Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate: a step sideways

MercurySteam spins off its Castlevania reboot into a more traditional, 2D form.

As a big fan of Konami's 2010 Castlevania reboot, Lords of Shadow, I went into my first look at the new 3DS spin-off, Mirror of Fate, full of hope. Developed by MercurySteam, the same team behind the console Lords of Shadow, Mirror of Fate embraces more traditional 2D Castlevania gameplay and will lead in to the in-development Lords of Shadow 2.

I left my brief demo of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate more concerned than excited. Although Mirror of Fate is played on a sidescrolling, 2D plane, it retains the cinematic camera work and God of War-esque fighting system. Those elements don't translate well to the restricted movement space.

As the playable character moves through the area at a muddy slow speed, the camera struggles to keep up. I often found myself running headlong into enemies or traps because the character ended up near the edge of the screen before the camera moved along.

Even when I encountered enemies properly, the combat didn't feel very satisfying. The console Lords of Shadow was a challenging game where playing defensively was not only rewarded but necessary to survive. The timing and movement of whip slashes and doges in Mirror of Fate feels similar, but with only two directions to move, enemies frequently trapped me, leading to frustrating defeats.

Mirrors of Fate contains a few glimmers of hope. Players step into the role of multiple generations of Belmonts and are able to pass on abilities down to the next generation as they go, which is an especially great concept for Castlevania lore nerds. MercurySteam's impressive visual work in Lords of Shadow has carried over to the 3DS as well, with one of the best-looking games I've seen on the handheld – although one that also suffers from lengthy load times in its current form.

While I was disappointed in my time with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate at E3, I should stress that there's still time for some things to improve. The load times will likely get better, and movement speed and camera work could be tweaked. But with the game currently slated to launch this fall, I'm not sure the stiff combat is going to get any better, and that worries me.

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