How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. The critical path is fairly linear, with no real reason to backtrack other than to find optional health and magic upgrades.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate was played on Steam.
Buy Castlevania; Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate if you like…
- The Lords of Shadow Mythos
- Combo Based Fighting
- Straightforward Pathing with optional exploration
- Slower style platforming
- Quicktime Events
▼ Review continues below ▼
“Sometimes mediocre is worse than bad”, is something a friend said to me when I was trying to describe my thoughts about this game to him. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is by no means a bad game, but it does little to make itself stand out in the Metroidvania genre. Its Devil May Cry-esque combat is missing key features to make it live up to competition like Guacamelee or Valdis Story. The movement when navigating the map is relatively sluggish, making it slow and tedious to explore. It has a few interesting puzzles, but is that really why you’ve come to play a Castlevania game? I haven’t personally played either of the other two Lords of Shadow games; I suspect there’s more here for those fans, though I would argue the story too has its issues. You may or may not be able to look past Mirror of Fate’s weaknesses and find an enjoyable game, but for me within the context of everything else available, I would almost rather repeat the sentence “it has good ideas but poor execution” rather than to want to sum up my review with a simple “Meh.”
There is one aspect of the game that does make me muse about lack of better execution being the issue. As a fan of the original Castlevania series, there are a lot of interesting story concepts conveyed in this reimagining of Castlevania 1 and 3. If you’ve played the original Lords of Shadow, you’ll already know that Dracula is a completely different character in that version, so bringing in Simon and Trevor Belmont is naturally going to need some adaptation. Concepts of family, sacrifice, sin and redemption are all things that could be explored with the plot, but unfortunately the presentation is nigh incoherent. The titular Mirror of Fate plays an undefined role, with its identity remaining a mystery for the entirety of the game. If the Mirror of Fate was cut the only thing that would change is that the writers would have to find a different Deus Ex Machina to lead the protagonist along. That mirror is only one of a few characters that have unexplained roles, which is why I suspect a player would get more out of this game if they have played the other Lords of Shadow games. But even beyond that there is one relationship, that is the most important to the story, that simply does not get enough development by the end of the game to provide a truly emotional payoff.
The combat system too, and most unfortunately, feels a little half-baked – but this is specifically because it has so many competitors that have done it better. I can’t speak for how the other Lords of Shadow games compare to inspirations like Devil May Cry and God of War, but in Mirror of Fate’s case it lacks crunchiness and depth. Using your whip feels too often like you’re swinging a wet noodle rather than a powerful weapon. Enemies spend a good portion of time in a block state which ends your combo and forces you to use a breaker move, which usually ends up just breaking the flow rather than impose an interesting strategy. There are many enemies that take to the air where your Belmont has fewer options to take them down. You have a list of heavy and light attack combos you can do, plus the button timing you’d find in any Stylish Combo fighter, but a few dominant strategies take precedent. It all functions fine, but I definitely don’t recommend playing this game on Hard Mode – the combat just isn’t deep enough to carry it into larger HP pools.
Slower combat only exacerbates perhaps the biggest issue for Mirror of Fate; moving around the map is also slow. Comparisons to the 1980s Prince of Persia come to mind, though it’s not quite that rigid. From the beginning of the game to the end one of your main obstacles will be these gas traps that periodically spray from walls, forcing you to slowly time your jumps when climbing passageways. It makes backtracking a crawl – and the rewards are just more numbers that you might not even need. It doesn’t help anything that you essentially have to repeat sections of the castle three times through the course of the game as part of the critical path. Perhaps you can just ignore the backtracking features, but looking at this game as a Metroidvania, it simply falls short of any benefit being in the genre could have had.
Finally, to put a cherry on top of all of these observations, the overall presentation simply clashes with anything it tries to accomplish through its gameplay. The music is the worst factor. Castlevania previously has had fun, kitschy music that still conveyed a gothic air to the atmosphere of the game. Mirror of Fate uses only ambient cello and bass noises for most of the castle, with generic orchestra music for fights. It’s the kind of music you’d find in a melancholy survival horror game, not a violent style brawler with exploration aspects. Maybe it’s because of the music that the game’s forced quicktime events and action cutscenes feel especially flat – or it could be that upscaled Nintendo 3DS graphics aren’t as exciting to watch on the big screen. In either case any style benefit the game could have had is simply put, just outclassed.
“Outclassed” is ultimately the best single word to describe Mirror of Fate’s overall experience. For me it commits the greatest failing of all – I just found the whole thing boring. But, if you’re a fan of the Lords of Shadow games, I think I’d still recommend checking it out – you might not agree with me. Based on the generally favorable reviews of this game I’d say that there are definitely people out there that enjoy what Mirror of Fate has to offer, but as far as my recommendation goes, I’d say skip it, and hope that Konami graces us with the better Metroidvania-style Castlevania games on Steam in the future.
Combat lacks the crunchiness of its competitors, but it's servicable. A few tweaks could make it good.
Slow and tedious. The challenges it presents are generally the same throughout the game
Because platforming is so slow, it can be a slog to go back to old areas for only minor rewards
Some actually pretty good puzzles scattered throughout the course of the game - this was the most enjoyable part for me personally
Could be awesome, but as presented it's basically incoherent. Some of the gaps may be filled by having played the other two Lords of Shadow games
For an upscaled 3DS game it looks great, unfortunately there's only so much they can do to bolster its action cutscenes
Almost terrible, but scrapes by as passable. Generally uninteresting
There are multiple difficulty modes, but the game's general slowness makes it hard to recommend for replay
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