Monday, April 21, 2014

Castlevania: LoS2 - "Revelations" DLC (PS3)

In this latest "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2" DLC release titled "Revelations" Konami aims to test your mettle, and your patience with a handful of ridiculously hard boss fights, and only a small amount of level based platforming puzzles. The main protagonist this time around, who will be going along for the ride is none other than the weakling vampire Alucard, and I stress the word weakling. During Dracula's, and Alucard's last encounter we found (assuming you have beaten the game) that these two lead vampires had fooled Satan with a plot to end the dark lord's return. All Dracula wanted was for his eternal life to end, and all Alucard (aka, Trever Belmont) wanted was for the family's suffering to end. Just before the final fight with Satan Alucard let Dracula (aka, Gabriel Belmont) in on the secret between them, and in doing so had shed some light on the events that had taken place prior to their current day reunion. The sword placed in Dracula's still beating heart was no accident, and the near fatal wound was merely part of the ploy to get Dracula in good terms with a certain enemy (Zobeck). Together the two vampires thwarted Satan's plan ultimately killing him, and his demon spawn off for the second time since the beginning of this all inclusive mini-series.

Like the core game experience you'll find that Alucard is equipped with some tools, and weapons with which to dispatch the enemies that lie in wait. Among his weapons are two unique swords known as the "Glaciem", and the 'Ignias". Like Dracula's "Void Sword", and "Chaos Glove" these two swords have special innate abilities. The Glaciem, like the Void Sword can refill Alucard's life with each successful hit that is landed. The Ignias on the other hand is like the Chaos Glove in that it deals armor breaking flame damage. Aside from these oddly similar main weapons. Alucard also has three special skills from the start. These skills include a variation of the "Bat Swarm" ability in which Alucard literally becomes a swarm of bats, and can fly from ledge to ledge quickly. Another interesting skill deals with the ability to turn back time on certain broken items, and structures in order to make pathways usable, and to make puzzle solving items work. Last, but not least there's a skill called the "Spectral Wolf". In a unusual way this specialty skill doubles as a means for passing through certain things (Think Mist) as well as a means to jump longer distances. At certain points the Spectral Wolf skill can also be used to get from one area to another more quickly than you could by traveling on foot.

In the way of plot material you will find that the story backtracks to a point after Alucard had plunged the special sword into Dracula's chest. It picks up right at the moment when he has to pull out the sword in order to enable Dracula's resurrection. As in the core game Alucard aims to make good on his word, and help his father stop Satan, and his minions. Unfortunately for him he has a brief chat with his deceased mother (Maria Belmont) after removing the sword only to find out that the Castle is trying to stop Dracula from leaving, and that it has placed the "Void Sword", and "Chaos Power" out of reach. This of course will not do seeing as it will foil the plan that was set in motion. Like a good mother Maria works with her son (Alucard) to assure that the two weapons get back to their proper places within the castle, so that Dracula can find them when the time comes. This is of course the tasks that the DLC is all about. You will be spending a miniscule amount of time traversing only a fraction of the puzzle filled castle in order to locate the "Void Sword", and "Chaos Power", and return them to their proper places. Along the way you'll fight a handful of harder than normal enemies as well as a handful of cheap boss fights that are completely unfair to the gamer, and their efforts to continue the story.

A lot of the puzzles you'll find along the way incorporate the three special skills that you learn about early on, and will definitely test your knowledge of platforming games as you try to make it from area to area. As with the core game experience you will find the usual power-ups in fewer numbers, and will find extras in the way of dead soldier notes, and artwork. While I wished there was as much castle to explore in the DLC as there was in the main game you'll find that Konami, and Mercury Steam traded platforming content for unfair boss, and enemy battles. It definitely struck me as being odd that there were less enemies than in the core game, and that each boss battle was as hard as the final Satan fight in the core game. The developer spares no pity for those looking to see the story through to the end. Expect to spend at least an hour on each boss trying to learn, and get past their attack and defense patterns.

When it comes to my opinions of the game I have bitter feelings about what the developer has done with the DLC. My playthrough was so nerve racking that I found myself cussing profusely. If it weren't for my review I would not have played as long as I did, or progressed as far as I did. The point when I decided to call it quits was after spending two hours trying to get the final boss's health down to nothing only to find out that the fight was extended beyond that, and that the bastard had regenerative powers. Not only was my health almost gone at this point, but I had no power-ups, or health refills to help me continue onward. As I mentioned earlier the game gives you little in the way of health restoration items, or power-ups. The fact that the bosses are strong, and Alucard does only a tiny bit of damage at a time makes the encounters almost impossible to overcome. You have to read the boss's patterns perfectly, and react perfectly otherwise you will die.

These unforgiving boss, and enemy fights were only part of my complaints with the game though. The fact that each boss was cheap in the way that they attacked only added fire to my growing rage. In the first boss fight for example you'll find that not only is the boss stronger than Alucard, but that it also has respawning helpers as well as furniture in the way that will magically reappear. The boss's little minions while insignificant in comparison to the main boss still pack a punch, and are difficult to kill with Alucard's weakling attacks. Not only do you have to dodge these football tackling imps, but the boss will also bowl them around the room like a homing missile trying to hit you for some extra damage. To add salt to the already gaping wound there's tables, and furniture strewn about all over the already cramped room. You can destroy the tables, and such but on occasion you'll find these obstacles reappearing out of nowhere at the worst of times. The added fact that the boss builds up ice armor makes dealing enough damage to kill it an even harder task.

I could complain about every boss, and enemy in the game, but I think you get the idea. The only other thing I need to touch base on is the fact that the game has some serious flaws. In the final fight against Zobeck's bodyguard you will have to avoid his many different acrobatic, and teleporting attacks as well as dodge his various projectiles before you can sneak in with a hit. This also goes along with the platforming mini-games that must be completed in order to be able to deal some more damage to the boss. While this is a bothersome ordeal in itself the real problem comes when your sword attack glitches causing you to raise your sword, and stand still. In doing this you are setup for a brutal punishment that deals more damage to you than you do to the bodyguard boss. This glitch seems to happen randomly, and seems to tie in with a weapon skill upgrade.

I actually forgot to mention it earlier, but like Dracula's Void Sword, and Chaos skill trees you can learn new attacks, and combos at a price. Unlike Dracula's dual skill tree though you only have a small one to manage, and upgrade. By upgrading it you can max out each move's power, and add that to the overall power of the Crissagrim. By doing so your weapons become more powerful, and attacks/combos become more lengthy. The only issue with this is that the game's levels are short lived, and going back to grind for in-game currency, and items is not really worth the effort.

Aside from the previously mentioned fight breaking glitch you'll also find that Alucard has a couple of crippling design flaws. The worst of these flaws is the fact that he cannot recover from a fall. Once he's downed you have to wait a couple of seconds for him to get up off of the floor. This lack of recover mechanics also contributes to the difficulty of the boss fights as they will deal damage while you lay helpless upon the floor. Secondly Alucard, for some unknown reason cannot jump worth a damn. It's as if he's wearing a huge suit of armor that is weighing him down. While this applied character feature does little to influence the outcome of a boss fight it can cause for some headaches in some of the earlier platforming areas. Death by falling of a cliff, or into the castle blood are guaranteed to happen as a result. These issues collectively are the reason I did not, and could not complete my "Revelations" DLC playthrough. I invested two hours straight into beating the last boss only to find out I did not stand a chance in hell of beating it. Keep in mind that I did have the game set on normal from the start, so it should not have been this difficult at all.

The simple fact is that "Revelations" is a poorly crafted, and flawed experience that will cause the gamer major grief. If you rage as I do you'll definitely want to avoid this DLC at all costs. It's not worth stroking out over a game, especially when there's no chance of you beating it to begin with. Avoid it. I as an honest gaming journalist cannot recommend buying this DLC at all due to it's many issues. As much as I personally wanted to see this latest Castlevania tale through to the end I will not waste my time on false hopes. The DLC definitely could have been designed better by a longshot. By crippling Alucard with weak attacks, and limiting his capabilities the many fights he has to face in his quest in order to aid his father are too overwhelming, and unfair. The once all powerful Alucard of "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" is now a weakling vampire that can be killed off easily by the castle's lesser minions. What a sad day.

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