As SDCC's Konami gaming suite, we sat down with the producer of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Dave Cox, to get the scoop on the latest entry in this whip-swinging, vampire-slaying franchise. 2010’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow rebooted the popular Castlevania franchise. Cox promises that its sequel will be longer, bigger, and better, putting you in control of Dracula, formerly known as Gabriel Belmont.
AS: This is an established franchise, and Lords of Shadow is kind of a reboot. How did you go about giving it a fresh look while still maintaining the essence of the previous games?
Cox: It was a bit of a challenge, to be honest. Our goal was to create something new with the Castlevania universe, and in order to do that we felt we needed to go in a new direction. So we decided to make more of a hack and slash game, keep characters from the original timeline, but do something new with them, something different. With Lords of Shadow, it’s very much an homage to the classic series, but at the same time, it’s doing something unique and taking it into the modern gaming era, if you like. It’s been a challenge but I think one of the most exciting things about making the games is bringing those characters that people know and love, like Alacard, Simon Belmont, Trevor Belmont, and Dracula himself, and giving them that cool twist that people aren’t expecting, doing something new to the character and also surprising the players. That’s what makes me excited about going to work everyday.
AS: How much of the feedback from the first game influenced this one?
Cox: Quite a bit actually. We got a lot of fan feedback, and we took it very seriously. There were certain things about the game people really liked, such as the combat. People really enjoyed that, but at the same time they wanted to have more exploration. With the first game we had a fixed camera. You know fixed cameras aren’t really exploration friendly, so we thought ‘we’re going to need to give the game a free camera,’ and that meant really looking at technology and rebuilding our game engine in order to facilitate using a free camera while keeping the same quality of the graphics, the art direction, the art design we had in the previous game. That was quite difficult. The exploration side of it was something we wanted to expand to give players more of a world to explore. We wanted to give players an organic world that grew as they explored and the opportunity to find new items, discover new secrets, and find new enemies -- that kind of stuff. It’s been a real challenge, and one of the reasons why, three years after the original, we still haven’t released it. Rather than knock out something a year after, we thought, "Let’s rip out the rule book and start again and try to do something different with the game than we did with the first one."
AS: What other changes can we expect? I know you said a bigger world and more exploration.
Cox: We wanted to have more of an open world environment. It’s not like GTA, it’s more of a game that grows organically -- as you explore it becomes bigger and bigger. We wanted to refine the combat a bit more, make it more exciting so we’ve added some new weapons. We’ve got a weapon called the Void Sword which allows players to recoup health from their enemies. We’ve got the Chaos Claws which breaks enemies’ defenses. A lot of enemies in this game will have lot of armor or shields, so you can break those things down. Those weapons have their own combos and abilities as well, and we have the mastery system which is something that allows you to upgrade those weapons and make them even more powerful. That’s something we didn’t have in the last game so it’s really building upon the combat structure we had in the previous game making it more refined, giving the players more opportunity to use strategy in fighting, which I think is really important. The story is a big driving force. With the epilogue of the previous game, it left you hanging about Dracula in the future. So with this game, that is something we wanted to deliver on, in terms of the promise we made in the epilogue.
AS: You talked about the weapons, so what other abilities will Dracula have?
Cox: Dracula, being a vampire, should be able to do stuff like turn into mist, bite his enemies, that kind of stuff. That’s definitely there. We give the players those abilities later on in the game. As a vampire, he can do other things which are really cool that tie into the weapons he’s got. Like the Void Sword for example, he can freeze enemies in combat. So if you’ve got three enemies coming towards you, you can use the Void Sword to freeze one of the enemies and kill the other two. He’s also got a thing called the bat swarm ability which is an ability he has where he can summon bats to do his bidding. And the bats can be thrown at the enemies to distract them. It’s really interesting. So if you’ve got an enemy you need to get past, you can distract him with the bats to get past him. Even in combat you can distract one enemy while you deal with another. You just get to play with this badass vampire character.
AS: We’re all going to want to be vampires after we play the game!
Cox: Yeah, he’s a very powerful guy but at the same time we want to show a sort of human side of him, the emotional side of him, the tragic side. The story’s really important, I think, with characters like Alacard making a return. We want to show that [Dracula’s] not just a one dimensional bad guy, he’s a bad guy with heart.
AS: I know the first game was pretty long, do you have an estimate of how long this one will be?
Cox: Actually, I don’t think we know how to make short games, so I think this one’s going to end up being longer, especially with the exploration. You can play through the game on the main story mode -- I think it’s going to take around 18-20 hours. But if you want to explore and find everything, it could be even longer than that. Depends on the player, I guess. We wanted to give players a game that’s going to give them value for their money. It’s going to keep them entertained for a long time. It’s something we did in the original game, and it’s something we wanted to deliver in this game as well.
AS: Wow, 18-20 hours is a bonus for everyone. Now when it comes out, is that it or is there going to be any downloadable content that will come out later?
Cox: We’ve got a story to tell and then we want to be done with it.
AS: Move on to the next project.
Cox: Yeah, there’s nothing worse than having nothing to say. We’ve got something to say. We’ve got a really cool story, a great conclusion, lots of surprises for people so once we’ve done that we’re going to move on to something else. Pass the torch of Castlevania to another team. Hopefully, they’re going to do something unique and cool with it.
AS: So this will be the last Lords of Shadow that you’re doing?
Cox: Yes. We never felt like this franchise belonged to us. It was just the torch being passed to us, now it’s time to pass that torch on. Whoever comes next, they should do what they feel is right for the franchise.
AS: What are your favorite parts about the game?
Cox: One of my favorite parts is the story actually. I really like the Belmonts and Dracula and how the blood feud came about. It’s something that’s always been there in Castlevania right from the get go, 1986. That mystery has never really been explained. With Mirrors of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2, we’re really touching upon that and delivering an explanation that’s never been heard before. The emotional side of it, the fact that Dracula killed his own son and turned him into a vampire himself, is quite tragic. I’m really proud of that story element. Once people see the ending of the game and Lords of Shadow 2 as a whole, they’ll think, “Wow, that’s a really cool take on Dracula.”
AS: Are there any plans to most the franchise towards an iOS version?
Cox: No, we don’t have any plans to do that. We very much see this as the last of the current gen consoles. We’re going to be done with it, move on to do something else. And whoever comes next, whatever form they want to do is up to them.
There, you have it, folks! Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will be released later this year, so get ready to sink your teeth into another game in this legendary Konami franchise.