Rather than giving itself over to one gameplay style, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
tries to please everyone. I’m sure there’s a way to marry combo-and-timing heavy combat and exploration, but this isn’t the way to accomplish that lofty goal.
Exploration elements are largely an illusion. Most of the "hidden" areas of the castle are so close to the beaten path, they barely qualify as "hidden." Sections of the castle are clustered into boxy areas connected by load screens, killing the feeling you’re exploring a giant castle. Rather than discovering new paths to get around the castle faster, you’re stuck running through linear areas until you either find the right path or stumble across a color-coded portal. Neither is all that quick or efficient.
The translation from a 3D plane to a 2D sidescroller doesn’t work well. All of the elements are present, but seem unnecessary. The large whip strikes and air combos are better when surrounded by mobs of enemies, not one or two with limited movement options. I’m not saying it can’t work, but it would require a complete rethinking of the system, not the rectangle peg in a square hole Mirror of Fate presents.
The narrative places you in control of three different protagonists: Simon Belmont, Alucard, and Trevor Belmont. The underlying story is rather thin – kill Dracula – though I did enjoy seeing characters cross paths during their respective plotlines. For example, Simon will spy a mysterious figure during one of his sequences, only to later reveal that figure was Alucard, who is off on his own concurrent mission.
The concepts behind the story are strong, but the actual storytelling is insufficient. Stuff happens, but I’d be hard-pressed to translate what actually happens into a concrete plotline. The ending is hollow and you’re left with more questions than answers. I assume this is meant as a setup for Lords of Shadow 2, which is fine. At the same time, it isn’t satisfying unless you are already plugged into the Castlevania mythos.