Everywhere you look in Lords Of Shadow 2, there’s something to collect. One trinket leads to a series of challenges, accessed from the Kleidos mirror in an underworld shop run by a diminutive Chupacabras demon. For every four shards you collect, you unlock a set of four combat challenges. Each offers four medals for meeting certain conditions – banning magic use, for instance, or not letting more than 20 seconds pass between kills – with subsequent challenges walled off until you’ve unlocked a set number of medals. It’s a reasonable distraction from the messy campaign, but poorly balanced, with your very first task proving an immediate difficulty spike. The high-pitched cheers from the offscreen Chupacabras, meanwhile, ensures the level of irritation doesn’t dip too much. badly designed fat left on Lords Of Shadows 2’ s bones. But for all its litany of crimes, pacing is the biggest. There might be a half-decent ten-hour game in here somewhere, but instead what we have is stretched beyond breaking point and padded with dreary filler. Halfway through the game, with a mutant infection threatening humanity’s existence and a shady group making preparations to summon Satan to conquer the planet, Dracula spends a couple of hours finding Mirror Of Fate fragments because the ghost of his dead son says he needs it to play with his toys. This sojourn to the netherworld hosts the nadir of a game with copious low points: another instafail stealth section in which you must evade Agreus, the goat-headed brother of Pan, as you traverse a garden littered with dead leaves that will alert your pursuer if you step on them. If he catches you, his whirlwind attack sends you back to the start. It’s tortuous stuff, but the biggest insult is that you fight him immediately afterwards and it’s a cakewalk.
The first Lords Of Shadow is remembered as a commendable achievement from a relatively small team working to a comparatively tight budget. Its sequel, by contrast, cannot disguise the resources with which it was made. Lords Of Shadow 2 is clunky, ugly and deeply misguided. It’s a game that sees the lord of the damned as a vehicle for rat-powered linear stealth, and that takes a future-Gothic London setting and then sets the action in tower blocks and sewers. MercurySteam says this will be the final game in the Lords Of Shadow saga, and on the evidence of this cluttered, bloated and forgettable mess, it’s just as well.