Is Mercury Steam’s latest a bloody spectacle of visuals or just an aesthetic mess?
It’s hard to pinpoint just what it is about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 that feels so uneven. It could be the art direction that serves up gothic decors one moment and is then forced to contend with a modern setting in the next. The overall unevenness of the game surprisingly doesn’t apply to the game’s multi-platform development. You’ll be hard-pressed to see any real difference between the PS3 and Xbox 360 version – even the PC version doesn’t offer much by way of extra features aside from full HD resolution support and a rock-solid 60 FPS. But we’ll get to that.
"Whereas Lords of Shadow relied on a 1280x720 resolution, Lords of Shadow 2 employs a 1024x720 resolution while emphasizing on the same particle effects, texture blurring and other effects apparent in the previous game."
The most noticeable improvement Lords of Shadow 2 brings over its predecessor is the frame rate. The original game was criticized for its highly fluctuating 30 FPS frame rate which had a tendency to drop to sun 20 during some of the crazier sequences. Lords of Shadow 2 stays relatively rock-solid throughout – you may see 4 to 5 frames dropped in the worst circumstances.
The other big change is the downsized resolution. Lords of Shadow 2 employs a non-native 720p resolution while emphasizing on the same particle effects, texture blurring and other effects apparent in the previous game.
While good for sustaining a strong frame rate, it does hurt the overall edging on textures. There’s no anti-aliasing to speak of and you’ll spot more than your fair share of jaggy edges throughout. Does it affect gameplay in the least, especially considering the overall environmental effects (albeit low-res) employed to mask the same? It’s certainly less intrusive than the frame rate troubles of the previous game.
"Interestingly in terms of performance, the PS3 and Xbox 360 sequences are more or less evenly matched and neither can stake a claim to higher resolutions or superior anti-aliasing."
Interestingly in terms of performance, the PS3 and Xbox 360 sequences are more or less evenly matched. Since neither can stake a claim to higher resolutions or superior anti-aliasing, it falls to the frame rate performance to decide which is superior. Both versions experience their fair of dropped frames, and both maintain a strong 30 FPS frame rate throughout. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any real differences unless comparing them both side-by-side and even then it’s difficult.
What does that say about the PC version then, which is neither limited by its resolution or texture quality? PC users can expect a solid 1920×1080 resolution and 60 FPS with fairly generous system requirements. Mercury Steam also used post-process anti-aliasing on textures and though it doesn’t compare to the likes of, say, Ryse: Son of Rome or Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PC), it does the job more often than not.
Texture quality is thankfully higher grade with improved depth of field and higher resolution environmental effects. It’s easily the most visually impressive of all three versions, even if it’s not pushing any boundaries compared to the latest crop of PC titles like Thief or even Titanfall. Frame rate performance is also reliably solid with very few drops at 60 FPS even with high settings.
"That lower resolution and overall lack of anti-aliasing on the PS3 and Xbox 360 is noticeable and the frame rate does still see some drops."
In comparing Lords of Shadow 2 to the original, its obvious Mercury Steam wanted to make the overall gameplay fluid and hassle-free while still maintaining the same epic visuals and set-pieces as before. The aesthetics are honestly underwhelming at times, with Dracula’s castle rendered in resplendent detail while the modern cityscape bores more often than not, but when it comes to reliable performance and overall presentation, its leagues beyond its predecessor.
That being said, it comes at a price. That lower resolution and overall lack of anti-aliasing on the PS3 and Xbox 360 is noticeable and the frame rate does still see some drops. Despite the PC version delivering far more performance-wise, it’s not among the best looking games on the market by a long shot. If you’re a fan of Castlevania, Lords of Shadow 2 may be worth a look but for the casual gamer, the game represents nothing extraordinarily revolutionary in either the gameplay or graphics department.