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.

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