When Konami announced that they tasked Mercury Steam in rebooting the Castlevania franchise and once again bringing it into the 3D realm, people were understandably worried since the series is known for its amazing 2D gameplay and rich lore.
Fortunately for everyone involved, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 1 was both a hit critically and commercially, which caught most people by surprise.
Now, that element of surprise isn’t with Mercury Steam anymore, but instead is replaced by hope that Lords of Shadow 2 will be able to once again deliver and close off the first game’s spectacular ending.
While we can’t answer that yet, we did chat with series producer Dave Cox and grill him when it comes to Lords of Shadow 2’s frame-rate, combat, story and even if we’ll see a next-gen release.
Before you read on, we ask Cox about LoS1‘s twists and this means that there are spoilers within. If you haven’t finished the first game yet, I advise that you don’t read on since it will spoil one of the game’s biggest surprises. Go on, finish it and come back. We’ll be here.
Pixel Enemy: When Mercury Steam started out, did you think of Lords of Shadow as a one-off game or was the intention to “finish” it in two games?
Dave Cox: It was intended to be one game but as we developed the concept and first prototypes it was clear we couldn’t tell the entire story in one go.
PE: You publicly said that Lords of Shadow 2 will close out the Lords of Shadow (or Gabriel’s) story arc. Does this mean everything will be answered and closed off in LoS2?
DC: Yes. This will be the end of Dracula’s story and we don’t intend to do any follow up. This is our take on the Castlevania mythology and we want to go out with a bang and create something memorable for those who have invested in our story. It wont be a conventional story though, there will be lots of twists and surprises. We want the players to think and to debate the game for years to come. We want to leave a legacy.
PE: Leading in to that previous question, does this mean there won’t be any more Lords of Shadow games after LoS2 or does this that there won’t be games from the lore coming out of Mercury Steam?
DC: I don’t know for sure, if Konami will want to revisit the Lords of Shadow continuity or go back to the original one. I think its up to whoever comes after us, what they want to do.
PE: Lords of Shadow 1 had a really fantastic “twist” ending; was that the plan from the get-go or did things change as the team developed the character of Gabriel more and more?
DC: We had a plan to tell Dracula’s story but it was clear we couldn’t do it in one single game. Therefore we decided to have a natural ending point for the first game, where Gabriel fails in his mission to bring his wife back but succeeds in saving the world. As the development progressed, we got excited about the end of the story and decided to give a glimpse of where we intended to take it because at that point, we just didn’t know if we would get the chance to finish our story. As luck would have it, we got that chance an d we couldn’t be more excited to finish Dracula’s tale.
PE: One question that bugged me about Lords of Shadow’s ending was why Gabriel didn’t kill Zobek on sight. He did stab Gabriel in the back, didn’t he? Zobek kept referring to him as “old friend,” or did I miss something?
DC: When Gabriel/Dracula wakes up in modern times, he is incredibly weak and would not be able to defeat Zobek. He does attack him but is easily pushed away… What happens next will be in CVLOS2!
PE: How does Mirror of Fate (the Nintendo 3DS title) tie into LoS2?
DC: Mirror of Fate sits between CVLOS and CVLOS2. You don’t need to play MOF to enjoy CVLOS2 but it does add a lot of depth to the story and give certain characters a much richer backstory that plays out in CVLOS2.
PE: In Lords of Shadow 2, you’re re-tooling the combat. Is this based on fan feedback? Does this mean the Dark and Light magic system will be replaced?
DC: What we are doing is improving and beefing up the combat but the basic principles remain. Last time you had the Combat Cross wit Light and Shadow magic supporting your abilities. This time you have three separate weapons each with its own abilities and combo’s. In addition, you can master those weapons and upgrade/level up their abilities which gives you a lot more flexibility and choice in combat. The focus system still remains but enemies drop blood which powers your abilities.
PE: In the first game’s DLC, it shows Gabriel destroying the Combat Cross. So, does that mean it won’t make an appearance in LoS2? If it will, will an explanation be made?
DC: Spoiler territory!
PE: Titans will be making their return in LoS2. Does Mercury Steam have any tricks up their sleeve to differentiate them from the original?
DC: We have really improved this, so that now its possible to actually fight on these titans and take different routes over them. For example, you fight brotherhood soldiers on the titans arms and a boss fires arrows at you whilst you climb the titan… It makes for far more exiting gameplay and technically is light years far from the previous game.
PE: From the trailers shown, it’s unclear whether Gabriel is the hero or “anti-hero” in the game. Will that be clearly defined or will it be more of God of War’s Kratos, wherein you knew he wasn’t good, but you did terrible things anyway?
DC: This is for the player to discover
PE: How involved was Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions in Lords of Shadow 1? Will they be involved at all in LoS2?
DC: Mr Kojima supported us with CVLOS but it wasn’t a creative role nor did he have much involvement. Kojima Productions did help us with the JPN version and did a fantastic job with it and they gave us a lot of help and advice but with the second one, we decided to move forward alone.
PE: We know that LoS 2 will take place both in the present and in the past. What will the split between the two be? Will the present day serve as a “HUB” and take you to the main missions in the game (set in the past)? Or will there be more to do in the present than just that?
DC: The game takes place mostly in the present during one night. Players will spend their time between modern city and castle and this will be split roughly 60% city and 40% castle.
PE: The first LoS had frame-rate issues, how is this being resolved in the sequel?
DC: We have built a brand new game engine to address this and other technical issues we had in the first game. Frame rate will not be an issue with CVLOS2.
PE: Why is Lords of Shadow 2 not seeing a cross-gen release? Wouldn’t releasing it on next-gen platforms be a good idea to capture early adopters?
DC: Rather than quickly release a sequel after the success of the first game, we decided to address all of the issues we felt the first game had and this meant a complete engine rewrite. We were so far down the line when the new consoles were announced, it would have meant scrapping a lot of the work we had already done. We therefore decided to try to make one of the last great current gen games. Our hope is that people will be amazed that a current gen game can look next gen and feel like a next gen game.
PE: Does the team have anything brewing for next-gen? What can you divulge if so?
DC: Yes we are working on a project for next gen consoles but I can’t let you know just yet what we are cooking up.
PE: I know you can’t speak about it yet, but what’s next on your plate? You’ve openly discussed remaking Contra, is that in the pipeline?
DC: I can’t speak about it yet!