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04/20/11 Konami
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04/20/11 Konami

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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Reverie

By Khuutra 06th May 2011 | 5,731 views 

A heavenly romp in a hellish locale, sweet and brief.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow's first DLC, Reverie, starts off with a change in tone. Highly stylized moving painting cutscenes are a departure from the in-engine story sequences from the main game, looking quite a lot more like the game's concept art coming to life and speaking to you. When Laura, the vampiric handmaiden of the late Dark Lord Carmilla, calls on you to help her rid Carmilla's castle of a still greater evil, it is with a sense of morose urgency that is communicated with a startling intimacy and real sense of dread. This is the first signal that Reverie gives that things have changed and that you are about to experience something different, and this impression does not relent for the entirety of the DLC's length. Reverie holds fiercely to the core concepts that made Lords of Shadow so appealing while being experimental and risk-taking in many parts, doling out morsels of what the franchise holds in store, but does it give you enough?

The focus of Reverie is not on combat, and you can probably count the number of real battles on one hand. To make up for this relative scarcity, Mercury Steam throws only the very toughest of the campaign's enemies at you: Skeleton Knights, Swordsmasters, and a beefed up version of the game's Ghoul enemies will attack you en masse, offering up some of the most technically demanding combat in the game. If you haven't been playing the game for a while before picking this DLC up, you might find yourself getting slapped around a bit before reasserting your dominance.

The meat of Reverie comes in the form of puzzles and platforming, both of which are top-notch and can be fairly challenging your first time through. From arranging demonic chess pieces on a board to running across water that churns with hungry leviathans, this DLC assails you with challenges that expand on concepts laid down in the main game while throwing in its own particular mechanics. The puzzles are less forgiving than the platforming, but that's never really a problem because the player can, just as in the main game, choose to see the solution at the expense of the experience points that solving it would have earned. The highlight of the DLC's puzzling and platforming action is a massive wall of spinning blades that move back and forth on regular paths, the speed of which is controlled by Laura; this segment combines the best of both worlds as you attempt to gauge the best speed for the blades while charting a safe path.

Gabriel and the Leviathan

Laura herself is the other big draw of this DLC and every time that you get to play as her is a treat. She's not able to jump and she's both slower to attack and more fragile than Gabriel is, but she makes up for this with her own suite of abilities, including the draining of health from weakened enemies and effective invincibility in her mist form. Her lightning attacks are slower than Gabriel's but cover a huge area and pump out a ton of damage, so that if you fight well with her then annihilating your enemies is a snap.

The problem with Reverie is the content, or lack thereof. This doesn't mean that what's there isn't great, because it is; from running over frozen subterranean caverns to climbing the ticking heart of magical clock towers, every part of Reverie is made with an intricacy and care that borders on the extravagant, and it will be a treat to anyone who liked Lords of Shadow. Still, it's over in little more than an hour, and will only take another hour or so to max out your achievements. Every moment you spend with it is a good one, but these moments only amount to so much and then they're gone. More, people who were expecting a thunderous conclusion to the DLC in the form of a boss fight will be left wanting; there is major plot progression, but it's conveyed in the form of a cutscene, and the impression given is that this is only one half of the DLC that we've been waiting for.

That is what Reverie offers: a taste of something great, a sampling of ideas that promise to be expanded on in fun and creative ways, and then a sense that it should have gone on for longer and not gone away so abruptly. Recommending this DLC is easy, but it comes with the caveat that only the most diehard will be really satisfied with it, and to almost everyone else it will feel like a tease where the object of your affection doesn't say a proper goodbye.

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