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Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2

Mercury Steam's gothic tale promises to bring some light to dreary February

It feels a little bit odd to think of Dracula as a 'hero'. Even with the awful Twilight series casting vampires as limp effeminate heroes, Dracula is a character that embodies everything that we fear about want vampires truly are - cold blooded creatures filled with sorrow whose only way to live is to take life from others.

Indeed, he's more of an anti-hero in Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2 searching for a way to end his immortal life on his own terms. He grows tired of his eternal battle with the Brotherhood Of Light and that is where we find him at the beginning of this gameplay demo.

Roll time back hundreds of years from the main modern-day setting of Lords Of Shadow 2 to a time when Dracula's castle is beseiged by a massisve army of the Brotherhood. Dracula sits atop his dark throne awaiting the warriors of the light to batter down the door to his throne room. Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2

Play picks up as Dracula's enemies breach the door and the most ancient of vampires has to fight them off.

Combat in Lords Of Shadow 2 uses three main weapons. Dracula's main whip/combat cross attack which deals a decent amount of damage at a moderate range is the standard here, The familiar direct and area attacks from the previous games are back and are nicely responsive.

They can be combined into devastating combos as before but the most interesting thing about combat here is the way in which Dracula's other main weapons, the Void Sword and the Chaos Claws are woven into the system.

The Void Sword deals less damage than the other attacks and offers a shorter range than Dracula's standard attacks but it offers the ability for him to heal by leeching health from enemies with every attack that lands. Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2

The Chaos Claws are exceptionally devastating but require Dracula to get in close to his opponents. It's not hard to close the distance given his very speedy dodge ability but using them leaves him more open to attack. They are most effecting on enemies that use shields, shattering them after a swift flurry of blows where the standard attack and Void Sword would merely bounce off.

Together these different attacks can be combined to allow Dracula to fight off an endless horde of enemies if used correctly.

Switching between them is pretty easy too. The Void Sword is mapped to the left bumper and the Chaos Claws to the right. To switch back to the standard attack just press the key for the currently equipped weapon again.

This makes combat quite a gloriously nuanced experience and bodes well for the finished game. Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2

After a decent combat tutorial the demo unleashes us onto the rest of the hallway leading to the advancing hordes outside. Here we are offered a taste of the game's platforming action which is fairly simple to control with the left thumbstick and the 'A' button to jump.

These segments also offer the occasional quick-time event which is handled with the minimum of fuss. Just wait until the two ornately-designed circled merge into one and push any button to succeed. It's very elegant as far as QTEs go especially given some of the gruelling experiences offered in other games.

After fighting off a bunch of minions and then getting a feel for the platforming/exploration elements of the game it's time for a boss battle. Mercury Steam don't do these things by halves and this encounter offers a suitably epic one-two of bosses.

The encounter envolves fighting both a knight of the Brotherhood Of Light in winged golden armour who can fly and a colossal titan of wood and steel standing a couple of hundred feet tall. Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2

After a short round of entertaining combat with the knight the titan starts taking swings at Dracula trying to taking him down along with half the castle.

From here on it is a battle, very reminiscent of Shadow Of The Colossus and God Of War with Dracula trying to climb his way up the titan fighting off minions and avoiding the magical arrows of the winged knight before reaching the top, fighting off more minions and dodging arrows, removing the armour shielding the titan's control crystal and belching blood over it to taint it and bring the titan crashing to the ground.

Dracula survives and the demo fades out with a face-off between him and the winged knight in the splintered ruins of what is left of the titan.

The combat works very well and has a level of polish that we have come to expect from Mercury Steam. Moving into the boss battle it has a sense of scale that matches the epic gothic nature of the tale that the Spanish studio has created around Dracula and the Belmont clan. Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2

From the smooth gameplay on show here we can surmise that Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2 will prove a dark jewel in the dark winter months at the beginning of 2014.

Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2 will be released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on February the 25th in North America and February the 28th in Europe and the UK. A demo is available now to download on Steam for PC, PSN and Xbox Live.