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Getting started on Dracula’s blood-soaked journey in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

The 35th game in the Castlevania series, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, marks the conclusion of Gabriel Belmont’s saga. The fallen champion of light has been reborn as Dracula, and is awakened in modern times to once again go head to head with Satan and his army of misunderstood ne’er-do-wells that just want to hug you. Until you die.

In the game Gabriel/Dracula is tasked with regaining his former power following a centuries long nap, and he does so by exploring both the castle, as well as the nearby city that is unfortunately and unimaginatively referred to as Castlevania City. The game encourages exploration and offers upgrades throughout the 20 or so hour campaign, and there are some RPG-like elements that allow you to choose how you want to expand your skill set.

With that in mind, we offer a few tips on how to get the most out of the game, and on the best way to upgrade Gabracula. Belmontcula? Dracumont. We’ll work on that.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 screenshot 27Know your role (playing)

Lords of Shadow 2 features an RPG-like combat system that allows you to purchase the moves you want, using experience points earned through combat and looting. You can also spend those points to buy items in Chupacabra’s store, which unlocks early on, but make sure to focus on giving yourself more options in combat. As tempting as it might be to purchase items and shards from the shop, you can generally find those items for free in the world. Save your experience points unless you really need a particular item. The only exception to this is the dungeon keys – check out the section below on exploration for more on that.

After a short prelude at the start of the game that shows Gabrielcula at his most blood-suckingest best, you arrive in the modern times with old Drac weak, and looking like a barely surviving member of some famous ’70s rock band. You’ll still have your Shadow Whip, but the other weapons you were introduced to during the prologue – the Void Sword that replenishes health when it connects with and enemy and the Chaos Claws that can break enemy armor – are gone for now. You’ll get them back eventually, but the Whip is your go-to weapon throughout the game, and you should focus on upgrading it fully before anything else.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 screenshot 4Choose wisely

At first, the experience you earn is limited, and so are your options. The game notifies you each time you earn enough points to unlock a new move that a “Skill” is available. Skills are the game’s term for combat moves, many of which are very basic – things like the “Aerial Whip” that allows you to perform a mid-air combo of three heavy attacks, or the “Combined Whip,” which is chains together four light attacks. There are other, more complicated Skills, like a block and a counter move or a rising strike, but start with the basics. You’ll need them.

Some of these Skills are also upgradeable, meaning you’ll essentially need to purchase them twice. Upgrading a Skill makes it more powerful. Make sure you have at least the core moves you’ll use frequently purchased first before you start to buy upgrades though.

Both the Void Sword, found early in the game, and the Chaos Claws have their own purchasable Skills – in fact, each weapon contains even more Skills than the Shadow Whip. Take note, however, that both additional weapons require magic, and they guzzle it from their respective meters while they are in use. There are ways to earn more magic juice through combat (more on that in the Focus section), but in the early portion of the game, magic is scarce. That limits the usefulness of these secondary weapons.

Early on, the magic weapons are best reserved for when you need to use their inherent abilities. Don’t sweat upgrading them right away. Pick a few simple moves, ideally ones with a repeating attack, and then focus on the Shadow Whip. Once you find enough shards to increase the magic you can carry (see “Exploration” section), the Void Sword and the Chaos Claws become more useful, but that won’t come until deep in the game.

Lords of Shadow 2 is a lengthy game, but you’ll need to repeatedly seek out enemies and grind through them if you want to purchase every Skill for all three weapons before the final boss. So choose where you spend your experience wisely.

castlevania-lords-of-shadow-2 cat 3

Master Class

Once you have purchased a Skill, you’ll notice a percentage listed when you highlight that Skill in the menu, starting at “0%.” The percentage tracks how much you’ve “mastered” that skill, which simply means how many times you’ve used it. It’s difficult to put an exact number on what it takes to reach 100-percent, but the percentage helps you monitor progress.

Once you’ve used a Skill enough to hit 100-percent you can then transfer that mastery to the weapon itself. Each time you do, it adds to the weapon’s overall mastery gauge, which requires several mastered Skills to fill its circular meter one time. Your weapon levels up when that happens, making it more powerful. The gauge empties out, but on the next tier. Each weapon begins at level one and maxes out when it hits level three. It is very much to your benefit to hit that third level.

When you unlock a new Skill, make an effort to use it over and over again. Not only will this help you learn the Skill itself (and understand when it works best), you’ll also have an easier time seeing how it fits in combos. Think of it like muscle memory for your thumbs; repeating the moves forces you to learn them. It can be a bit tedious at times, but once the Whip is fully unlocked and mastered, chaining everything you’ve learned together can devastate an entire room of enemies. You can finish the game without completely mastering the Void Sword and the Chaos Claws, but ignore mastering the Shadow Whip at your own peril.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 screenshot 34Focus!

A quick note about finding magic: it can be a pain. There are magical fountains scattered throughout the world that refill your Void and Chaos magic gauges, but they are few and far between. Filling the Focus meter, located at the bottom of the screen, is a much better way to recover magic. To do this, you just need to deal out attack combos to enemies without getting hit. Easier said than done.

The best method involves finding a horde of low level enemies that are not armored, can’t fly, and don’t use projectiles. Make sure the “Counter Whip” Skill is unlocked, and wait for them to attack. Block their attacks and counter with three quick strikes, then keep moving, executing hit-and-run strikes until you can block another attack. This should be enough – or close to it – to activate the Focus meter. When that happens, each hit you score leaves behind an orb. Click the left thumstick to suck up the orbs for Void magic or the right one for Chaos. Orbs will keep spawning until you are hit.

Until you have mastered this technique and can create your own magic, don’t bother purchasing the expensive special attack Skills for the magic weapons. They’re located in the lower left section of each weapon’s Skill board. These are powerful tools for your arsenal, but they also eat up magic too quickly to justify the cost early on.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 screenshot 9Exploration

The world of Lords of Shadows 2 is broken up into sections, but everything is connected, creating an open world of sorts. You can jump between areas using “Map Rooms” once you’ve found them (there’s one in each area), but crossing from one section to another on foot often requires a special ability.

Each section is filled with multiple secrets to collect. The “Pain Boxes” you’ll find scattered around the world offer various shards, and if you earn five shards of the same type you’ll unlock things like additional health, increased Void magic, or more Chaos magic. You will also find the odd “Kleidos” shard, which unlocks challenges. These challenges can only be accessed in the Chupacabra’s shop, and only once you have enough shards. You won’t be able to access them until late in the game, however. When you do, the challenges are self-explanatory, and completing them rewards you with experience. They are also entirely optional.

Look out for altars hidden behind locks that require Dungeon Keys, which you can purchase from the Chupacabra’s store. These altars give you several thousand experience points (the total varies), so make sure you have a few keys in your inventory at all times; when you run low take the time to return to the store and buy more.

The game is designed to encourage you to backtrack to previously conquered areas once you earn new abilities, like “Mist,” which allows you to pass through grates, and “Double Jump.” These abilities help Dracula reach previously inaccessible areas, plus it means you’ll run into more enemies which is always good for experience.

If backtracking isn’t your favorite thing, wait to earn the double jump before bothering. Once you have that, you’ll have all the abilities needed to access any area. Start back at the beginning, and retrace your steps – without any puzzles, bosses, or cutscenes it won’t take long.

When you are about to leave an area for good, use a Dodo Egg. If you have found everything, the Dodo will tell you that there are no more secrets remaining, but if you missed one, it will home in on it.

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