adventurous feeling since in God of War III you're mostly just in Olympus the whole game, but the sheer scope and scale of the locations and set-pieces more than make up for that.
Of course the locations are not the only thing that is bigger and better. No, the boss fights are easily some of the coolest and most epic in not only the whole series, but action video games in general. God of War III is a game that revels in its gory spectacle and every boss fight is just a joy to watch unfold from the very beginning of fighting Poseidon on the back of the Titan Gaia to carving off pieces of Hades flesh or ripping off fingernails from the Titan Chronos as you scale his body and even getting into a bloody fist fight with Hercules (Shout out to the devs for getting Kevin Sorbo who voiced Hercules in the iconic 90s show 'Hercules the Legendary Journeys' to voice him in this game as well). God of War II introduced epic boss fights with heroes and demi-gods from Greek myths, but in God of War III you actually get to fight the gods themselves and I was never once disappointed with how those fights played out.
Combat is mostly the same as the first two games, Kratos still has his primary blades (Known as the Blades of Exile in this game) alongside various magic powers and other weapons you pick up on your journey like the Claws of Hades or the Neman Cestus. There is one major addition to the formula like the Item Power bar which recovers over time after using secondary items like Apollo's Bow or Herme's Boots which are mostly used for platforming and puzzles, but also have combos tied to them which can add an edge in combat. This is the most polished, fast, fluid and complex the combat formula has ever been in God of War to date.
The story for God of War III is once again a tale of vengeance as Kratos butchers all the greek gods one by one on his path to Zeus and causes an apocalyptic event to befall the people of Greece. This time Kratos must quell the deadly Flame of Olympus to once again use Pandora's Box against Zeus as he did all those years ago against Ares and to do that he must find Pandora herself. God of War III expands the world and lore of the series in clever ways that often even tie back into the very first game flipping what we thought we knew on its head and I love that. Also I will say how I saw that at the time of this game's first release a lot of people complained about the ending and found it weird, but I love the dynamic between Kratos and Pandora and how she helps him develop and grow and it fits even better after playing God of War (2018). So I would say that God of War III ended the trilogy in a very satisfying way because while it is very dark and tragic there's still a glimmer of hope for the future as well.
God of War is a series that has only gotten better every new entry (At least in terms of the original trilogy) God of War (2005) set the standard for action/adventure games, God of War II redefined that standard and raised the bar in every way imaginable and finally God of War III mastered and perfected the formula. Featuring more grandiose set-pieces, some of the most epic bosses in the action game genre, the best God of War combat system to date and a well written story that gives a satisfying conclusion to Kratos' vengeance filled trilogy, God of War III is everything I loved about the first two games, but turned up to 11 making it the definitive God of War experience.

Replaying God of War II for the first time in 15 years reminded me why I loved this game so much as a teenager and why it is still my favorite of the trilogy. The PS2 has a library of over 1000 games and even so you'd be hard pressed to find many that reach the same heights as God of War II, truly one of the finest games available on the system.
God of War II picks up roughly 13 years after the events of the first game. Kratos is now the new God of War. Shunned by his fellow gods for his destructive ways, Kratos finds a new family in his Spartan Army and starts to lay waste to Greece one city at a time. Naturally this angers Zeus and he takes matters into his own hands by betraying Kratos, stripping him of his godly power and killing him out of fear that Kratos will kill him first. Kratos finds new allies in the Titans who are the sworn enemies of the Gods and after crawling out of Hades itself he sets out on a new quest for revenge against the Gods by journeying to the Island of Creation and seeking an audience with the Sisters of Fate in hopes of turning back time, changing his fate and stopping Zeus' betrayal before it ever even happens.
Running nearly double the length of the first game, this story is just simply epic from start to finish and I love the themes of defying the Gods and taking fate into your own hands. Kratos' quest to change fate itself mostly takes place on the Island of Creation, but the level design is so well crafted, creative and diverse you'd think it was an epic sprawling adventure across the whole world like the first game despite being much more secular in nature. My personal fave area has to be the Palace of the Fates near the end of the game, the way all the individual areas and puzzles are so intricately connected in the Palace of the Fates is just masterclass game design.
The first God of War primarily focused around building Kratos' backstory and giving him character development, but God of War II puts more emphasis on expanding the world of God of War and boy does it do so marvelously. Bringing in many various legends and myths from the story of Chronos and the Titans to the three Sisters of Fate Lachesis, Atropos and Clotho or Jason from Jason and the Argonauts (Shout out to the skeleton enemies that have animations and move similarly to the ones in the 60s Argonauts movie) Icarus, Prometheus and Perseus (Who is also voiced by Harry Hamlin who played Perseus in the 80s Clash of the Titans movie) among others. This game is filled to the brim with references to heroes and legends in Greek myth and so much detail went into making them feel authentic in this world and that's one of my favorite parts of the game. No other game has captured Greek myth as well as God of War II has.
While the combat is mostly the same as the first there are some newly added magic powers and an expanded weapons arsenal adding a couple new sub weapons (although I honestly find those kind of useless), but where the gameplay of God of War II is truly expanded upon is thanks to Kratos being able to grapple onto things alongside getting many items including an amulet which lets him slow time Prince of Persia style or a pair of wings to glide with which add an extra layer of dimension to both the platforming and puzzles that are found throughout the game.
God of War II is a game that takes everything I loved about the first and turns it up to 11 making it more grandiose. Whether that be the higher stakes narrative, detailed world-building with much love for the mythology it represents or expanded gameplay systems, if God of War (2005) set the standard for action adventure games then God of War II redefined it and raised the bar in every way imaginable. A sequel just as iconic and memorable as its predecessor and a journey well worth going on even 15 years later.

Replaying God of War II for the first time in 15 years reminded me why I loved this game so much as a teenager and why it is still my favorite of the trilogy. The PS2 has a library of over 1000 games and even so you'd be hard pressed to find many that reach the same heights as God of War II, truly one of the finest games available on the system.
God of War II picks up roughly 13 years after the events of the first game. Kratos is now the new God of War. Shunned by his fellow gods for his destructive ways, Kratos finds a new family in his Spartan Army and starts to lay waste to Greece one city at a time. Naturally this angers Zeus and he takes matters into his own hands by betraying Kratos, stripping him of his godly power and killing him out of fear that Kratos will kill him first. Kratos finds new allies in the Titans who are the sworn enemies of the Gods and after crawling out of Hades itself he sets out on a new quest for revenge against the Gods by journeying to the Island of Creation and seeking an audience with the Sisters of Fate in hopes of turning back time, changing his fate and stopping Zeus' betrayal before it ever even happens.
Running nearly double the length of the first game, this story is just simply epic from start to finish and I love the themes of defying the Gods and taking fate into your own hands. Kratos' quest to change fate itself mostly takes place on the Island of Creation, but the level design is so well crafted, creative and diverse you'd think it was an epic sprawling adventure across the whole world like the first game despite being much more secular in nature. My personal fave area has to be the Palace of the Fates near the end of the game, the way all the individual areas and puzzles are so intricately connected in the Palace of the Fates is just masterclass game design.
The first God of War primarily focused around building Kratos' backstory and giving him character development, but God of War II puts more emphasis on expanding the world of God of War and boy does it do so marvelously. Bringing in many various legends and myths from the story of Chronos and the Titans to the three Sisters of Fate Lachesis, Atropos and Clotho or Jason from Jason and the Argonauts (Shout out to the skeleton enemies that have animations and move similarly to the ones in the 60s Argonauts movie) Icarus, Prometheus and Perseus (Who is also voiced by Harry Hamlin who played Perseus in the 80s Clash of the Titans movie) among others. This game is filled to the brim with references to heroes and legends in Greek myth and so much detail went into making them feel authentic in this world and that's one of my favorite parts of the game. No other game has captured Greek myth as well as God of War II has.
While the combat is mostly the same as the first there are some newly added magic powers and an expanded weapons arsenal adding a couple new sub weapons (although I honestly find those kind of useless), but where the gameplay of God of War II is truly expanded upon is thanks to Kratos being able to grapple onto things alongside getting many items including an amulet which lets him slow time Prince of Persia style or a pair of wings to glide with which add an extra layer of dimension to both the platforming and puzzles that are found throughout the game.
God of War II is a game that takes everything I loved about the first and turns it up to 11 making it more grandiose. Whether that be the higher stakes narrative, detailed world-building with much love for the mythology it represents or expanded gameplay systems, if God of War (2005) set the standard for action adventure games then God of War II redefined it and raised the bar in every way imaginable. A sequel just as iconic and memorable as its predecessor and a journey well worth going on even 15 years later.

Forgot how damn great this game is and I basically played through the whole game in one 7 hour sitting yesterday because I couldn't put it down once I started. This is a game I played a lot as a kid and it definitely left a huge impact on me because even 15 years later I still remembered almost every single thing about the game from the level design to the puzzles and story as if I had just played it yesterday.
God of War is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve proudly taking elements and ideas from series like Prince of Persia, Devil May Cry, Onimusha and ICO and God of War was described by David Jaffe himself as not being developed to be innovative or unique. Yet the funny thing is 17 years later and God of War is a game that has become so iconic and influential due to how it masterfully blended all its influences into a whole new breed of action adventure game unlike anything seen before that it spawned an entire generation of games that desperately wanted to be the next God of War.
Like I said, God of War is such an iconic game and franchise that it is so ingrained into gaming culture to where I don't even need to do a super long review on it because you'd be hard pressed to find someone who isn't familiar with the game or Kratos as a protagonist, but I'm still going to do it anyways just because it is a classic and deserves to be talked about in depth.
God of War is a dark and tragic filled modern take on a classic Greek odyssey that follows the story of Kratos, a once great commander in the Spartan army now a very broken and troubled man looking to find peace from the nightmares of his countless unspeakable crimes that haunt his dreams, Kratos is tasked by Athena to kill the God of War Ares and promised to be absolved of his sins if he completes this task.
Right from that very first iconic opening cut-scene of Kratos jumping off the highest cliff in Athens attempting to end it all, the story instantly pulls you in and the plot is slowly revealed with some thoughtful twists and turns as you make your way through the game. This is a simple story compared to many nowadays, but it is also a timeless one that focuses around the themes of vengeance and anger and I think that's exactly what makes it so memorable and effective.
Now I'm not going to say Kratos was the first anti-hero in video games, but I will say he was one of the first to popularize this style of protagonist and back in 2005 there really was no one else like him which definitely helps set the game apart from its contemporaries. Kratos is a brutal, ruthless wrathful man who has killed many in his past, will stop at nothing to achieve his goals and he's not above sacrificing innocents if it benefits him. Everywhere you go characters in the world recognize Kratos and are terrified of him, but even with all that said there's still an air of tragedy to his character, this is a man who lashes out at the world through rage and hate simply because he doesn't know or understand any other way and you can't help but feel sorry for him and wonder if there could've been another way.
Gameplay is primarily divided into two sections. You've got the core combat which is the bulk of the gameplay and while it feels a lot more barebones compared to many games nowadays, it's still a fun and fast system with plenty of weapons, powers and combos to chain together and accommodate different playstyles from Kratos' main weapon the whip-like Blades of Chaos to the AOE spell Poseidon's Wrath or the ranged spell Zeus' Fury there's a little for all occasions. While not in combat there's plenty of well crafted platforming and puzzle sections to make sure the combat never becomes too monotonous.
God of War is a game that is notable for its cinematic presentation. While most other games suffered from immersion-breaking loading screens back in the day, God of War's story mode switches seamlessly from the title screen to FMV sequences, to gameplay, and back, with very little load time. I read that David Jaffe took inspiration from Indiana Jones while making the game and I believe it because God of War is an epic journey like no other, from fictionalized versions of the real-world Aegean Sea and city of Athens to the Desert of Lost Souls, Temple of Pandora and even the Underworld itself, God of War features plenty of grandiose locations to explore. The fixed camera angles and bombastic film score OST really help to enhance the cinematic qualities of every new area Kratos visits while on his adventure as well.
From its fast and fluid combat to its dark and mature story of vengeance and tragedy alongside its sprawling grandiose locations to explore, God of War is truly a timeless classic and even 17 years later it is still one of the greatest action adventure games ever made. This quest to kill a god is one you don't want to miss out on.

Forgot how damn great this game is and I basically played through the whole game in one 7 hour sitting yesterday because I couldn't put it down once I started. This is a game I played a lot as a kid and it definitely left a huge impact on me because even 15 years later I still remembered almost every single thing about the game from the level design to the puzzles and story as if I had just played it yesterday.
God of War is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve proudly taking elements and ideas from series like Prince of Persia, Devil May Cry, Onimusha and ICO and God of War was described by David Jaffe himself as not being developed to be innovative or unique. Yet the funny thing is 17 years later and God of War is a game that has become so iconic and influential due to how it masterfully blended all its influences into a whole new breed of action adventure game unlike anything seen before that it spawned an entire generation of games that desperately wanted to be the next God of War.
Like I said, God of War is such an iconic game and franchise that it is so ingrained into gaming culture to where I don't even need to do a super long review on it because you'd be hard pressed to find someone who isn't familiar with the game or Kratos as a protagonist, but I'm still going to do it anyways just because it is a classic and deserves to be talked about in depth.
God of War is a dark and tragic filled modern take on a classic Greek odyssey that follows the story of Kratos, a once great commander in the Spartan army now a very broken and troubled man looking to find peace from the nightmares of his countless unspeakable crimes that haunt his dreams, Kratos is tasked by Athena to kill the God of War Ares and promised to be absolved of his sins if he completes this task.
Right from that very first iconic opening cut-scene of Kratos jumping off the highest cliff in Athens attempting to end it all, the story instantly pulls you in and the plot is slowly revealed with some thoughtful twists and turns as you make your way through the game. This is a simple story compared to many nowadays, but it is also a timeless one that focuses around the themes of vengeance and anger and I think that's exactly what makes it so memorable and effective.
Now I'm not going to say Kratos was the first anti-hero in video games, but I will say he was one of the first to popularize this style of protagonist and back in 2005 there really was no one else like him which definitely helps set the game apart from its contemporaries. Kratos is a brutal, ruthless wrathful man who has killed many in his past, will stop at nothing to achieve his goals and he's not above sacrificing innocents if it benefits him. Everywhere you go characters in the world recognize Kratos and are terrified of him, but even with all that said there's still an air of tragedy to his character, this is a man who lashes out at the world through rage and hate simply because he doesn't know or understand any other way and you can't help but feel sorry for him and wonder if there could've been another way.
Gameplay is primarily divided into two sections. You've got the core combat which is the bulk of the gameplay and while it feels a lot more barebones compared to many games nowadays, it's still a fun and fast system with plenty of weapons, powers and combos to chain together and accommodate different playstyles from Kratos' main weapon the whip-like Blades of Chaos to the AOE spell Poseidon's Wrath or the ranged spell Zeus' Fury there's a little for all occasions. While not in combat there's plenty of well crafted platforming and puzzle sections to make sure the combat never becomes too monotonous.
God of War is a game that is notable for its cinematic presentation. While most other games suffered from immersion-breaking loading screens back in the day, God of War's story mode switches seamlessly from the title screen to FMV sequences, to gameplay, and back, with very little load time. I read that David Jaffe took inspiration from Indiana Jones while making the game and I believe it because God of War is an epic journey like no other, from fictionalized versions of the real-world Aegean Sea and city of Athens to the Desert of Lost Souls, Temple of Pandora and even the Underworld itself, God of War features plenty of grandiose locations to explore. The fixed camera angles and bombastic film score OST really help to enhance the cinematic qualities of every new area Kratos visits while on his adventure as well.
From its fast and fluid combat to its dark and mature story of vengeance and tragedy alongside its sprawling grandiose locations to explore, God of War is truly a timeless classic and even 17 years later it is still one of the greatest action adventure games ever made. This quest to kill a god is one you don't want to miss out on.

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.

Revisiting Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate for the first time in almost 10 years and honestly I somehow dislike it EVEN MORE then back when I first played it.
Speaking as both a huge Castlevania AND Lords of Shadow fan...I don't like this game, I wish I did, but I just don't. The game was legit a chore to play through and considering it is super short and I completed it in one 8 hour sitting that honestly says a lot. I think if your game fails at the simplest form of enjoyment it's just not a good game.
Mirror of Fate is a game that at its core has an extreme identity crisis. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a 2.5D spectacle brawler like God of War or the original Lords of Shadow or a classic metroidvania style Castlevania experience and these two things are just so vastly different from each other that the design philosophies are constantly at odds and clashing with one another and it fails miserably at both. It sucks as a Lords of Shadow game and it sucks even more as a Castlevania.
The combat is a simplistic, shallow, pale imitation of the combat in the original Lords of Shadow. You'd think since you play as 3 different characters throughout the game it wouldn't be, but all of them play the exact same minus their different side weapons so the gameplay gets extremely boring and monotonous, so much so that in the final 3rd of the game I just started running past enemies because I wasn't having fun fighting them and honestly just wanted the game to be over. To make matters worse the controls of the game are some of the most unresponsive I've dealt with in awhile and that makes platforming segments just horrendous to go through.
Shout out to the awful level design of the castle as well which just does not feel coherent making backtracking feel like a complete chore and if I don't want to backtrack on your metroidvania you're doing something VERY wrong, not like it matters though because there's such little incentive to backtrack in the first place due to the very minimal secrets to find.
Also I'll be the first to say the OST in the original Lords of Shadow is spectacular, but this game's OST is extremely lacking because there's only really a couple new tracks, most of it is rehashed from the OG Lord's of Shadow and personally the bombastic film score style does not fit this type of game, it worked so well with Lords of Shadow thanks to how adventurous and cinematic the game was, but here it just sounds out of place.
I can give it 2 compliments and that's really all. It's a very pretty game especially for one that was originally a 3DS title and also I actually appreciate the story more nowadays and like how it brings Trevor, Simon and Alucard into the Lords of Shadow canon, it was an interesting take on the lore that helped to make Gabriel's character even more tragic.
However at the end of the day having pretty graphics and a solid story pale in comparison to the fundamentally flawed design of the gameplay for a game that is primarily focused on its gameplay and I could not in good faith ever recommend this game to anyone aside from hardcore Castlevania completionists who want to play every game in the series because it simply can't hold a candle to any of the classic Castlevania games on the GBA/DS or either of the 2 mainline Lords of Shadow games. This is honestly one of the worst Castlevania games ever made and I would rather play the N64 titles.
P.S. Anyone who thinks this game is the best of the Lords of Shadow trilogy simply for being a "Return to classic Castlevania formula" and "Actually taking place at a castle" is delusional because I'd much rather have a sprawling 3D adventure with well crafted linear levels than a downright awful, incoherent attempt at a metroidvania.

Revisiting Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate for the first time in almost 10 years and honestly I somehow dislike it EVEN MORE then back when I first played it.
Speaking as both a huge Castlevania AND Lords of Shadow fan...I don't like this game, I wish I did, but I just don't. The game was legit a chore to play through and considering it is super short and I completed it in one 8 hour sitting that honestly says a lot. I think if your game fails at the simplest form of enjoyment it's just not a good game.
Mirror of Fate is a game that at its core has an extreme identity crisis. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a 2.5D spectacle brawler like God of War or the original Lords of Shadow or a classic metroidvania style Castlevania experience and these two things are just so vastly different from each other that the design philosophies are constantly at odds and clashing with one another and it fails miserably at both. It sucks as a Lords of Shadow game and it sucks even more as a Castlevania.
The combat is a simplistic, shallow, pale imitation of the combat in the original Lords of Shadow. You'd think since you play as 3 different characters throughout the game it wouldn't be, but all of them play the exact same minus their different side weapons so the gameplay gets extremely boring and monotonous, so much so that in the final 3rd of the game I just started running past enemies because I wasn't having fun fighting them and honestly just wanted the game to be over. To make matters worse the controls of the game are some of the most unresponsive I've dealt with in awhile and that makes platforming segments just horrendous to go through.
Shout out to the awful level design of the castle as well which just does not feel coherent making backtracking feel like a complete chore and if I don't want to backtrack on your metroidvania you're doing something VERY wrong, not like it matters though because there's such little incentive to backtrack in the first place due to the very minimal secrets to find.
Also I'll be the first to say the OST in the original Lords of Shadow is spectacular, but this game's OST is extremely lacking because there's only really a couple new tracks, most of it is rehashed from the OG Lord's of Shadow and personally the bombastic film score style does not fit this type of game, it worked so well with Lords of Shadow thanks to how adventurous and cinematic the game was, but here it just sounds out of place.
I can give it 2 compliments and that's really all. It's a very pretty game especially for one that was originally a 3DS title and also I actually appreciate the story more nowadays and like how it brings Trevor, Simon and Alucard into the Lords of Shadow canon, it was an interesting take on the lore that helped to make Gabriel's character even more tragic.
However at the end of the day having pretty graphics and a solid story pale in comparison to the fundamentally flawed design of the gameplay for a game that is primarily focused on its gameplay and I could not in good faith ever recommend this game to anyone aside from hardcore Castlevania completionists who want to play every game in the series because it simply can't hold a candle to any of the classic Castlevania games on the GBA/DS or either of the 2 mainline Lords of Shadow games. This is honestly one of the worst Castlevania games ever made and I would rather play the N64 titles.
P.S. Anyone who thinks this game is the best of the Lords of Shadow trilogy simply for being a "Return to classic Castlevania formula" and "Actually taking place at a castle" is delusional because I'd much rather have a sprawling 3D adventure with well crafted linear levels than a downright awful, incoherent attempt at a metroidvania.

Bare with me, this is a very long review because this game is very special to me. If you take the time to read it all I greatly appreciate it, but if you don't that's fine too.
Over the last couple days I played through this game for the first time in almost 10 years since it is now available through PS NOW PS3 streaming. I'm probably one of the few hardcore Castlevania fans to have this opinion, but I have a deep love for Lords of Shadow (Just the first game, we don't talk about the sequels) and it has always been a personal favorite of mine so I wanted to see how well it holds up and even 12 years later it is still better than most games that come out nowadays as far as I'm concerned.
The setting of Lords of Shadow takes place in the year 1047 during an apocalyptic event known as "the end of days" where the Earth's alliance with the Heavens has been severed by a malevolent order known as the Lords of Shadow who have casted a dark spell which has trapped the souls of the dead in limbo and stopped them from reaching paradise while also conjuring evil creatures to lay waste to the Earth and its people.
We follow the story of Gabriel Belmont, a member of the Brotherhood of Light, a holy order of elite knights who protect and defend innocents against the supernatural creatures of the night. Guided on his journey by his recently murdered wife Marie who is trapped in Limbo and Zobek the oldest member of his order who acts as his mentor and friend, Gabriel sets off to defeat the Lords of Shadow to claim the God Mask, an ancient relic with unfathomable power said to even be able to resurrect the dead which Gabriel hopes to use to bring back his beloved Marie.
I can not express how much I love the story of Lords of Shadow into words, it is a tragic epic that really evokes classical literature in its timeless philosophical "balance between light and darkness" themes and its emotional core. This is a dark and mature story that is all about the sacrifices one is willing to make all in the name of love and the depths they will go to for the sake of revenge and if they can still be redeemed when all is said and done and I just think it's a very beautiful and relatable story.
A big part of what makes the narrative for Lords of Shadow so convincing and compelling is the incredible voice acting from an all star voice cast of big Hollywood actors which I still consider to be one of the absolute best among all video games to this day. From the one and only Sir Patrick Stewart as Zobek and the narrator to Jason Isaacs as the literal biblical fallen angel Lucifer himself and the show stealing performance from Robert Carlyle as Gabriel which really adds this extra layer of humanization to his character this is just some of the best voice acting around. The cast themselves even made their own contributions to the characters while recording due to their love of the script and it really shows in their performances.
When it comes to gameplay Lords of Shadow is well known for being a God of War-like and I won't deny it, it definitely has a lot in common with God of War. They're both third-person action-adventure games with fixed camera angles, focused around gory combo-based combat featuring a vast variety of upgradable weapons and skills, platforming, puzzles and cinematic boss fights that utilize a gratuitous amount of QTEs, but like...It does everything God of War does and it does it just as well so I really don't care that it is a copy.
However I will say Lords of Shadow adds in some unique flavor of its own with the Light and Dark Magic system which is both symbolic and fitting for the overall themes of the game, but also just an incredibly fun gameplay mechanic which adds an extra element of strategy to the fights since your primary healing source is your Light Magic and your Dark Magic is a damage buff and your main source of replenishing them is the focus meter which only increases if you don't get hit in combat. Therefore you have to learn when to use or when to save magic and this system constantly tests your reflexes, especially on the harder difficulties. One other thing Lords of Shadow differs in from God of War is how it is structured into a replayable mission based format much like Devil May Cry.
Visually Lords of Shadow is a breathtaking game with impeccable art direction that really captures the grandiose adventurous style the game goes for, from lush fairytale like forests to snowy mountains, gothic castles and deserted lands of the dead you'll visit a variety of unforgettable vistas on your journey which still look graphically impressive even 12 years later.
The bombastic cinematic score composed by Óscar Araujo utilizing a 120-piece orchestra really gives me vibes of Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings score and it perfectly captures the feeling of travelling across the world on an adventure. While Michiru Yamane is one of my fave composers in all of video games and her tracks are much more individually memorable I just can't picture her type of baroque/neoclassical music over this game due to its cinematic nature and I think the film score style OST fits much better and helps with the epic atmosphere Lords of Shadow conveys.
What Lords of Shadow lacks in originality it more than makes up for it with a truly beautiful story alongside a top notch voice cast, tight and addictive gameplay with tons of depth plus stunning visuals and a bombastic score that enhances the atmosphere and when all is said and done that makes it stand side-by-side with the best the action-adventure genre has to offer and it still outclasses most games made even 12 years later.
P.S. The only reason this game gets shit is because it did something from the norm of Castlevania, if this would've been a new IP and didn't have the Castlevania title attached to it, I think it would've been a massive success...Or it would've flopped because the whole reason the Castlevania name was even attached was for marketing reasons and it clearly worked since Lords of Shadow is the best selling game in the series regardless of the reception it got from fans.

Tormented Souls is a retro throwback to classic survival horror and the first game from Chilean developers Dual Effect and for a low budget project made by such a small team it is a really damn impressive game!
You play as Caroline Walker, a Canadian girl in her 20s who one day receives a mysterious letter from the Wildberger Hospital with a picture of twin girls and the message "Do you think you can just simply abandon us here" on the back of the picture. Looking at the picture Caroline gets a sharp pain and she can't get it out of her head causing her to suffer from nightmares, so after 2 weeks she finally decides to go and investigate just what's going on at this hospital for herself. The story is mostly told in that classic survival horror method of drip-feeding the player information through various documents you find while exploring and while the actual plot wasn't bad despite being quite predictable, I was still always fully engrossed because reading all about the background of the setting and characters was often more interesting than the plot itself.
As I previously stated, Tormented Souls is a classic survival horror game and if it wasn't for the more polished and pristine graphical look everything from the tank controls and fixed camera angles to the resource management, exploration based puzzles, limited saves (Like RE's ink ribbons only tape reels instead), setting (It's a damn mansion that was remodeled into a hospital which is the perfect mix of both RE and SH), oppressive atmosphere, droning and unnerving OST, story and of course especially the campy, robotic voice acted dialogue could trick you into thinking you're actually playing a long forgotten gem from the PS2 era and I mean that in the best way possible.
I also want to make a special mention to the puzzles themselves because the developers went all out on them. These were some of the most clever, unique and at many times very confusing and cryptic puzzles I've experienced in quite some time. One of my favorite things about the game is how inventory items are used because most have multiple uses throughout the entire game and aren't just something you pick up, use on one specific puzzle and then it just dissolves from your inventory like in most games. There's legit an item you get at the very beginning of the game and it just chills in your inventory until almost the very end and that's so cool to me. The puzzles really make you use your brain and felt more akin to something you'd see in a point and click adventure game than a survival horror and while some might complain about them being a bit too cryptic or convoluted at times, I personally loved them.
Tormented Souls is a game made by fans of the classic survival horror genre with masterful knowledge of exactly what made the iconic 90s hits like Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark as great as they were and why they're still regarded so highly today and while Tormented Souls is not accessible to newcomers of this genre in the slightest and it is a very (deliberately) dated game that is only going to appeal to hardcore genre fanatics, that doesn't change the fact it is one of the best survival horror games I've had the pleasure of experiencing in years and I can only hope we'll see more from Dual Effect in the future.

Unpopular opinion, but this has been one of my favorite games of all time ever since I was a teenager. God of War rip-off or not it still had so much charm and passion put into it, the sheer amount of detail that went into crafting the depiction of the 9 circles of hell is amazing, the bosses are incredible, the enemy design is grotesque and creative and the combat can easily stand up to God of War in terms of complexity and enjoyment. While it clearly takes many liberties with the source material it was a thoroughly entertaining action-fied take on The Inferno and one of the greatest gaming tragedies of my lifetime is how we never got the full trilogy. I'd kill for at least a remaster on modern platforms.

Soulstice is the first game made by developers Reply Game Studios and for a first effort it is a very impressive Devil May Cry styled character action game that has a nostalgic feeling to it which harkens back to the 360/PS3 days.
Soulstice is a nihilistic, dark fantasy tale heavily influenced by the manga/anime of Claymore and Berserk and tells the tragic story of Briar and Lute, two sisters that have had their souls joined together in a sacred ritual to be reborn as a hybrid warrior called a 'Chimera', Chimeras are super human warriors that fight for a holy order of knights against corrupted demonic creatures called 'Wraiths' which can corrupt a human with a single touch and come from another dimension through tears in space-time itself, Briar and Lute are sent on a mission to close one of these tears in one of the 3 sacred cities and that is where our story begins. The narrative is a bit slow and mostly sees our heroines traversing through a destroyed city trying to reach the center, but as they traverse this desolate city they unveil tragic truths about themselves and mysteries about the order they serve and the world around them, building into a truly epic finale which perfectly sets up a sequel as well. I was pleasantly surprised that the narrative and world were a lot more fleshed out than I expected from a game of this type, there's even an in-game codex with a bunch of lore to read up on for those interested.
While they might not be the deepest characters, I found Briar and Lute to be very charming with well developed character arcs and I was quite endeared to them and their bond by the end of the game and I know part of that is thanks to the wonderful voice performance Stefanie Joosten gives playing both characters. There are a handful of other characters throughout the 20hr adventure which are memorable and charming in their own way like the mentor figure Donovan, the mysterious merchant Layton and a few eccentric antagonists as well, however none of these characters get as much focus as our protagonists so they don't feel nearly as fleshed out.
The combat despite being rough around the edges takes clear influence from DMC, but has its own unique flair with the player essentially controlling 2 characters at once and 1 of those characters being tied to a unique counter system making the combat have a bit of a learning curve, but once you get it down it is very satisfying, the weapon variety and how you can swap through all the various weapons on the fly reminds me of DMC 4 and all the weapons from a standard greatsword to a whip and tonfas that turn into cannons are utilized well having specific enemy types they counter. There is a very dated color coded mechanic where Lute activates blue and red forcefields and you can only damage the enemy of the corresponding color to the forcefield currently active, some might hate this, but I enjoy it and it adds an extra level of strategy to the gameplay since if you have the forcefield up for too long Lute overheats leaving you defenseless for a few seconds, timing is the key and it feels very satisfying once you get the timing of everything down. Oh yeah there's also a super power Devil Trigger type mechanic because what DMC style game would be complete without that, right?
Another thing I want to note is that Soulstice also has a fantastic sense of progression. When you first start the game you only have your basic weapon and it can certainly be challenging, but as you complete stages and unlock new weapons and skills both the player and Briar and Lute feel like they're getting stronger and that fits so perfectly with the theme of synergy that the game has going on. When you face a boss early on and Briar and Lute are like 'We're not strong enough we can't do this!' and they have to run, but then you come to that same boss later and they say 'We're strong enough we can finally do this!' I also really felt that. Just thought it was something worth mentioning.
All in all while it can be rough around the edges and dated at times Reply Game Studios' Soulstice is a very fun action game with fast paced and stylish combat that's easy to pick up, but hard to master alongside a surprisingly well written narrative and fairly detailed world and though it might not re-invent the wheel and sticks to a tried and true formula, it certainly adds a few of its own special touches while doing so and for fans of stylish action games like DMC and Bayonetta that don't mind a bit of a budgeted indie title Soulstice is one of the best games to scratch that itch in years.

Played the game for the first time 2 years ago with a fan patch, but since it is now officially out in the west (After 12 long years nonetheless!) I figured I'd post a review here again.
What a ride Trails from Zero was. It started off probably slower than any other Trails game, but when it picks up, it REALLY picks up.
The main story of this game is great and mostly grounded in reality and pretty unique for a J-RPG. You play as Lloyd Bannings, a young detective who's goal is to help improve the image of the Crossbell Police Department in the eyes of the public due to them losing faith in the police and becoming more reliant on a peace keeping, civilian protection agency known as the Bracer Guild, so Lloyd and his team do odd-jobs while also taking on the corruption of Crossbell's shady criminal underground world, which revolves around an Italian mafia like organization, an organization similar to the Chinese triad and the war for power going on between the two organizations plus a grand conspiracy that lurks in the shadows, there's also 2 minor delinquent gangs that you interact with as well. Crossbell basically has a lot of parallels to real world New York or Hong Kong, which is pretty cool. Plus there's some returning characters from the Sky trilogy and getting to see them again and how their story tied into this game has some major payoff if you played the Trails in the Sky trilogy beforehand.
I didn't mind the slower almost 'slice-of-life' parts at all though because it served to flesh out and immerse me into the setting of Crossbell since even the most seemingly pointless side quest or NPC interaction helps give more depth to Crossbell, its citizens and all their interpersonal relationships and this also gave me time to get to know the Special Support Section squad very well. I really came to love the SSS by the end of the game because the 4 main characters and their diverse personalities have such great synergy with one another from the flirty jokester playboy Randy to the sarcastic super genius Tio to the sweet, but serious Elie and Lloyd the hot-blooded and confident leader with a strong sense of justice and the glue that holds the whole team together. Trails from Zero is set in a span of 4 months and the SSS really become like a family by the end of those 4 months, it is really heartwarming
Gameplay is basically the unique turn-based tactical hybrid system of Trails which we have all come to know and love with a couple extra gimmicks (Like Team Rush attacks and Combo Crafts) and QoL improvements thrown in, while the soundtrack was nothing short of a masterwork that you would expect from Falcom JDK Band with plenty guitar driven battle tracks to hype you up alongside beautiful and peaceful themes to help set the atmosphere of all the various locations both in and surrounding Crossbell and the dungeon design was always enjoyable to explore as well.
In short Trails from Zero deserves every bit of praise it gets. From the detailed and immersive setting to the masterful character development and sprawling interconnected narrative that becomes crucial to the story of later entries in the series. This is a game that no J-RPG fan is going to want to miss.