Castlevania fans have been battling Dracula for decades, but the Dark Lord’s powers are finally in their hands with Lords of Shadow 2. We got a taste of his evil powers in a playable preview build.

This preview originally appears in Game Informer issue #243.

The end of the first Lords of Shadow reveals that Dracula has survived until present day. He resides in a Gothic castle that a modern city has been built around. Players will be able to travel back and forth between the city and castle freely. MercurySteam is offering a more open world this time, which expands as you explore. The city contains bright lights and a Times Square-like area, but still has tight corridors, hints of medieval architecture, and gargoyles to maintain that oppressive Castlevania feeling. The castle itself is more dreamlike, toying with reality as you trek through its dark halls.

The demo highlights the beginning of the game, which takes place 1,000 years in the past. An army of soldiers sieges Dracula’s castle. The Prince of Darkness sits casually at his throne as a battering ram bashes against his door. The action begins when they finally breach the room, a perfect opportunity to test out Dracula’s full suite of abilities. Like the previous game, players lay waste to lesser foes like these knights with a series of whip attacks. You can now control the camera at will, making it easier to steer the fury of Dracula’s glowing red Blood Whip. The dodge ability is snappier now, and even knocks over foes in your path.

Swapping between light and dark magic played a large role in the first Lords of Shadow, and that combat variety continues with multiple weapons. Dracula can swap between the Void Sword and Chaos Claws on the fly. The flaming Chaos Claws allow you to 
perform slow, heavy attacks that are great for shattering enemy armor and shields. The Void Sword replenishes your health as you hew through the opposition. Should you run low on health or magic (which lets you use the sword and claws), Dracula can replenish himself by drinking the blood of dazed foes.

The action eventually spills out into the castle yard, where a tremendous army encroaches upon the fortress. A huge Siege Titan breaks through the fray, and a golden, winged paladin soars towards Dracula. This boss pesters Dracula intermittently throughout this intro sequence. Dismantling the Titan mixes together combat and platforming as you scale the machine. Enemies pour out of openings, engaging you in battle on the Titan’s arm as it pounds against the castle. The Paladin flies nearby, firing arrows at Dracula as he climbs. One of my favorite elements of this dramatic encounter involves baiting the Paladin to shoot critical rivets on the Siege Titan, causing sections of the mechanical monster to fall off. After a series of leaps through deadly gears and more skirmishing, Dracula finds the Titan’s controls and vomits blood all over them. The demo ends as the mechanical giant malfunctions and crashes to the ground.

Konami says Dracula encounters his son, Alucard, shortly after destroying the Siege Titan. After the father-and-son encounter, Dracula wakes up 1,000 years into the future in present day as a paler, gaunt vampire. He’s been stripped of all his armaments, beginning his quest to free himself from the shackles of immortality with his bare fists.

The gameplay improvements and large-scale encounters become even more impressive as you realize Lords of Shadow 2 never pauses to load. Everything we saw is seamless. Even after dying in the Siege Giant’s grinding cogs, players are resurrected a short distance away without skipping a beat. Technical advances such as this indicate that Konami and MercurySteam aren’t happy with “good enough,” and are striving to make Lords of Shadow 2 a high-water mark for the series.

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