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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Review

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On 03/29/2013 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

O Igarashi, where art thou?

A worthy purchase for those who enjoyed Lords of Shadow or are looking for a new type of 2D Castlevania experience. Everyone else should rent or wait on hefty price drops before checking out the latest in this series.

As a game critic, it can be extremely difficult to set your expectations aside when playing a game for review. At this point in my “career,” I’ve become quite adept at seeing a game for what it’s worth and reviewing it without allowing my expectations to impact my assessment. I found this extremely tough to do with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate. I, like many others, expected something similar to a post-Symphony of the Night 2D Castlevania, but Mirror of Fate only resembles these titles on the surface. Digging deeper, it’s clear that Mercurysteam has merely converted the Lords of Shadow experience into 2D, placing the larger focus on combat, with only a minor emphasis on puzzles and exploration.

In and of itself, this is not a horrible thing. The combat in Lords of Shadow was quite smooth and the same holds true in Mirror of Fate. However, I found it quite easy to develop a mastery of the system and formulate tactics that could defeat each unique enemy in the small bestiary with little fear of taking damage. With very few puzzles and very little exploration, combat grows tiring very quickly when you are no longer being challenged by the featured enemy encounters.

Even if your combat performance is middling and your defensive maneuvers weak, Mirror of Fate features some aggressive checkpointing that’ll help pull you through. Entering any given room will spark an auto-save and boss fights have midway checkpoints, coinciding with the start of each battle phase. Perhaps after coming off of a long quest through Dark Souls, I’m accustomed to a much higher level of challenge than what’s featured here, but the heavy use of checkpoints made it so that I rarely had to try to succeed. With such a strong emphasis on combat, it feels as if the consequences around death should’ve been more pronounced.

The other focus of the game is the retelling of the story of Simon Belmont and the Belmont family following the events of the original Lords of Shadow. The actual tale isn’t too bad, especially as an alternate history version of the franchise story, but it’s hardly enough to prop up the experience. The story bits come too few and far between, which keeps it from being a huge motivation to push onward. However, those that were heavily vested in the plot of Lords of Shadow will likely be excited to see how it progresses here, particularly with its numerous throwbacks to past characters in the series.

The concept of puzzles and exploration are similar throwbacks here. It’s something they’ve taken and brushed off from past games and implemented here, without any of the complication or nuance that it featured in prior adventures. Starting with Symphony of the Night, players have had a clear picture of exactly where they are inside the grander scheme of the whole castle, along with a very definitive picture of what places have yet to be explored.

Mirror of Fate has no such construct. Each room in and of itself is a space to explore. Thanks to the near-linear progression of the game, any rooms you visit that feature locked doors or blocked areas are eventually revisited by virtue of constant forward progression. This takes some of the wonder and excitement out of crawling the castle and instead turns the experience into something of a one week tour of a foreign country that only stops on occasion to allow you to really take in your surroundings.

It’s also worth noting that the loading time between rooms is atrociously high, making progression from room to room painful and slow. Each and every room almost becomes its own unique little segment to explore and solve puzzles in, rather than the expansive and sprawling castles you’ve encountered in the past.

Depending on what you’re looking for out of your 2D Castlevania, this could either be a huge letdown or a welcomed improvement for the flow of the game. I fall in the former group – while the new focus on action isn’t a bad thing, I don’t feel it should’ve come at the expense of the puzzles and exploration.

This is only exacerbated by the problematic controls, which feel both stiff and clunky when you’re doing anything outside of combat. With the D-Pad tied up for activating the newly added latent magic abilities, the less ideal circle pad must be used for navigation, creating at least part of the problem.

While I’ve been tough on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, it’s not an awful game by any stretch. For me it was a mostly middling experience that didn’t offer much of what I want out of a Castlevania game, which is similar to how I felt of its predecessor. If you’re ready for a change from the typical post-Symphony of the Night formula in your 2D Castlevania games, Mirror of Fate might just be exactly what you were looking for.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




03/29/2013 at 01:21 PM

It's a shame because as bad as this one may have turned out, Lords Of Shadow on the 360 & PS3 really is a great game! (My own subjective opinion of course)

Nick DiMola Director

03/29/2013 at 01:57 PM

I don't want to speak for Lords of Shadow fans, but I think those that liked that game won't mind this one too much. Games with very repetitive combat (like God of War and Lords of Shadow) lose their luster very quickly for me. I know that others have a much higher tolerance for this, so you might find yourself enjoying Mirror of Fate more than I did. It's very much a 2D implementation of Lords of Shadow's 3D gameplay.


03/29/2013 at 02:05 PM

I actually didn't think Lords Of Shadow was quite as repetitive as God Of War but again, that is based on personal preference. I found even SOTN could be repetitive and quite a grind after Alucard got to a certain point. (Though yeah, the exploration,familiars, and little secrets took the boredom out of spamming magic and melee attacks)

I think I went into Lords Of Shadow expecting a pre-Iga experience and as such I was not disappointed as much. To me LOS was akin to a 3D modernized Super Castlevania 4. (Which I hypothesize is one of the games God Of War drew its' inspiration from in the first place. Kratos's chain blades are used to fight and explore his environment much akin to how Simon's whip is used in CV4.)

On a slightly offbeat tangent,I really wish Konami would release Portrait Of Ruin, Dawn Of Sorrow, and Order Of Ecclesia as a bundle collection for the 360,wii,and PS3. I'd buy that up as quick as lightning,Nick!


04/01/2013 at 10:10 PM

Probably will pick this one up for the story in a month or two, though I'm a little worried about the controls.  Oh well, won't be the first time I die in a Castlevania game.  By the way, how is the music in this game?

Nick DiMola Director

04/01/2013 at 10:23 PM

The music is pretty subdued. I'd say it fits the mood of the game, but it's nothing at all like the music in the older games. All in all, I'd call it decent, but ultimately forgettable.


04/02/2013 at 05:49 PM

Thanks!  Seems like a shame, since I always enjoyed the music for the other games


04/01/2013 at 10:33 PM

Well I must admit Castlevania Los was a good game in my opinion but Castlevania just isnt the same in 3d some games are just meant to be side scrollers and this one is and with that said i totally understand the repitition thing with these games im the same way i loose interest soon,but great reveiw as always.


04/02/2013 at 10:33 PM

Unfortunately for me, the puzzel aspects are essential in achieving a true 'castlvania' experience so it's pretty gutting to hear that this element is sorely lacking, you ve helped make up my mind on this one, like a doctor advising that we shut off life support. A bit extreme perhaps but thats what I feel they ve done to the franchaise that I love so much!


04/05/2013 at 11:41 PM

I didn't really notice the long loading screens. Although I do agree that movement could be really stiff at times. The thing I liked most about it was the alternate dimension characters. Specifically, where you figure out that so and so turned out to be so and so at the end. heh I think that the game deserved 3.5 out of 5, for being slightly above average. I wrote my own review of it here.


04/07/2013 at 03:49 PM

 It's not as bad as people are making it out to be, but I wouldn't pay full price for it either (I'll probably wait to get it used at GameStop for $14.99-$19.99 range)

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