'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate' Review Round-Up [UPDATE]
The "Castlevania" series is in the middle of a significant technical transition. With the 2011 reboot/prologue "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow" developer MercurySteam succeeded where other developers had failed, pivoting the series from the 2D action-platformer to a 3D combat-centric brawler. If "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" takes its cues from "Metroid," "Lords of Shadow" derives much of its formula from "God of War." All of this is relevent because, according to reviewers, "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate" tries to straddle the gap between the old "Castlevania" and the new, and apparently split its pants in the process.
The 3DS-exclusive "Mirror of Fate" is a half-step in every sense of the word. The game's story bridges the gap between "Lords of Shadow" and the upcoming sequel "Lords of Shadow 2." Mechanically, the game uses "2.5D" mechanics, making it a two-dimensional game that uses 3D visuals and background action to create a sense of depth. Neither of these are necessarily a bad thing, but in attempting to blend two similar but apparently incompatible gameplay styles, the game loses sight of what makes "Castlevania" special.
"Mirror of Fate's" low point seems to be combat. According to VentureBeat's Jasmine Malficent Rea, who gave the game 25 out of 100 points, something just feels fundementally wrong with the game's approach to combat: "Perhaps it is the rocky transition from 3D to 2D, but something is amiss with how you fend off foes. No matter how conservative you are with special powers and health, you'll often find yourself pinned in impossible situations."
Rea also calls out the game's influx of "God of War"-style quick-timed events, saying they lack "elegance" and dimminish the importantance of player skill during boss battles.
"Mirror of Fate's" technical problems don't seem to be limited to its combat. The game apparently doesn't have the tight controls necessary to navigate some of its tricky platforming:
"The fact that you're forced into using the 3DS' circle pad instead of the directional pad to move your character just compounds these and other problems," says IGN's Colin Moriarty. "In a game that requires fighting on a 2D plane, with some challenging platforming to boot, Mirror of Fate necessitates a level of gameplay tightness it just doesn't allow for."
Scoring the game 4.7 out of 10, Moriarty also attributed the game's poor combat to technical issues such as poor hit detection, which can leave the player feeling out of control in even simple enemy encounters.
Not everyone felt the game's apparent technical issues were such a grand misstep. Videogamer's Andi Hamiliton gave the game its highest mark, 9 out of 10, and praised the game's combat for transposing "Lord of Shadow's" 3D combat into a 2D game: "It is all about knowing when to block, parry, dodge and when you have the opportunity to deliver a massive whip combo chain." Eurogamer's Christian Donlan calls the combat "thuggishly satisfying."
The game's visuals, specifically its environments, seem to be where "Mirror of Fate" shines brightest. Dracula has always been an important component of "Castlevania," and the game seems to project the gothic ambiance associated with the series. giving it a "decent" three stars, GamesRadar reviewer Luca Sullivan was impressed by game's attention to detail: "You'll often be enchanted by some of the small details hiding in some of the more elaborate settings, like dense graveyards and unnerving Victorian vampire portraits."
The single most polarizing issue for "Mirror of Fate" seems to be the game's set of characters. Players control a set of four vampire hunters, all past "Castlevania" heroes, at different points. Game Informer's Tim Turi says he likes using multiple heroes: Each of the four have their own skills and, while he wishes he had more time with each one, he appreciates the variety. On the other hand, the IGN review laments the fact that players can't switch between the characters, which forces players to re-learn the ins and outs of combat multiple times throughout the story.
Interestingly it sounds like die-hard "Castlevania" fans will have the hardest time investing in "Mirror of Fate." The game's 2D style evokes memories of past games, which some may not be able to set aside. For players willing to look past that, it sounds like the game may be entertaining, though it still might be more fun to dig into the series' back catalog of DS and 3DS adventures.
UPDATE: It just isn't launch day without a launch-day trailer, so check it out.