Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a success story following the Castlevania franchises many failures to make the jump from 2D to 3D. Lords of Shadow delivers everything Castlevania fans have been craving in a 3D game since the release of the awful Castlevania 64. Intense combat, engaging puzzles, and breathtaking scenery are the highlights of this grand adventure.

The combat starts off nearly identical to that of the iconic God of War series but steadily evolves and really comes into its own as the game progresses. You start with only a handful of basic combos for your odd chain-within-a-cross weapon (very similar to Kratos' swords-on-chains) and a very useful doge roll. As the game progresses, you gain experience that allows you to purchase new combos, but I often found myself resorting back to the common mash-one-button combos. You will also add new sub-weapons to your repertoire throughout the game including series staples such as holy water, but because you have a limited supply, I often found myself conserving them unnecessarily in case an emergency that rarely came. The most unique thing about Lord of Shadows combat is the magic system. You are given separate bars for both light and shadow magic which can be activated at any time. While light magic is active, attacking enemies gives you extra health. While shadow magic is active, your attacks do additional damage. Switching between magic types mid-combo is enthralling and becomes necessary during some of the later boss fights.

There are two types of boss fights in Lords of Shadow. The first is giant titan battles which consist of scaling and then stabbing huge creatures in their glowing weak points like the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus. These fights have an incredible sense of scale that make them very exciting. However, each time you fall off the titan you have to rescale it which can take a lot of time, especially in the final titan battle. If you play the fights perfectly, you will probably loved them. If you fall off a lot you will probably hate them. Most gamers will likely fall somewhere in between these two extremes with a mere appreciation for the epic scale. The second type of boss fight is your standard affair; attack the boss while dodging their attacks as much as possible. Most bosses include a few quick-time events which lead to very satisfying kills. It's a common formula, but it fits Lords of Shadow well, and each boss fight still manages to feel fresh and original. The boss battles aren't particularly difficult once you get a few health and magic upgrades under your belt, but you can always pump up the difficulty in the options menu if you're looking for a little more challenge.

Every time you start getting tired of combat, a puzzle or platforming section breaks up the monotony. The puzzles range from simple deeds such as finding a crank handle and using it to wind a crank to challenging feats like scaring crows towards a stagnant scarecrow in order to wake him and steal his treasure. The platforming is extremely fun and hits a high note when you make your way up a large building or across a large chasm without falling. However there are many platforming segments, especially later in the game, where Lords of Shadow mistakes itself for a precise platformer. You can expect to experience many deaths at the hands of imprecise platforming. Also rearing its ugly platforming head is plank-walking. Walking across planks is an exercise of patience more than a test of platforming skill, but luckily they only show up a few times throughout the game.

The scenery of the game is absolutely gorgeous. The games preset camera might bother you a little bit at first, but you quickly learn to love it. The camera is never detrimental to combat, and only once in the entirety of the game did it make it hard for me to find where to go. It's worth getting used to the preset camera in order to see all the beautiful scenic views the game has to offer.

Lords of Shadow's cliché story of a man trying to resurrect his wife is full of both obvious and surprising twists. Don't let the word cliché turn you off from the story though, it's still an emotional, engaging quest which culminates in one of the greatest video game endings of all time after the credits roll. The voice acting is superb, featuring high-profile actors such as Robert Carlyle and Patrick Stewart.

Despite a very slow start and some poor design decisions, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is still worth your time. Beyond the 15-20 hours you'll spend playing through the game your first time, there are trials and hidden items in each level to keep the completionists coming back. Don't let the bad reputation of 3D Castlevania games, or anything else for that matter, keep you away from this amazing adventure.