Sony Social Media Specialist Ryan Clements went hands-on today with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for PS3.

To quote: Editor's Note: this article contains plot spoilers for the original Lords of Shadow.

Since time immemorial, light and dark have waged war - each side bolstered by heroes and fiends of immense station. In the Castlevania series, the Belmont family has long fought the forces of evil and sought out the end of Dracula by any means necessary.

But in the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Konami and the developers at MercurySteam redefined the history of the Belmonts in a surprising twist. Gabriel Belmont's tragic story will come to a conclusion in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, which launches for PS3 on February 25th.

Producer Dave Cox described Lords of Shadow 2 as a "strategic hack 'n' slash." It places players in command of Dracula and his otherworldly arsenal of whips, swords, and gauntlets. With potions and relics in abundance, players will traverse a modern-day city in an effort to end Dracula's immortal suffering.

But Lords of Shadow 2 invites players to develop much more complex battle tactics than the quintessential "mash Square to win." Dracula has a rotating set of three combat styles that can be used to flow from one battle to the next in a river of arcane assaults. By transitioning from one weapon to the next, Dracula can chew through the opposing forces.

The "default" weapon at a player's disposal is the Shadow Whip, which licks the air in a sizzling display of ranged attacks. Using the Shadow Whip enables Dracula to build his Focus meter, which in turn allows him to wield more powerful abilities.

When weakened, players can switch to the Void Sword - a ghostly blade with a vampiric edge. This weapon drains enemies of their health, siphoning it into Dracula. It can also be used to freeze enemies and bosses alike, opening up a variety of combos.

Then Dracula has the Chaos Claws. These fiery gauntlets can shatter enemy defenses. Soldiers hiding behind a shield will find themselves quickly exposed after a ferocious pummeling. This weapon can also lob searing motes of flame at enemies to pepper them from afar.

Players can switch between these three weapons in real-time, and even in mid-combo. Learning this combat system, and the aggressive enemy AI facing Dracula, will lead to a healthy bit of challenge, pushing players to adapt to each battle and employ the proper weapons accordingly.

Potions and relics will also affect the flow of battle. The Stolas Clock, for example, slows enemies down and even stops them in the air. Dracula can unleash combos on them as they hang helplessly, which allows him to build Focus. It's also quite fun to watch.

Combat aside, Lords of Shadow 2 is designed for exploration. The world is much larger and more open, riddled with secret paths and treasures that may require a return visit to find. Players, for example, may stumble upon an impassable gate, but later return to phase through it with a newly acquired mist power. There are also a number of mini-games and additional challenges throughout the campaign designed to vary its pace.

Cox noted that a focused run of the main story will take approximately 20 hours to complete. Tackling additional objectives could stretch that into the 30 hour mark, promising a great deal of content for dedicated gamers.

Lords of Shadow 2 is scheduled to launch on February 25th, and boasts new weapons, abilities, items, enemies, and secrets. It's a fast-paced, complex action game, with rich strategic potential. Castlevania fans both new and old have a lot to look forward to.

Sony Goes Hands-on with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for PS3

Sony Goes Hands-on with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for PS3

Sony Goes Hands-on with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for PS3

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