Lords of Shadow 2 released to critical panning and many fans of the iconic Castlevania series felt torn on the project. Today, developer MercuryStream talks with Eurogamer regarding Lords of Shadow 2. It offers a lot of great information and I will be quoting three portions of the long interview that stuck out to me.
All the while, MercurySteam had a more pressing concern to deal with. Worrying accusations about its culture, and allegations directed at its co-founder and creative force, Enric Alvarez,emerged online. A Spanish publication suggested Lords of Shadow 2 suffered a troubled development, and much of the blame lay at Alvarez’s door. MercurySteam’s response was to stay silent – until now.
Here, in a sweeping interview with Eurogamer, Enric Alvarez and Dave Cox offer their side to the story, admitting to Lords of Shadow 2’s failings while pointing to its achievements. The pair discuss letting Dracula turn into a rat for stealth, working with Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, and hit back at those who would anonymously attack the studio. And they look to the future. Fresh from the shackles of a publishing contract, MercurySteam – once again with Dave Cox’s help – is going it alone, self-funded and self-publishing the multiplayer game Raiders of the Broken Planet.
On Stealth Sections:
One of the most criticised parts of Lords of Shadow 2 were the stealth sections that saw Dracula turn into a rat. Why did you put that in the game?
Dave Cox: The stealth sections are actually a small part of the game.
Enric Alvarez: Not even six or seven per cent. Even if they were shit, they were just six or seven per cent of the game. But some reviews made it look like that was all that matters. I never agreed with that. It was like, the game was trashed because a few sections weren’t the best ideas in the world. I fully admit that. If I could go back in time, probably we would solve this in a different way.
At the same time, the main course of the game is combat, maybe exploration, the story and character development. So when I read some reviews focusing exclusively on stealth – they weren’t stealth actually, they were puzzles – I thought, hey, have you seen the rest of the game, which is 90 per cent, easily? That was a bit unfair.
Although I admit, if I had to make the decision again I would drop it. But obviously now it’s easy to make that decision. We were taking a risk. We were fully aware we were taking a risk. At the same time, it was consistent with Dracula’s set of abilities, even from the literature. Dracula has always been able to transform into a creature of the night. So we did it. Clearly, we were wrong. But at the same time I tell you, this is not enough to trash the game. Maybe mentioning it, saying we hate it, but the game is much more than that. I see few reviews balancing these two things. Many of them were just, okay, this game is shit because of the stealth sections, how dare you turn Dracula into a rat? Things like that.
On Critical Reception:
Did the reception take Mercury Steam or Konami by surprised? Was there an internal expectation that Lords of Shadow 2 would be received more positively than it was?
Dave Cox: Yes, definitely. It caught everybody by surprise. In hindsight perhaps it was to be expected. The first game had a fixed camera, whereas the second game had a free camera – one of the big criticisms of the first game was, we’d like to have a free camera, so we did that for the second one. We greatly improved the combat. It was much more fluid, much more in-depth than the first game. I think that’s generally agreed. The adventure element was still there. The characterisation was still there.
Internally, the reviews within Konami were very positive. I would go and present the game to senior management in Japan, including Mr. Kojima, and got very strong, positive feedback. So yeah, it did catch us all a bit by surprise.
It’s not nice to be on the end of that kind of criticism, because you spend two, two-and-a-half years of your life working on something you really believe in and you’re really passionate about, and when people don’t like it, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth. But you have to accept it. You have to accept that a lot of people didn’t like what we did. A lot of people did like what we did, though. That’s encouraging, especially in the years after.
Enric Alvarez: It’s not ideal, but we look forward and try to do better next time.
On Possible Contra Reboot:
I remember speaking to you around the time of Lords of Shadow 2, and you heavily suggested you and MercurySteam wanted to reboot Contra for Konami. Did that go anywhere?
Dave Cox: We talked to MercurySteam about that, and we did have early discussions about Contra. But it just wasn’t to be. The planets weren’t aligned, essentially.
Because of Konami’s change of direction? Or was there more to it?
Dave Cox: That was, essentially, it. But also the guys at MercurySteam didn’t want to move on with that relationship as well. So it was mutually agreed that we wouldn’t move forward with it. We had discussions about it, absolutely. And there were concepts, and a basic idea was drawn up. But that’s as far as it got, sadly.