When first you play his starting adventure, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow seems like a very different kind of Castlevania. A game in this series without Dracula? How could it be. But among the various surprises this reboot had on offer, concontextualizing various classic characters into new roles in this new world, Lords of Shadow had one more surprise in the cards: Gabriel Belmont, our hero for the adventure, would become Dracula. The vampire we had followed throughout the series was in this game the whole time, we just didn't know it.
Gabriel is introduced to us as the grieving widower, upset over the death of his beloved, Marie. His quest is one of revenge: sent out by the Brotherhood of Light (who have their own plans that are only revealed to us over time), Gabriel is supposed to find the source of the darkness spreading across the land and, hopefully, stop it. But his path reveals many secrets about himself, and the Order, that threatens to change everything he knows about himself. And yes, in the end, he becomes a vampire. The vampire, in fact. Dracula here is his name, his title, who he is when he becomes a vampire (and not just the name of some guy that lived hundreds of years ago). He becomes a powerful vampire lord, a dark thing and yet also a hero.
That the balance the Lords of Shadow subseries tried to reach, that Gabriel can both be the cause of so much evil and yet still remain, somehow, a hero at his core. And, arguably, his quest across two games (and his family's quest highlighted in a midquel) illustrates how hard it is to be a monster and remain good.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (Prologue)
For only three games in the series, the Lords of Shadow tiles have a long and confusing timeline. We will try to get these titles in order based around Gabriel's own linear history, so that the complete story of his life can be known.
To that end we have to start a year before the events of the first game in the series, in an opening mission for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate. Here we are "first" introduced to Gabriel Belmont, knight of the Brotherhood of Light. Sent out on a quest, along with a collection of allies, to defeat and capture the Demon Lord, our hero is able to best this fiend, although sadly all of his allies die in the process (which, really, is not a great return on investment). Gabriel, though, does capture the fiend and bring it back.
Meanwhile, his wife, Marie, secretly gives birth to Gabriel's son, Trevor, a child she hiddes away from Gabriel already fearing the growing darkness within the knight.
How long was Gabriel away from Marie that he didn't notice she was getting pregnant and wouldn't suddenly question it when she wasn't thicc when he got back? Maybe he's not the most observant man around (as we'll see in his later quest, the man does get duped a lot) but you'd think this would be a detail hard to sneak past someone, especially when he was only away on a shorter quest like this.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
In the year 1047 AD darkness swept the lands. Heaven, apparently, had been cut off from the mortal plane and this allowed the darkness to overtake the world. Monsters started to roam freely and people huddled in their walled towns for fear of stepping outside at night. Sent by the Brotherhood of Light, one man, Gabriel Belmont, was given the quest to find out what caused the darkness, why it was spreading, and how he could stop it. Starting out in a village, this quest would take him into monster infested lands so he could find a magical shrine, guarded by the demi-god Pan. Gabriel was desperate for answers, not just for the fate of the world but also what happened to his wife, Marie (who he found dead in their home right as he was returning home from a quest). The shrine revealed to him his dead wife who warned him about the dangers ahead but told him that if he were to restore the God Mask. and use it against the real evil of the land.
For many years three Lords of Light, the protectors of the Brotherhood of Light, worked to make the world a better, safer place. When they thought they had achieved their goal, bringing on an age of enlightenment, their souls ascended to Heaven. Unfortuantely, while their souls rose up their bodies remained and, into those empty vessels, three dark souls invaded. These are the beings that have been turning the world, the Lords of Shadow, and if anyone is to stop them it would have to be Gabriel.
Along his quest he met with Zead, another solddier with the Brotherhood of Light just as concerned about the darkening of their Order, and the world, as Gabriel. He advised Gabriel to be careful on his quest, promising aid if Gabriel needed it.
Past the first danger, a giant hulking Titan who guarded the path forward, Gabriel found upgrades for his weapon, the Combat Cross. He also found another lost soul, Claudia, a young, mute girl guarded by a hulking Golem. Claudia, skilled at survival and gifted with magic, helped Gabriel traverse the ruins of a great and power city. Unfortunately for Claudia, Gabriel wasn't completely in control of himself, for he too was touched by darkness, a darkness that made him kill. He had a dream that he stabbed Claudia while they were camped for the night, only to wake up to find her dead, a dagger in her gut. This enraged her golem protector who then attacked Gabriel. The "hero" was able to put down the beast, but the tragedy of what happened, the loss of these two lifes, weighed heavily on Gabriel.
Sad, but dedicated to continuing his quest, Gabriel heads into the land of the Lycans to take on Cornell, the first of the Lords of Shadow. A powerful werewolf, Cornell had the first of the shards of the God Mask. It is during this journey, and the confrontation with Cornell, that the truth of the leaders of the Brotherhood was revealed, that they were the Lords of Shadow and had corrupted the Order. Horrified at this information, Gabriel took on the werewolf to destroy the body and free the Brotherhood of this evil.
This then put Gabriel on the path into the land of the Vampires. Here he found a land ravaged, towns a flame as the vampires ran amock, killing all they found. Gabriel had to defeat two of the vampire lieutentants, Brauner and Olrox, and well as the second lord's daughter, Laura, before finally facing off against the queen at the top of the castle fo the vampires, Carmilla. The vampiress mocked the hero, taunting how he would become a vampire, failing in his quest (potentially a hint to his true fate yet to come). But the hero did defeat this lord, collecting the second shard of the mask in the process and sending another evil creature back to Hell.
Before moving forward Gabriel was againt confronted by the demi-god Pan who challenged him to combat. THis was a sacrifice Pan made because he knew the death of a deity (his death, in this instance) was the only way to open the path to the land of the Necromancers. With the way cleared, Gabriel ventured into this unholy place all to take on, and defeat, the Necromancer leading his armies. Curiously, though, this wasn't the final battle here as, in fact, Gabriel's supposed allie, Zobek, had other plans.
Zobek revealed that he was the true lord of the Necromancers, that all along he'd been pulling Gabriel's strings, having the hero kill his own wife, Marie, as well as Claudia, all so that the darkness could consume the hero and make him easier to control with Zobek's own relic, the Devil Mask. Zobek had lusted after the power of the other two lords and knew, if the God Mask had been restored, he could have ruled over all. With all three shards together (one from the Lycans, one from the Vampires, and Zobek's own shard) he could restore the mask to its glory. He thought, with posession of both masks, he would be a god.
But then Zobek was double-crossed by, of all creatures, Satan himself. The dark lord appeared and burned Zobek alive, claiming the Devil and God Masks for himself. Putting on the God Mask, Satan ascended to this plane but first he had to best Gabriel. Their duel was brutal but, surprisingly, Gabriel was able to defeat the Devil. THis act reunited Heaven and Earth allowing the souls of the dead to once more ascend into Heaven. Marie appeared before him once more and wished him a tearful farewell, as did Claudia, both wishing him no ill will for the actions he was force to perform.
Technically the original game ended here, with a epilogue that set up the events of the second game yet to come (yes, the game ends on a cliffhanger). But the two expansions released for the game, Reverie and Resurrection, plus the midquel Mirror of Fate, push this event out later for our timeline, so we'll get to it in a bit.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Gabriel's adventure wasn't over just yet, though, even thought he had defeated the three Lords of Shadow as well as Satan himself. No, apparently killing the Lords had released an even more ancient evil that had been sealed by their powers, the Forgotten One. Gabriel was informed of this by Laura (Carmilla's daughter) who wished for nothing more than to aid the hero and then, afterwards, find the sweet release of death. She aided the vampire hunter in gaining access to the fortress that had once heldd the Forgotten One, the fortress of the Brotherhood of Light (now in ruins).
To go any further into the dark dimension where the Forgotten One had been sealed the adventurer would have to be a creature of darkness. Laura pleaded for Gabriel to drink of her blood, absorbing it all so that she could be released for this world. In doing so, Gabriel became a creature of darkness, a vampire, but he was able to enter the dimension. And once he did he was confronted by the hulking form of the Forgotten One.
To stop the Forgotten One, Gabriel was forced to battle the hulking beast twice. The first time Gabriel failed to contain the creature, allowing the Forgotten One to reclaim some of its lost power and ascend further through the underworld. But in their second confrontation, after Gabriel chased after the beast, he was able to defeat the Forgotten One, sucking it's power into the hero's own body. This left the Forgotten One weak, pleading for mercy, a mercy Gabriel did not great. The beast was defeated while Gabriel was now a power and demonic vampire, one of the strongest the world had ever seen.
Note that this adventure was actually told in two parts (the two DLCs) one for Gabriel's quest into the Forgotten One's realm and the second with his confrontations against the beast.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
Having become a vampire, Gabriel took on the moniker of "Dracula" (aka, Dracula). He claimed Carmilla's castle as his own, making it the home of vampire kind once more. This angered the remnants of the Brotherhoodd of Light who, freed of the stain of the Lords of Shadow, worked to rebuild their ranks once more. They sent knight after knight against the dark lord, all in the hopes that they could defeat him, but none were successful.
It was Trevor, Gabriel's wayward son, who first had a chance to really defeat the Dark Lord. He fought his way through the land of the Vampire, battling to the top of the castle to take on Dracula (amusingly, in the same chamber Gabriel had once fought Carmilla). Trevor swore revenge for his mother but refused to tell Dracula who his mother was oe, in fact, who he was either. They two, hero and vampire, fought back and forth, with Trevor desperate to defeat his vampiric father and restore the Belmont name.
Sadly, though powerful, Trevor was no match for the demon. Using his Void Sword, Dracula struck down his son, stabbing him through the gut. It was only in his moment of death that Trevor revealed the truth of who he was and who he mother had been. Grief-stricken, racula fed blood to his dead son, trying to resurrect him. But when the blood seemed to have no efect, he buried the body out in the castle cemetery. Blaming the Brotherhood, Dracula sent his wolves out to the Brotherhood headquarters, killing all who lived there, including Trevor's wife, Sypha, although Trevor's own young son, Simon escaped this fate.
Later, unbeknownst to Dracula, Trevor rose up from his grave, indeed turned into a vampire by Dracula. He saw that the coffin had been marked with the name Alucard (the reverse of Dracula's own name, a reference maybe to a comment Trevor had made about the two of them being opposites), and so Trevor took this name as his vampire moniker.
Much later, Simon too ventured to the castle, vowing his own revenge on his vampire grandfather for the deaths of his mother and father. Fighting his way to the top of the castle, Dracula was suprised to see another hero actually make it that far. The two fought but Simon was no match for the now even more powerful vampire. But before Dracula could strike his blow, Alucard appeared and fought off his father.
The three battled back and forth, with Dracula vowing to kill Simon. Alucard, though, wanted his son to remain safe and, eventually, Alucard was able to subdue the vampire enough that Simon could charge in and defeat Dracula, staking him through the heart. Dracula screamed, a red light enveloping him, before he crumbled to ash. Alucard, though, had his doubts that Dracula was truly dead expecting, one that, that the vampire lord rise, again, from the grave.
Note that the timeline for Mirror of Fate is a tad complicated. Trevor's story, while chronologically the first adventure in the game, is actually the last chapter of the story, and everything else is told out of order, in and around themselves. Lord only knows why the designers thought this was a good idea.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (Prologue)
And return he did, rising again in his castle to continue his war against the Brotherhood. The knights continued to come to his castle, attempting time and again, to defeat the fould creature, but Dracula resisted all such attempted. Even after a massive seige of an army of knights, a titan, and a paladin, Dracula was the last to remain standing, more powerful than any mere mortal. He had conquered all and could wage a rein of terror across the world, if he so chose.
But Alucard came to the vampire lord at the end of the battle and spoke of how Dracula would never be safe, and even if Dracula fell, true evil could spread across the land. The only way to be truly safe would be to lure the still alive Zobek and Satan out of hiding so each could be defeated once and for all, and the only way to do that would be if they thought Dracula were dead. Alucard proposed having Dracula fake his death, using a magic sword (the Crisaegrim) to put Dracula into a coma. When he awoke the vampire would be weak, with a broken mind, but Zobek and Satan would think him an allie, not someone plotting their own demise.
Reluctantly Dracula agreed, plunging them sword into him. He promptly fell into a death-like coma and Alucard placed him in a tomb to await the return of Zobek and Satan.
"Oh yes, father, I'll stab you and you will seem to die but, in reality, you'll be alive. All I have to do is take the sword back out. I'll totally do that, pink swear." Suuuuuure. Dracula is a sucker.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
Awakening 500 years later, Dracula found himself weak but alive, with little memory of where he was or how he'd gotten there. Zobek had, indeed, sensed Dracula's return but also that his mind was broken. Revealing himself to the vampire, Zobek claimed to be his friend, that together they could prevent the rise of Satan, a worry as Satan would soon reclaim Earth once more. Dracula, confused and afraid, lashed out but Zobek easily bested him, throwing the vampire out a window. Dracula survived the fall, though, transforming into a flock of bats, while Zobek watched on, sure that their alliance would come to fruition.
Weakened, but open to Zobek's proposal, Dracula is sent on a quest to defeat three acolytes of Satan; without the acolytes, it's hoped, Satan will be unable to rise. In the process Dracula would also need to regain his lost powers -- -he void sword, his claws, his magic -- so that he could take on any dangers that came his way. And he'd need to regain his memories, over time, so that he could use all of these powers properly.
His first stop was to his old castle which had been taken over by the Bioquimek Corporation. Bioquimeck were working on a virus, a foul disease tied to the castle's own power. Dracula was shocked to learn that the castle had turned against him -- if Dracula were truly defeated the castle would collapse as well, so in an attempt to keep its own power alive, the castle had aligned itself with Bioquimeck in hopes that Dracula would be imprisoned once more allowing the castle to live on forever.
The first acolyte, Raisa Volkova, was also the CEO of Bioquimek. Dracula battled Raisa, empowered by the Void Sword he found within the castle walls, and then took the captured CEO back to Zobek for questioning. Meanwhile, Draculka is visited by visions of his young son who takes him into a version of the past to help restore his powers and his mind. This has the effect of splitting the timeline between the future and a version of the past (as if this timeline weren't confusing enough), but ti does allow Dracula the chance to reclaim his claws and beecome more powerful still.
Unfortunately, back in the present, the Bioquimek virus has been unleashed and is causing chaos all around Castlevania City (yes, it's really called that). An antidote is required so Draculka hops a train to another lab and goes in search of the cure. But before he can make it there he is once more pulled into the Castle by young Trevor, this time to try and save Trevor's mother, Marie (who may or may not even be there in this vision of the past that may or may not exist, ugh). In the castle Dracula is confronted by Carmilla, reborn in this weird world, who has Marie locked in a cell. Dracula wife calls to him, proclaiming him Gabriel (a name he shaked off) and helping him break the curse around him (by allowing him to feed from her pure blood). He then battles Carmilla, eventually defeating the demon once more.
Now more powerful still, Dracula heads into the lab to claim the cure and bring it back to Zobek's lair. There, though, Volkova reveals her true, demon form (as an acolyte of Satan) and this leads to a pitched battle. Dracula is eventually able to best her, killing the demon and breaking one of the bonds with Satan. He then ventures back out into the city to continue his search for the acolytes.
Confronted by a hooded man and lured into a cathedral, Dracula comes face to face with a distant family member, Victor Belmont, knight of the Brotherhood of Light. After a pitched battle (because every confrontation in this game requires a battle), Victor is bested but not killed. Instead, Dracula hands him the cure for the cirus promising it will cure all those afflicted, restoring some order to the city.
With a bit of searching, Dracula finds Nergal Meslamstea, the second of the acolytes. Although powerful on his home turf, Nergal is lured to Castle Dracula where Dracula regains his own powers and gains the upperhand. As the two fight, Dracula quickly take the edge in the battle and Nergal is defeated, another acolyte of Satan destroyed.
Soon enough one of Zobek's acolytes comes to Dracula to show him the way to the final acolyte, Guido Szandor. They head to the demon's home turf but, before reaching the destination Dracula is pulled back into the castle by young Trevor. There, Marie and Trevor tell Dracula to read the Book of Dracul, a tome that restores his full memories, including the pact he and Alcuard made. Dracula suddenly knows the truth and, in that moment, the lieutenant pulls back his cloak to reveal he is really Alucard.
This angers Zobek who could sense the betrayal, so the necromancer arrives immediately to battle them both in the guise of Death. Dracula takes on his one-time ally alone, fighting a long and hard battle against this demonic specter. Although Zobek was powerful, Dracula does gain the upperhand, eventually taking down Zobek and killing him, finally getting his revenge for Marie, Claudia, and all ther est that died along the way.
Sadly, in the battle the acolyte, Guido, fled. The two track the demon back to Dracula's cathedral where Guido summons Satan. Impressed at the lengths the two went through, Satan still has to kill everyone to ensure he permanent ascension. He kills Guido first (for being an idiot), then summons the Leviathan so he can fly up into the sky and build his power. Dracula and Alucard pursue, scaling the great beast before killing it and sending everyone plunging back to Earth. Satan then posesses Alucards body and fights Dracula in this guise, claiming Dracula would never kill his own son. Dracula states otherwise and goes for the killing blow, forcing Satan to flee the body. This gives Dracula the opning he needed and he stakes the Lord of Hell, killing him once and for all.
Their two greatest foes defeated, father and son look towards an uncertain future not knowing what the rest of eternity could hold.
The events of this section of the game technically start in Lords of Shadow before picking up immediately afterwards in Lords of Shadow 2. For our sake, though, we've put them together since it's really just a very small section seamlessly leading into the full plot of the second game.
Playing as Gabriel:
In his first incarnation, as a knight of the Brotherhood, Gabriel has plenty of tricks at his disposal. Most of his power comes from his Combat Cross, a weapon that allows him to perform a huge number of combo attacks (with more learned as the player works their way through the game), making him quite a force on the field. That, coupled with elemental magic that he could infuse into his combos, as well as powerful sub weapons he could use in combat, make Gabriel potentially one of the strongest Belmonts in the series.
As Dracula, Gabriel has even more abilities, with the use of his sword and claws (and all the delightful combos) as well as newer magics at his disposal. And, of course, as he gains more vampiric abilities as the player progresses through the game, he becomes more powerful still. Dracula is, in short, the improved version of Gabriel when it comes to combat.
Fighting Against Gabriel:
In Mirror of Fate, the players will battle Dracula as Alucard while Simon hangs off to the side, assisting. For the first bit Dracula will come at Alucard with his sword, but he can also fire off a flury of fireballs and do a power jump-to-ground pound attack. Plus, because he's Dracula, he can teleport aroud to try and get a better angle of attack on the heroes. After getting damaged or a bit, Dracula will knock Simon out of the way leaving Alucard to handle the next phase on his own. At this point he'll also throw a power dash-attack into his mix of moves, leaving yet another thing to keep an eye out for.
Once he's past the halfway mark, Dracula will then stall for time. He'll cause Simon to become possessed with dark magic and Alucard will have to perform a series of quicktime events to pull the darkness out. Then Dracula will attack and another quicktime event will be needed for Simon to free Alucard from Dracula's power. Then it's just rinse and repeat from the earliest section of this battle until Dracula is dead.
That's not the last we see of Dracula, though, as we then bounce back in time to Trevor's first battle with the vampire. Here, swinging a different version of his weapon, Dracula will have a different set of attacks to deal with. He can, of course, just slash with his weapon, but he can also shoot out beams of force that travel the screen (at different heights) for the hero to avoid. He has can so a spinning cyclone up into the air to damage his nearby foe. And, of course, he has teleport sword swipes as well, just to keep you on your toes.
Once he's damaged a bit, he'll throw the sword aside and bust out his claws, bringing back his ground pound from the earlier battle, which he can use in combination with his claws and dash attacks. He'll then alternate back and forth between these two phases, sword and claws, depending on his damage levels. Plus he'll then add on a wave of force that he'll draw into himself before unleashing it out in a radial attack. Andd he can punch the ground causing pillars of force to come up around the hero, for even more things to dodge. This whole battle is really long but, thankfully, it's largely devoid of quicktime events that you have to struggle through, a small mercy indeed.