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Guessing Games: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, What Went Wrong?

Posted on Friday, February 28 @ 17:15:00 Eastern by

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 came out this week and boy did it hurt to play. I wanted this game to be soooo good and it... well, it just wasn't. Read our review. Castlevania fans have probably come down on one side or the other. I know what it means to be a fan. You might love this game despite its flaws, and hell it wouldn't be the first time you did that for a 3D Castlevania game, right?

The fans over at Castlevania Dungeon sure seem to be taking it hard. Someone posting over there under the handle Kingshango claims to have a connection with Mercury Steam, the studio behind Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, and has been deemed "acceptable" on the Internet scale of anonymous reliability.

Kingshango's contact apparently fingers Studio Director Enric Alvarez as responsible for the rocky development:

Kojima had little to nothing to do with the development of the first game, he came by, set a seal, visited the studio, signed some things and that was it. He had even less to do with Mirror of Fate and LoS2.

Kojima's influence was clear in at least one cutscene, but yeah, totally believable. See Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Demoes.

If there’s someone to blame here, that’s Enric Álvarez. He is the person who has led a broken development based on his personal criteria, completely overlooking programmers, designers and artists. Despite his nice look to the press, often considered as some sort of creative “visionary” in the looks of David Cage and Molyneux, this guy has serious problems. He is a mean and naughty guy, and since the “success Lords of Shadows 1″ his ego has grown to the point of not even daring to say ‘hello’ when you meet him in the hallway.

Yeesh! Someone doesn't like Mondays, just like my buddy Dracula.

After completing Lords of Shadows 2 MercurySteam has fired 35 workers, and it’s embarrasing[sic] that no website or journalist is talking about that.

Full disclosure, the games industry doesn't tell the press sh** they don't want us to know, so there's the reasoning for that. Thank you, Castlevania insider! You told us one point of view from one person inside a team of dozens on a game that took years to make. You know everything!

Certainly, whistleblowers deserve protections, blah blah blah, whatever. No name, no credibility in my opinion. We don't need Kingshango's friend to know that development of Lords of Shadow 2 was a mess. The product spells that out for us, but we're educated gamers. We know what we're doing, so we can guess at the rest of the situation.

Hell, Alvarez might be the boss at the end of this mixed-to-poor corporate outlook, but once more: this is one man inside an organization of dozens. Mercury Steam's environment might be terrible, but it's certainly by choice of everyone involved. The Castlevania Dungeon leaker above even says that people can't talk to Alvarez in the halls, but not talking about the situation can be just as damaging condoning that it continues.

Last month, I got to go hands-on with Lords of Shadow 2 ahead of release and speak with Dave Cox, Producer on the game at Konami. Cox said that the studio was eager to work on their new project after Castlevania shipped, but my guess is that Mercury Steam started working on the next project well before shipping Lords of Shadow 2.

If you've played the game, you can see all the different mechanics it has had boot-strapped to the relatively flat campaign. You could contend that the stealth mechanics, which I absolutely hated, provide a necessary lull for intense combat mechanics to capitalize on. I say bull sh**.

The first Lords of Shadow understood pacing between combat and traversal. Why did this open-world and 3D Castlevania need to add stealth mechanics at all? Previous "open-world" 2D Castlevania games just gave you a big, wide-open castle and plenty of baddies to fight. I'm not saying that the transition between 2D and 3D doesn't make those "open-world" mechanics easy to pull off, but Lords of Shadow 2 makes it look way harder than it should be. There's jumping and climbing and running around, dashing this way and that... and then there's combat where you destroy everything....

Then seemingly out of nowhere there are inexplicable stealth sequences where Dracula transforms into a rat... and then there are co-op puzzles... and then there's co-op combat... none of which is playable with a second human being.

Clearly the studio was pulled into different directions throughout the course of development. By the time Konami had anything to look at or play, it may have been too late to undo the work done in support of a second project at Mercury Steam.

We're playing guessing games, but I'd bet Konami wanted to continue funding Mercury Steam for a second 3D Castlevania after seeing the first game through, knowing that they could market and sell a second title with the next-generation console delay. Mercury Steam accepted the cash and started the second Castlevania project, even though the top of the studio was eager to start work on an entirely original IP.

The story could split here. Maybe the team got too ambitious and when next-gen launch dates were set Konami wanted production wrapped up fast. Consider the newly-built engine, porting the first game to PC, ambitions for an original IP (which every developer has), and a totally original take on the Castlevania mythos in that players take on the role of Dracula. Guessing games or not, it's clear how rough Lords of Shadow 2 development was judging from the finished product.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is available now on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

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