Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Order of Ecclesia introduces a new combat system, but shares the inherent problems of the earlier games.
Michael Caleb - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Blood sometimes spurts from your character, certain enemies have very gruesome deaths

Mild Language: D--- is present in the game and your character "Go to Hell" at least once.

Adult Content: Some enemies are left "exposed" right before they die, but the lack of detail and careful positioning of limbs allows nothing to be revealed.

Spiritual Content: Like other Castlevania games, this one includes plenty of devils, spirits, and monsters to fight. Some might find the use of the magical glyphs to be against their values. Shanoa is referred to as a witch at least once without taking offense.

Nearly two years after Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, the previous DS entry into the series, was released, the newest addition, Order of Ecclesia, hit the shelves. Unfortunately, its obscurely redundant name would foreshadow one of the biggest complaints I have about the game. Even with the problems present, this game introduces mechanics that make it one of my favorites in the series.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Story

Although story is not the main draw in Castlevania games, it is always nice to be surprised by something new. Yes, the story is still about trying to destroy Dracula, but Ecclesia takes a different approach to the familiar formula. The Order of Ecclesia was one of many societies formed in an attempt to destroy Dracula once and for all after his last defeat. Most were disbanded after a sequence of failures, but a man named Barlowe discovered a way to harness the power of magical glyphs. The ultimate of these glyphs, Dominus, holds a power that rivals Dracula’s own. When Albus finds that Shanoa has been chosen as the bearer of Dominus instead of him, he steals the three glyphs that hold its power. Shanoa then embarks on a mission to retrieve both her former ally and the glyphs he has stolen so that she can fulfill her destiny of ridding the world of evil.

The story includes a few twists along the way, but is mostly predictable. However, what makes this one stand above others in the series is the characterization of the primary characters. They may not be the most nuanced characters, but they are more than the one-dimensional paper dolls one might expect them to be.

Sound

The music present in the game is once again what one might expect from Castlevania: orchestrated little pieces to fit the mood of whatever area you find yourself in. They work well for what they are, and some of them are pretty catchy. Some areas have background music that is pulled from another, such as a forest road having the same music as another forest road and a strange house having the same music as another strange house, but these instances are spaced far enough apart that they were not noticeable until I began to actively seek them. If you don’t find the default background music to be to your liking you are able to unlock and buy a few records that will allow you to listen to themes from past games while you play.

The first thing I noticed about the sound is that the scrolling text in the beginning is accompanied by a voiceover. There are other spoken lines at certain moments, such as battle taunts before and during boss battles. While the voice actors might not win any awards for their performances, they did well enough.

Another little touch I liked was that different weapons will make different sounds when connecting with an enemy depending on whether or not the enemy is weak to that weapon. This tonal cue is yet another way to decipher an enemy’s weakness if they are not yet in your bestiary.

Graphics

I was very pleased to see that the creators decided to revert back to the art style used in Symphony of the Night and the GBA Castlevania games. I like my fair share of anime, but it seemed rather out of place to me in the previous DS titles. The opening might not have flashy Dragonball Z-style energy blasts, but I hope you will forgive me for counting that as a plus.

The actual sprites are much more in line with the other “Metroidvania” games. Out of the 121 enemies in the game, very few are simply palette swaps. Most that are upgrades of earlier enemies will have at least a graphical tweak, such as a different weapon or a more intricate design to their outfit. There are also a lot of nice, little touches such as animations while a character idles, feathers coming off of wings during flight, and papers flying everywhere as characters trample books and scrolls.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Gameplay

The gameplay of Ecclesia revolves around the glyph system, which is similar in some ways to the soul system from Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow. You are able to allocate three glyphs to Shanoa at once, one for the Y-button, X-button, and R-button. Unlike the soul system from Aria and Dawn, the Y and X glyphs are used in place of weapons. Instead of finding or creating her own weapons, Shanoa uses the glyphs to materialize a weapon for just long enough to use it. By placing a single glyph on both attack buttons, you can cause Shanoa to rapidly attack an enemy into oblivion. There is a limit to what she can do, though, as MP is depleted any time a glyph is used; Ecclesia balances this by making MP restoration much faster than in previous games. Because of this balance, it is possible to play through the game in a variety of ways since sustained use of magic is possible without either mass amounts of tonics or the patience to wait for your MP to return. There are also glyph unions, special attacks that take a certain amount of hearts and are determined by what two attack glyphs you have equipped. There are a variety of interesting combinations, including everything from a white hadouken-like blast to a giant hammer to a light-saber.

Many of the glyphs are found in static locations, but some are actually harvested from enemies. Certain enemies will leave behind energy that may or may not form into a glyph for Shanoa to absorb. Others will actually form a glyph just before an attack that Shanoa can absorb in order to use their own power against them. When a glyph is absorbed in any way, ten hearts are restored and Shanoa gains one point to each of her seven attributes: strike, pierce, fire, ice, lightning, light, and darkness. Each attribute boosts the power of its respective attacks, and will go up whenever an enemy is killed using an attack of that element. With a maximum of 65535, it is possible to boost your attacks by quite a bit.

Because the story places Shanoa on a quest to find a traitor, she travels to a variety of different places in order to find clues as to his whereabouts of to confront him. This is a departure for the series, and has left me torn. On the one hand, it allows for more areas than just the dank caverns, bloody hallways, and sinister clock towers that will be familiar to anyone who has played a Castlevania game in the past, but all of the areas are more straightforward than one might expect.

At the point in the game when I resigned myself to this, I suddenly found myself walking through the same mountain area I had been in just a few moments earlier. Confused, I went back to check, but indeed there was a section of that particular area that repeated just two screens away. The past games did reuse screens at various points, but never have I been made to notice it like in Ecclesia. At certain points, you can find yourself walking through the same screen you just came from, but with different enemy placements. This was an enormous disappointment to me, as I had found the first aspect of the game I had a real complaint about.

Ecclesia is definitely the hardest “Metroidvania” game. Unless you power-level, certain areas can be punishingly difficult during the first visit. Thankfully, the game allows you to use a certain buyable item to escape from an area should you find yourself with low health and no way to heal or save.

As far as replay-ability goes, the game offers a hard mode with a level cap of either fifty or one, depending on how much you wish to punish yourself. There is also an unlock-able character you can use to play through the game in a different fashion and two boss rush modes to unlock special items. Besides these, there are two optional dungeons that are fairly short, one that focuses on precise platforming and another that focuses on all-out combat. These extras give it more lasting appeal than Dawn of Sorrow, but not quite as much as Portrait of Ruin.

Violence

Blood spurts when Shanoa is hit in certain ways, most often with piercing attacks. Sometimes when you die, most often in the air, geysers of blood will spurt from Shanoa as the death animation. Certain enemies have gruesome deaths, such as a large, disembodied head that loses the skin, blood, and muscles from its skull as the death animation. There are also some enemies that attack with chainsaws and have bloody aprons on.

Spiritual Content

Like other Castlevania games, this one includes plenty of devils, spirits, and monsters to fight. Some might find the use of the magical glyphs to be against their values. Shanoa is referred to as a witch at least once without taking offense.

BEGINNING OF SPOILERS
At one point, it is revealed that Dominus was formed using the power of Dracula. Using the powers of darkness to combat darkness might also be against the predilections of some.
END OF SPOILERS

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Language

“D—” is present in text, and there is audio of Shanoa saying, “Go to hell,” at least once in the game.

Adult Content

Some enemies are rather exposed, although the detail of the sprites leaves everything to the imagination. Some enemies revert to human forms when killed, and are nude before erupting in flames, but the lack of detail and careful positioning of limbs allows nothing to be revealed. Shanoa’s costume shows her arms and back.

Commendable Content

Even though Shanoa loses her memories in the first scenes of the game, she still has a strong sense of morality that guides her actions throughout the game. Multiple characters show great willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of humanity, and it could even be argued that this is the theme of the game’s story.

Final Verdict

Ecclesia introduced an enjoyably new way of playing Castlevania and brought back the artwork of the pre-DS games, but poses many of the same problems with occult images and violence that the past games did. Regardless, for those who are able to look past these issues, the game will be quite entertaining and relatively long-lasting.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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