Always beautiful, sometimes spectacular, yet often uninspired and in some instances outright boring, Lords of Shadow 2 is sadly not the swansong for this generation it could have been. Instead, it's a slightly better-than-average brawler with some killer production values: both a testament to a studio's technical and artistic prowess and an indictment of its combat systems and scenario planning.
The game starts with a bang: about a thousand of them, in fact, as a gigantic war golem smashes into Dracula's castle, leading to a God of War-style opening that sets a pace the rest of the game can't match. Not that MercurySteam should necessarily have attempted non-stop bombast. But Lords of Shadow 2 is curiously flat thereafter, devolving into a series of near-automated platforming and enemy encounters that fail to stimulate and, thanks to the camera, even outright frustrate.
Combat boils down to managing the guard-breaking Chaos Claws, your trusty whip and the life-giving Void Sword. The former and latter run on energy that is given by chaining attacks together: fill a meter without getting hit and you'll hoover up the juice needed to power their valuable abilities. Varied play is encouraged by said meter filling faster when mixing it up, and the mastery system also encourages players to change their approach.
Sadly, enemy design and the fights themselves aren't up to much, often requiring the same tactics over and over to defeat your foes. Each seems to ascribe to one of two default modes: turtle or rush, and despite your offensive options there's not much joy in fighting them. Figuring out your opponents is the heart of any combat game, but here they're neither smart enough to pose an interesting challenge nor dumb or numerous enough to make you feel like, well, Dracula.
The world is both large and intricately detailed, and you'll want to explore it. But there aren't enough interesting set-pieces to assuage the feeling you're merely engaging in attritional combat to see the next environment or get to the next part of the story. A huge shame.
Version Tested: Xbox 360. Played for 12 hours, with seemingly 8 of them spent on one of the worst stealth sections in recent history.