Red Cross Australia Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Preview

Become Dracula in Castlevania’s most impressive outing to date

Last week the Australian Red Cross, in collaboration with Mindscape, gave the media and general public an early taste of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. This event aimed to educate gamers on the importance of donating blood whilst previewing the latest vampiric offerings from Mindscape.

This event was a great success, with pledges and blood donation happening during the evening. Awareness of important issues like blood donation in the specific demographic games like Castlevania aim for can always be improved, and this type of event was a really clever way to reach out. I have to thank both Mindscape and the Red Cross for allowing us to come and test out the game, and to commend them on the excellent event held. I really hope we start to see more events like this, focussing not just on amazing new games, but also on important topics within our society. You can read more about blood donation, and even donate on the Blood Service website.

Even Vampire donate blood
Even vampires donate blood

Now, onto Castlevania. During the event the first three hours were playable, taking us through the tutorial, prologue and then giving us a look at the modern-day missions and open world. In a great move for newcomers, the game introduces the core story for the series over the course of a long cutscene to bring players up to speed with the series, and as a person who hasn’t played a lot of the Castlevania games before this, I felt quite comfortable following the plot.

We first meet Dracula as the game opens in his throne room, sitting atop his throne with a chalice of blood. Before long he’s interrupted, the door shakes as it’s hit by an ornate battering ram over and over. The doors shatter and enemies start to pour in; Dracula’s castle is under siege, and our tutorial begins.

The combat is fairly simple but quite well put together. Using a series of light and heavy attacks, plus blocking and dodging, you can reliably knock down enemies health and sometimes even stun them to perform a gruesome finishing move. You soon become quite good at predicting the moves of the basic enemies, but the bigger enemies and bosses mix up the pattern quite nicely. You also gain two different special weapons for use in combat, the Void Sword, which allows you to absorb health from enemies upon hitting them and the Chaos Claws, which can be used to break through enemy defences and shields. These weapons add a nice sophistication to the combat, making you think about how and when to use your weapons.

The more you use your weapons and powers, the more they can be upgraded through ‘masteries’. You can also unlock more abilities and attacks by collecting experience orbs, broadening moves and attacks from the initially somewhat basic combat roster.

Just as you slide into the comfort of fighting basic enemies the game shows you its impressive set pieces, giving us a stunning view over Dracula’s castle under siege. For a moment you can take in the impressive gothic fantasy world that has been created here, before being attacked by a walking siege castle and a shining gold paladin, whose only aim is to kill Dracula.

The golden Paladin, a fierce early game enemy!
The golden Paladin, a fierce early game enemy!

The game has a great balance to it with its enemies and bosses. It’s not too hard, but hard enough to be a challenge. Enemies and bosses will kill you, but this is no Dark Souls; you won’t find yourself throwing a controller across the room because of them. Slight hints and tells balance out the un-blockable heavy hits, and used wisely, the Void Sword keeps you pretty well stocked on health.

Upon completion of the Prologue you are introduced to the modern-day world through a series of (overly long) cutscenes. Whilst the dialogue can get a little overdramatic, the story is intriguing and the voice acting is quite strong, lead by actors like Patrick Stewart and Richard Madden (of Game of Thrones fame). Regardless of length the lore cutscenes have a great visual style to them, playing out like the pages of a dark fantasy novel across the screen.

Even the in-game or cinematic cutscene have quite a dark feel to them. In one instance, after Dracula’s re-emergence to the modern-day, you are given a real weakness as a shrivelled and old vampire. Directly following this, the game hits the hardest that I saw in its first three hours. In a dark and quite disturbing way you’re forced to murder a family in order to feed to regain your youth and strength, which whilst fitting in with the tone of the game, I found overly brutal. It reminds the player that even though Dracula is the protagonist, he is in no way a ‘good’ guy.

Outside of combat you get an open world to explore in the modern-day, filled with mission based ‘dungeons’ of sorts. I was able to complete the first mission, to in

Gothic architecture and climbing make for some great scenes
Gothic architecture and climbing make for some great scenes

filtrate a science and technology company believed to be a front for the allies of Satan, paving the way for his return. You can smash all sorts of items that litter the area for experience and art unlocks, as well as keeping your eyes open for crystals to increase your health and magic. Lords of Shadow 2 has a very Darksiders feel to it outside of combat. You’ll climb and jump your way through levels whilst gaining powers (such as a crystal that lets you freeze and climb waterfalls), all the while solving basic puzzles to progress.

In the first three hours the game had no really hard puzzles, but almost all of them required a little thought at least. Adding to the puzzles is the drift between the present day and Dracula’s time. You’ll enter a stark modern passageway, or industrial service hatch and come out into a grand ballroom line with chandeliers and torches. It has a beautiful visual style that keeps things pretty exiting all the way through.

Castlevania also employs some stealth gameplay that works well in sections. You can possess rats and hide in the shadows to avoid enemies and traverse passageways unnoticed. Whilst these sections were fun, the game really shines in it’s cool combat and diverse enemy roster.

All in all I very much enjoyed my time with Lords of Shadow 2. With pretty fresh gameplay and an intriguing story it has all the hallmarks to be an exciting entry into the series, and I’m eagerly awaiting it’s release, February 27th, to play more of this game. Once again, a huge thanks to the guys at Mindscape and the Australian Red Cross for hosting the event and giving us a hands on preview of the title!

OXCGN’s Darksiders II Review: Death Comes Knocking

OXCGN’s Darksiders II Review

Death Comes Knocking

by David Faulk

©2012 David Faulk

Death. The big sleep. The final curtain call. The inevitable. The end.

This is how Darksiders 2 begins.

Darksiders 2 is the sequel to THQ and Vigil’s mildly successful game Darksiders, which was released in early 2010.

It takes place during the events of the first game, with the most powerful of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Death, riding to clear the sullied name of his brother, War.

Instead of taking place solely on Earth, Darksiders 2 takes Death all around the outer realms, from Angelic Outposts to the Land of the Dead, and practically everywhere in between.

Darksiders 2 review

OXCGN’s Darksiders II Event: ‘Death’ comes for us all

OXCGN’s Darksiders II Event 

‘Death’ comes for us all

by Chris Fox

© 2012 Chris Fox

THQ were nice enough to invite me to their European headquarters to show off their new game last Monday.

The place: sweltering hot London.

The game: Darksiders II.

The food: really, really good burgers.

The question on the lips of everyone present was can Darksiders II take the enjoyable exploration and even more enjoyable combat to the next level for this sequel?

It was time to saddle up with the four horsemen and find out.

Darkness II answers here

OXCGN’s Darksiders II extensive hands-on preview

OXCGN’s Darksiders II extensive hands-on preview

This ain’t your ordinary Grim Reaper

by : GrathiusXR

©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos

I copped quite an barrage of negativity from gamers back in 2009 for my play on the words with my Darksiders Hands-On article, stating that it was the real “God Of War”.

Some got it and some didn’t and that’s fine, it still generated interest in the title and people moved on.

Now we find ourselves in 2012 and THQ Australia have once again invited OXCGN to get their hands stained with blood in Darksiders II.

Having to travel all the way to Darling Point, Sydney, I arrived late at my destination and found myself standing outside what looked like a castle, which was a fitting setting for Darksiders II.

Darksiders II this way

Ultimate Capcom’s Super Extended Turbo Games Showcase

Ultimate Capcom’s Super Extended Turbo Games Showcase

Capcom-iganza of gaming!

by : GrathiusXR

©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos

The year has gotten off to a massive start with Insertcoins, and it’s only getting bigger with each publisher showcasing their 2012 line up.

Capcom have once again raided the Oxford Arts Factory, decking it out for their showcase of upcoming titles.

From Asura’s Wrath all the way to Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 on the PlayStation Vita, there were enough games to tickle everyone’s fancy and I was lucky enough to check these games out and report back to you with my thoughts on most of the titles. Continue reading Ultimate Capcom’s Super Extended Turbo Games Showcase

Confessions Of A Game Bargain Addict

by belgavon

©2010 Gav Ross

Everyone loves a bargain, no matter what the product, and gamers are no exception. But it’s no longer just about finding a game at a cheap price.

The trade-in system employed by major game retailers such as EB Games, JB Hi-Fi and GAME means consumers are continuously looking for loopholes in order to get a new release game for as cheap as possible. [ED: Even Amazon have entered the trade-in fold]

The most famous of these trade-in offers is, of course, JB Hi-Fi’s trade-3-get-1-free deal on new release titles. At first it might have sounded like a typical ploy entirely in the favour of the store to boost their lucrative second-hand game stocks, but savvy buyers soon found that by simply trading three games bought very cheaply elsewhere you’re actually getting the new release far below the shelf price.

Oh the woahs of a bargain hunter . . . . >

OXCGN’s Darksiders Review: Mythological Gods & WAR Reign Supreme

The Mythical Gods of Heaven & Hell Fight For Supremacy

by GrathiusXR:

©2010 Arthur Kotsopoulos

With 2009 having now ended we look to 2010 and see what games to excite us are on their way to make us want to spend what money we have left after Christmas. What better way to start off 2010 than with Vigil GamesDarksiders (ex-Darksider: Wrath Of WAR) which releases in the 2nd week of January – 8th Jan 2010.

Darksiders follows a member of the mythological Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Conquest, War, Famine, and Death) who ride to Earth during the end of the world and bringing on a war between the forces of Heaven, Hell and the mankind to see who will come out victorious as the superior race.

The problem is however, that WAR is the only one of the Four Horseman who rode out the Apocalypse, and for one reason or another, is slowly weakening and questioning his presence in the battle.

It’s in the opening sequence where you will see just how big the scope of Darksiders is and realise that the journey you are on is a long one.

Continue reading OXCGN’s Darksiders Review: Mythological Gods & WAR Reign Supreme

Embargo Lifted – Darksiders: This is the real ” God of War “

OXCGN gets a Hands-On With WAR at Darksiders Preview

by GrathiusXR:

©2009 Arthur Kotsopoulos
A "very" big sword

[Ed: The embargo on the 5 hour hands-on was lifted this afternoon at 4pm AEST, so here’s Arthur’s report on his marathon hands-on with the game.]

Sure, it’s a bold statement to claim THQ’s multi-platform title Darksiders, due for release January 7th 2010, as the real God of War of this hack ‘n slash action game genre.

But when the main character is named “War ” and is one of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse you would think that it’s pretty suitable to label Darksiders as THE new God of War.

Maybe it’s not entirely original, but the game does do an excellent job of taking what worked in many great 3rd person action titles such as God of War, Legend of Zelda, Soul Reaver etc. and mash them in with a post apocalyptic/Armageddon time line to create one of, if not the, most visceral games I have played in a long time.

E3 this year was where I first laid eyes on Darksiders and initially wasn’t overly impressed with what it had to offer. The E3 demo was sort of a taste of what to expect and frankly it wasn’t anything special.

WAR goes on rampage . . . >