Reviews: Castlevania Order Of Ecclesia

A case in which trying to appeal to two sides works...somewhat

I have a feeling Konami were trying to appeal to classic Castlevania fans with this title, even if it is a Metroidvania style game. They scaled back the overly anime character designs from previous games, made quite a number of areas completely linear, and Shanoa can take about as many hits as Trevor Belmont no matter what level she is, meaning grinding is mostly superfluous in this game. There's even an area specifically there to bring a difficult platforming challenge, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Circle of the Moon's Machine Tower.

Naturally, this makes the game rather difficult, but for those wishing to complete it comfortably, healing items are available, and not too expensive either. Though the game does have the same low money drops as Dawn of Sorrow, nothing in the game costs much over $10,000, the Gold Rings are back and there is a glyph that increases your money drops as well, meaning that you can accrue an abundance of healing items very quickly if you know where to look and are willing to complete a few sidequests.

The glyph system is much more well played than the soul system from the Sorrow games, by the way, in that most enemies don't drop glyphs, it's readily apparent which ones do, and some need not even be grinded for, as you might find them lying around or simply absorb them from an enemy as they cast it. Most of them also seem to be less situational than souls. I found myself changing glyphs and experimenting quite often. Each seemed useful in some way or another. The fact that Shanoa's MP recharges incredibly quickly certainly helped in making even high cost glyphs tactically viable.

However, the game might be a little hard for those used to the Metroidvania style, and it might seem too grindy for those in love with the classics. I found it to be a refreshing blend of both styles, and my only real complaint is that the boss battles tended to drag because a lot of bosses had loads of health and could kill you rather easily. You probably don't have to be a fan of both kinds of Castlevania game as I am to enjoy Order of Ecclesia, but you should keep an open mind when you approach it, because it won't be completely familiar to anyone who plays it.

Good in most respects, but with a crippling flaw

Order Of Ecclesia manages to do a lot of things well. The graphics are quite good (or the new ones, at least), the music is excellent, and the bosses are some of the best in the series. The glyph system gives an unprecedented amount of variety in attacks, allows for a number of cool challenges, and interrupting an enemy's attack by stealing it never gets old. Though it has you going through stages in a linear fashion, the stages themselves involve plenty of exploration, and reward said exploration well... but not with equipment or healing items* , which leads me to the thing the game does very badly:

Sidequests. If you actually want to be able to take a hit you're going to need to indulge the whims of the villagers you save. While a few quests are fun and/or interesting, most of them are some variety of Twenty Bear Asses. While a few of these can be completed through natural progression through the game, most require both grinding and looking up what to do in a guide, as all of the drop rates are hideously low. And then, more often then not said items are added to the store rather than given to you. All of the prices are exorbitant, so you'll need to farm some cash to get some good stuff. And between the horrible drop rates and sell prices being quite low, there's really no way to get fast cash...

Some other things:

  • The game is pretty hard. I'm mostly neutral on this.
  • The game tries to make you pay attention to enemy strengths and weaknesses. This is kind of neat and kind of frustrating... until you get a decent spell, since resistances to physical damage types are much more common than magical ones.
  • Unless you have a guide or obsessively check for breakable walls, you're going to get the bad ending on your first try.
  • The way they handle glyph unisons* means that the later bosses can be beaten or heavily weakened by spamming them, which is somewhat disappointing (on the other hand, I like being able to see the ending, so not all bad).
  • The various areas all have fairly distinct sets of enemies... except for Dracula's Castle, where many of the enemies are in multiple areas.