Castlevania Producer Talks Lords Of Shadow 2 And Mirror Of Fate
We've already discussed our thoughts on the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow trilogy. Now it's time for the man producing them, Dave Cox, to answer more of our burning questions. We asked the producer of Lords of Shadow 2 and the 3DS title Mirror of Fate our burning questions about the new Castlevania games. We talk about everything from the Belmont bloodline, to new gameplay, to what the essence of a Castlevania game is. Beware, some spoilers for the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow are present.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
Will the concept of playing through multiple bloodlines be similar to Infinity Blade, in which descendants die and pass on their skills and gear to their heirs?
I haven’t played Infinity Blade, so I cannot make the comparison. The way that this game works is that you play through as a particular character and some of the abilities you obtain along the way are carried over to your descendant, though not all. Each character has specific abilities that are unique to that particular character, for example Alucard has the ability to change to mist which is unique to only him.
Although you play as four specific characters, the player does not choose which character he/she plays and you don't necessarily play those characters in chronological order either.
How much will one era vary from another? Will locations change or will Dracula’s castle always be basically the same?
The castle basically remains the same throughout the game though some things that are done in one era will affect another. Characters also will be able to explore unique areas of the castle specific to them based on their unique abilities. This will also expand the story elements for that specific character.
As I said, Alucard can change into mist and that allows him access to new areas of the castle. Likewise Trevor has double jump which means he can access certain areas of the Castle that Simon cannot etc.
How long has Mirror of Fate been in development?
The game has been in development since the end of 2010.
What is it like balancing development of Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2? Did Mercury Steam expand after Lords of Shadow?
The original team on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was pretty small at around 60 people. We expanded the team now to just over 100 people working across both games. A core team of 25 people are working on just Mirror of Fate with some cross over on certain tasks between the two teams. For example, the art department is covering both games.
It’s likely that as we continue the development, the team size will continue to increase to around 120 people, which is still quite small relative to other high profile releases.
The post-credits cinematic in Lords of Shadow reveals that Gabriel becomes Dracula and lives in modern day. If Mirror of Fate takes place before the end of Lords of Shadow, does that mean Simon and Belmont’s attempt to kill Dracula is ultimately in vain?
I don’t recall hearing about Gabriel and Marie having a son, did I miss something?
This was something we were going to include in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, but in the end we decided it wasn’t necessary at that time and would have been another story twist too many for most.
Will there be any female Belmonts?
Having a female character to control is something we are interested in exploring, but not for Mirror of Fate.
How exactly does Mirror of Fate fit into the Lords of Shadow timeline? Will the ending lead directly into Lords of Shadow 2?
The original game Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is about Dracula, and so indeed is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. We very much see them as Dracula begins and the end of the Saga respectively. Mirror of Fate sits between them as a companion piece, but this time focus is on the Belmont’s and their relationship to Dracula.
The Castlevania series has a notoriously convoluted chronology and story, which Lords of Shadow rebooted and simplified. How will Mercury Steam avoid the same storytelling missteps moving forward?
Our intention is to tell our story and then move on to other things. We have a very interesting tale to tell – a story about Dracula. Our intention was to tackle the story from his perspective and give players an angle on his viewpoint. We have no intention of milking the series any further than that. I believe that any story worth telling should have a satisfying ending. This one has exactly that, and once its told I hope our audience will enjoy the saga as a unique and interesting take on the Castlevania mythology.
Will the magic system work similarly to the Lords of Shadow’s light/dark duality?
In Mirror of Fate, Trevor uses a similar magic system to that of his father, Gabriel. Actually, our fans told us this was an aspect of the game they really enjoyed. The strategy of combat and the fact this was not a button masher but a game where the player was required to think about combat situations and react accordingly. This carries over into both Mirror of Fate and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, but it’s not necessarily the same either.
In Mirror of Fate for example, Simon uses summonable guardian spirits to augment his combat abilities. What we have tried to do is develop the combat further to retain the features and style that people liked, but to also offer a deeper and more satisfying combat system that builds upon that which appeared in the original game.
What is “focus,” and how does it incorporate into combat?
Focus is a state that the player can achieve by playing well. By not taking damage and by executing combos that do major damage, the player can become focussed. When this happens the enemies drop more neutral energy than normal. Remember, neutral energy is what powers your magical abilities. If you have more access to this energy you can sustain your magical abilities for longer thus giving you an advantage in combat. Therefore, we reward players who play well by giving them more chances to take down their enemies quicker.
In Mirror of Fate, we have simplified the focus system. The principle is the same but the player does not have an onscreen representation of focus. You simply just get neutral energy given to you at key stages of the fight dependent on how you are playing. Players also will be able to grab enemies at key moments to finish the fight quickly, if they prefer, and this is directly related to the damage they inflict in a given amount of time.
In a nutshell, inflict maximum amount of damage in the shortest amount of time and you will receive more neutral energy during fights allowing you to sustain your damage over time.
How will the upper and lower screens of the 3DS be utilized? Will the stylus be used at all?
The top screen is to view the game world and your character within it. The bottom screen is used to manage your travel book. On the bottom screen you have a map of the castle which clearly shows you areas you have explored and areas yet to be explored.
You can leave post-it notes on the map, to mark specific areas of interest, for example, a life font location, a save point or indeed areas you cannot explore because you don’t have an item or ability yet, to remind yourself to come back later.
Players mange their inventory here and can access the games bestiary which also contains information on the games many enemies and their respective strengths and weaknesses. Players can purchase abilities and combos using their EXP points through the travel book interface too.
Also magic and spells are triggered using the touch screen and stylus.
Next we dig into Lords of Shadow 2 and what constitutes a Castlevania game.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
When exactly does this game take place in relation to Mirror of Fate and the first Lords of Shadow?
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 takes place directly after the events in Mirror of Fate. It's worth noting that each game in the saga can be played by itself. Each has a unique story that has a conclusion and can be enjoyed without having played any of the other games. If you remember in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow the story was about Gabriel bringing Marie back from the dead and obtaining the God mask. That game had an ending to that particular story. Same for Mirror of Fate and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.
Of course, the underlying story arc means that by playing all three games you are getting a deeper understanding of the characters and the main arc that runs throughout each game.
Will we see exactly how Gabriel becomes the notorious vampire?
Is the scale of the battle in the trailer anywhere close to the types of battles we can expect in-game?
Yes, but most battles will be with smaller groups or one-on-one like the previous game.
Will the game revisit the modern day setting seen at the end of Lords of Shadow? Will you be in urban environments at any point?
The game will conclude Dracula’s story and we will have a very satisfying conclusion to the Lords of Shadow saga – that's all I can say at this point. Make of it what you will.
Some longtime Castlevania fans were upset that Lords of Shadows just didn’t feel like a Castlevania. Will you be doing anything to address these concerns?
The problem is one of perception. I grew up on the classic Castlevania games in the eighties, and to me they represent what Castlevania is all about. Whilst I really loved Symphony of the Night, it was a departure from what people up to that point thought Castlevania was.
Of course, this new formula proved very popular and attracted many fans to the Castlevania brand and indeed set the tone for Castlevania games for the last decade and a half. If you grew up with Symphony of the Night and those games, I can quite easily see that what we did was a big departure for you but, if you are of a certain age and grew up with the classic games, I think you would see that our take on the Castlevania mythology is closer to those classic games I grew up on.
One thing I have learned in working on this game, and indeed being fortunate enough to have been involved in Symphony of the Night way back in 1997, is that Castlevania means different things to different people. Our Castlevania was the most successful Castlevania ever released in the series history, and so whilst I can accept that to some it wasn’t for them, for most others it did feel like their Castlevania.
I can tell you that with the enormous success we achieved with the game, we do feel a sense of vindication for taking this risk and following this direction, and it's to those fans who have accepted our take and who have supported us that I say, I want to deliver to you something that will totally exceed your wildest expectations, because at the end of the day we have a huge fan base that we have bought into this and we want to satisfy them in every way. I for one do not want to let them down.
I don’t want anyone who loved Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to feel any disappointment with these sequels. I accept that there is a small minority of fans who don’t like what we have done but, I accept you cannot please all of the people all of the time, and you would be a fool to attempt to do so.
One thing I will say, however, is that as a story on the origin of Dracula we felt we needed to show the character before his transformation. We needed to show his world before the darkness. We needed to show the day before the night, so to speak. We couldn't just set the game in a castle, we had to show a world and him within it. I think when people take all three games in the trilogy together they will see the big picture and recognize that the journey of Gabriel to Dracula is a profound one, and certainly we intend to go to a very dark place, indeed, and once all is said and done, this will feel much more like what people expect from a modern retelling of the Castlevania story.
What do you think are the essential elements of a Castlevania game?
I think a dark gothic setting is essential, and the feeling of being a lone warrior battling supernatural enemies with a whip. For me the whip is the iconic weapon synonymous of the series and something I wanted to bring back. The game has to revolve around the Belmonts and Dracula has to be a major component of the game, too.
We set out to tell Dracula’s story and his relationship with the Belmonts. We wanted to take a declining series and make it popular again with today's audiences. I think we have taken a big step in achieving that, but I feel with Mirror of Fate – and even more so with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 – that we will at the least have given Castlevania a new lease on life and a deep hope that the future of the series will be assured.
I really hope that people will look back on our take fondly as I do to those classic games of yesteryear that inspired me to work in the games industry all those years ago. I hope others will take up the challenge and bring their vision to the series, too so that Castlevania will never die for future generations to come.
What is the most exciting thing about Lords of Shadow 2?
You are going to play as the ultimate vampire lord, Dracula – a series first. What could be more exciting!?