At a glance, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is as far away from the original games as Portrait of Ruin. The variety of weapons, abilities, and pieces of equipment you receive will make the game’s difficulty nothing short of a joke. If you find powerful combinations and breeze through the game as if you have cheats on, you’re not playing Order of Ecclesia the way it was meant to be played.

This installment functions much like a strategic hack-n-slash platformer. Jump, climb, fly, or grapple to a favorable position, then loose hell on the enemy before your spot is endangered. The main complaint I notice about modern Castlevania games that try to hold true to the high-difficulty action platformer aspect is that the enemy positioning is poor, that no strategy is required to get through levels. If you play on normal mode, you can afford to take several skeleton bones to the face and not have to worry about death looming over your shoulder.

I mean, let’s be serious here. Let’s get really serious for a second. Easy mode in this game- in ALL games is meant as a sort of training mode. You play through it to understand how the game works, and then you amp up the difficulty to make your gameplay more intense and rewarding. Those skeleton bones and zombie fists go from 13 to 60 damage like that, and with such a small pool of health, you absolutely can’t afford to suffer that loss. Especially when that axe armor is giving Shanoa bedroom eyes. Yeek.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Shanoa’s the main character, in case you’re wondering. She’s a major part of the Order of Ecclesia, as she has the ability to store mystic weapons known as Glyphs in her body and conjure them at will. Her master, Barlowe, has assigned her the enormously important task of harboring the three Dominus Glyphs that contain Dracula’s power. With these, she must turn their evil energy against the ashes of Dracula himself, forever preventing him from returning to life. But really, is it that easy? Psh, no. Albus, who Barlowe sent on an errand after promising that he would be the one to harbor the Dominus Glyphs, goes rogue and hijacks the Glyphs in question.

The ritual’s interruption ended in Shanoa losing all of her Glyph prowess and a large portion of her memories, which is where the game truly starts up. As you progress further, destroying the revenants of Dracula’s faded power, Albus gradually begins to piece the story back together for Shanoa, along with giving her pieces of the Dominus, to her great suprise. Barlowe has called Albus a traitor, an enemy, and a servant of the Vampire Lord. Why would he aid Shanoa? I won’t spoil anything aside from the fact that Barlowe is a grade-A asshole.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

A conclusive word on difficulty is due. Unlike its predecessor with all the paintings and the Charlotte and the Jonathan with the tag team shenanigans, Order of Ecclesia is HARD the first time around. Bosses will kick your ass. While the enemy positioning is no big deal, if you don’t know what you’re doing when you dive into a boss fight, you’re looking to get violently clawed, stomped, bitten, puked on, splashed, impaled, thrown against a wall, licked, and all in all made very not alive.

So stop bitching and raise the difficulty level. You think I think Shanoa’s meant to have it easy? The Belmont clan trudging through 8-bit horror isn’t better because it’s hard or original. It’s hard because you didn’t know what the crap was going on and strategic approaches were an absolute requisite. You can have that same experience in Order of Ecclesia if you swap that Easy out for Hard. Badabing! There may not be giant eyeball boulders, but I’m sure the 60 damage a pop bats will send you reeling. Enjoy!

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Brian Rowe wasn’t as pleased with the difficulty as I was, but he does touch on some good points regarding why the game is so hard, i.e. enemies blending in with the background, clusters with varying weaknesses, and trial and error bosses. However, I can’t say I’m on the level with the thought that the Castlevania series should come to an end. Order of Ecclesia pays it dues to the original while bringing in its fair share of innovative design. Here’s his review at GameRevolution:

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