The lights are on
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 marks the first time in series history that players control the Prince of Darkness himself (excluding that lovable tyke Kid Dracula). Gabriel Belmont has become Dracula, and his former life as a warrior of God has imbued him with some formidable abilities. We spoke with producer Dave Cox about the Dark Lord's vampiric powers, complete with exclusive concept art and examples of these evil tricks.
"We wanted Dracula to be a very powerful character but at the same time, we didn’t want him to be overpowered," Cox says. "So we very carefully selected the powers and abilities that he would be able to wield. We took inspiration from the older Castlevania games and vampires from other media in general to arrive at the final list. We tested certain abilities in gameplay and anything that smelt like being over powered we scrapped. Our ultimate goal was for the character to be powerful but temper that with a strong strategic element in any power that he had access to."
With those key design tenets in place we'll take a tour through the abilities that Konami is ready to reveal at this time.
Dracula can transform into a elusive vapor. Becoming a cloud of floating particles allows him to reach new locations or evade unwanted enemy encounters. Once in a scuffle, Dracula can use his mist form to phase through enemies and avoid taking damage. Fans of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's mist form shouldn't expect Dracula to float around the game world like Alucard, however. It sounds like Dracula's vaporous skill is slightly more grounded.
Vampires are famous for their ability to turn into bats, but Lords of Shadow 2's Dracula uses them in a way more similar to Batman. Dracula can summon bat swarms and bend their will to his own. These flying mammals can be directed to distract enemies and even the odds in mismatched encounters. When facing multiple enemies, Dracula can unleash his bats on an enemy to stun them and temporarily remove them from the situation.
Konami is hesitant to reveal why a vampire as powerful as Dracula would need to sneak by enemies, but Cox did offer a bit of insight. "What I can say is that there are some distinct moments in gameplay when we require the player to take a more sneaky, stealthy approach using certain abilities like distracting an enemy or glamoring them to possess their body and pass by unnoticed," he says. "Dracula begins the game with many of his powers missing and rushing in with just your whip can prove foolish. These are special moments that give the player a break from the norm."
Take a look at a demonstrative animation of Dracula summoning his army of winged helpers:
In Bram Stoker's Dracula, the iconic vampire charms a insane asylum inmate to do his bidding. Similarly, Lords of Shadow 2's Dracula can glamor his foes when they are unaware. These enemies can then be directly controlled by the player to interact with the environment or access new areas. Glamoring enemies is a great way to use these dim-witted pawns to open doors or preemptively take them out of a battle.
At the end of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (watch this episode of Spoiled! to learn more), Gabriel Belmont says "...I am the dragon, Dracul! I am the prince of darkness!" Calling himself "The Dragon" wasn't just flashy lip service. In Lords of Shadow 2, Dracula can literally transform into a dragon and obliterate his enemies. These fantastic flying creatures exited eons ago in the Lords of Shadow universe, but Dracula's unique ability lets him become one in the present. He combines dragon scales with a mysterious talisman to unlock this dark power, which allows him to quickly turn the tides of battle.
We asked Cox whether Dracula's dragon form is on a cooldown timer of if he needs to find new resources for each use. "Dracula’s dragon form requires dragon scales to use and once used, the player will need to find the requisite number of dragon scales to perform again," Cox says. "This ability is very powerful and can get you out of a jam when push comes to shove."
Here's a storyboard sketch of Dracula's transformation into a Dragon:
We already know that Dracula uses his own blood to form a glowing red whip he uses to lash his foes. He can also cut his wrists to focus his life force into daggers. These projectiles can be used to deal a powerful blow and destabilize enemies.
Many of Dracula's powerful abilities are dependent on his supply of blood, which can be refilled by biting the necks of stunned enemies. We asked Cox about this design choice. "Blood drives Dracula’s abilities," he says. "Collecting blood from enemies allows Dracula's abilities to be used, if you cannot master the focus system then you will not have access to all of Dracula's abilities and powers. Why? We want players to play well…if they do, they will be rewarded with a vast amount of powers and abilities that will allow them to take enemies down easier. If they don't play well, they will struggle to finish the game. they will get frustrated and will get their asses handed to them by the bosses and creatures they will face. Play the game and use the mechanics and you will be a very powerful vampire lord and feel awesome doing it."
Seal of Alastor
In addition to Dracula's latent abilities, he also collects relics and powers that unlock new potential. The Seal of Alastor is an item that can be shattered to unleash the soul of a legendary warrior. Once activated, Seal of Alastor unlocks all of Dracula's weapon skills regardless of his progress. This temporary access to a slew of powerful moves tilts the scales in Dracula's favor while it lasts.
The clocks of Stolas are some of the most precious relics in Dracula's world. The demon prince Stolas enclosed the ashes of a thousand dead bodies in these twisted hourglasses. These clocks slow time when shattered, allowing Dracula the upper hand in battle. He also accrues more experience from his kills while its effects last.
These vampiric abilities are just a slice of the dark powers available at Dracula's blood-stained fingertips in Lords of Shadow 2. MercurySteam's creative flair for destroying terrible monsters is intact with this sequel, and we can't wait to test drive them when the game releases on PS3, 360, and PC on February 27.
For more on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, read our preview from this year's San Diego Comic-Con
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