Tag Archives: Legacy of Kain

Scouse Gamer 88 Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver Header

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PC, PlayStation & Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Rixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer(s) – Amy Hennig, Andrew Bennett & Rosaura Sandoval

PEGI – 16

 

Developed and released by Crystal Dynamics following a lengthy legal battle with original creators of the Legacy of Kain series, Silicon Knights, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, like Blood Omen, was also met wide widespread critical acclaim in what was considered an ideal time, as it coincided with the release of several horror films, such as The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project. It went on to be considered the best game in the series by most critics, and whilst I don’t agree with that assessment, (by far I think the best game in the series is Soul Reaver 2), the original Soul Reaver is still to me, a classic of the fifth generation and still an absolute joy to play through.

 

Graphics – 7/10

Soul Reaver easily has one the darkest approaches taken to conceptual design out of most games I’ve played throughout my lifetime. It takes the players back into the fictional dark fantasy land of Nosgoth, but in a post-apocalyptic state. There are new locations added to Nosgoth’s landscape, as well as the ruins of some of the previous locations found in Blood Omen, such as The Pillars of Nosgoth and Nupraptor’s Retreat. It also has the player alternating between the underworld and the physical world in order to gain access to new areas, or areas otherwise impassable in the opposite. Gamers may argue that in terms of the technical aspect of the game, it hasn’t aged particularly well, and with that, I would agree to a certain extent, but the conceptual design more than makes up for that in my opinion. For the best version of the game, I would recommend the Dreamcast port, which runs at 60 frames per second and has the most polish to it. The Dreamcast version actually makes it look far more like a sixth-generation game than a fifth.  Both planes of existence within the game are as dark as the other, with a wonderfully horrifying soundtrack to accompany the game. 

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Somewhat similar to Blood Omen, Soul Reaver plays out more like a 3D platformer than a top-down RPG, but combat is still at the heart of the game’s design, with players having to subdue abominable enemies throughout and being able to learn new abilities and increase their health and magic capacities to use these abilities more efficiently and frequently. Although the main combat system is not as diverse as Blood Omen, it does make up for that by challenging players to strategize in accordance with their surroundings, as the enemies are only killed in a handful of specific ways, at least in the physical world. The boss fights, though fewer, are also far more creative than in Blood Omen; again requiring specific actions to take in order to best each one. Like in Blood Omen, there is also a fast travel system and a plethora of hidden items and abilities to discover along the way.

 

Controls – 10/10

Even when 3D gaming was pretty much in its infancy during the fifth generation, there were some games like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon that handled their control schemes extremely fluently; Soul Reaver is one such example; there are no issues with the controls whilst playing with a joypad, and it also handles stealth combat in a very fluent manner as well, which at the time, was a relatively new concept. 

One thing I would advise, however, is this; avoid the Steam version like the plague. Controller support is not officially part of it with players having to rely on keyboard commands, and keyboard mapping doesn’t currently work for some unknown reason. The same also goes for every other Legacy of Kain game ported to Steam. No one at Valve, Square Enix, or Crystal Dynamics has ever seen fit to rectify this, and it’s a great shame. Again, the best way to play this game is on the Dreamcast; in every respect.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last for a total of around 25 hours, which was relatively impressive at the time. The one thing I would say is that, although there are a good few collectibles to obtain throughout the game, the game’s world is still a bit too bare for how big it is, and more could have been added to it, in turn, add to the substance of the game. Nevertheless, there is enough in it to make it last for a fairly impressive amount of time. 

 

Storyline – 10/10

The story continues over 100 years following the events of Blood Omen. Having condemned Nosgoth to an eternity of decay by refusing the sacrifice of his own life, Kain has since established his own vampiric empire out of his own contempt for humanity. However, things change after his first-born lieutenant, Raziel, surpasses Kain in terms of vampiric evolution by growing a pair of wings. In anger, Kain tears off Raziel’s wings and condemns him to death by throwing him into The Lake of the Dead. Burnt by the acidic touch of the lake’s waters, Raziel is then resurrected by a god-like entity, known only as The Elder God, as a wraith, endowed with the hunger for souls and other supernatural abilities, unlike any vampire. Raziel then resolves to destroy Kain and his vampiric brothers and consume their souls returning them to the wheel of fate. 

Like Blood Omen, the story of this game, as well as the dialogue were masterfully executed. The voice acting of Simon Templeman, Michael Bell, and Tony Jay help to truly bring this title to life in a story centered around the nature of death and immortality and the price of power. To me, The Legacy of Kain easily has the best story ever told in all of gaming, and it’s that more impressive considering how much of a strong note of finality there is to the original Blood Omen. To have picked up where Blood Omen left off and evolved the series into what it would become in terms of story, was truly an impressive feat of video game narrative and helped to establish Amy Hennig as one of the greatest storytellers in the medium, as she would later go on to establish the stories of Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed.

 

Originality – 9/10

In terms of gameplay, as well as the story, it’s also impressive to think of how the developers took the concept of Blood Omen, made something drastically different from the former, and make work and work well, is also extremely impressive; especially given how young the concept of 3D gaming was at the time and how risky it would have inevitably been to make that transition. Some people have even cited this as an early example of a 3D Metroidvania, predating Metroid Prime by a full three years, which although I don’t think you can consider it a 3D Metroidvania, as it plays out more like a 3D platformer than anything, it’s still interesting to think about, and it all still works to separate this title from most not only released at the time, but most games released since.

 

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Overall, the original Soul Reaver remains a classic to this day, and if anyone can pick up a copy of it on either the original PlayStation or the Dreamcast, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a game with terrific combat, a plethora of gameplay variety, additional sidequests, and a level of storytelling, which in my opinion, has never been topped within the medium of gaming since. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Couse Gamer 88 Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain Header

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PC & PlayStation 1)

Developer(s) – Silicon Knights

Publisher(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Activision

Director – Denis Dyack

Producer(s) – Rick Goertz, Lyle Hall & Joshua Marks

PEGI – 18

 

Released in 1996 as the first installment of the Legacy of Kain series, Blood Omen was met with immense commercial success as well as critical acclaim. A top-down adventure RPG inspired by the likes of The Legend of Zelda series, it stands as one of the earlier examples of a game containing a cinematic story, influenced by such novels as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the works of Shakespeare dealing with themes such as birth, death, rebirth and moral ambiguity. To me, everything about this game is every bit as unique and refreshing for the time as what the developers set out to accomplish and stands out for me as one of the best games ever released on the original PlayStation. 

 

Graphics – 7/10

Blood Omen, as well as the entirety of the Legacy of Kain series, is set in the 15th century inspired land of Nosgoth, where sit nine skyward pillars, which each govern nine different aspects of the world; time, death, balance, nature, conflict, states, dimensions, energy and the mind. The game’s conceptual design also marks one of the earliest examples of the portrayal of dark fantasy in gaming; everything about Nosgoth feels ominous and gritty, and the 16-BIT rendered pixel art used does extremely well to invoke these feelings with some disturbing character animations and deeply atmospheric locations such as Vorador’s mansion, Dark Eden and Nupraptor’s retreat. The game’s soundtrack does nothing but adds to its overall sadistic feel in addition; even in times where relevant safety is to be had in villages and towns etc. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The game is a traditional adventure RPG, heavy on combat across the vast open world of Nosgoth. Players must travel in accordance with the story objectives, through the land, air, and even time at one point. It is also one of the earliest games to feature a conventional fast travel system, predating the likes of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, as Kain is able to transform into a flurry of bats in order to travel to different locations more quickly. But where the gameplay truly shines is in its amount of variety in combat. Different weapons are acquired to adopt different styles of fighting, as well as the player having access to a number of magic spells to strategize in accordance with what kind of enemies they are fighting. Having already been familiar with the series before playing Blood Omen for the first time, since I started with the original Soul Reaver, I was at first quite surprised to discover just how much variety there is to be had in gameplay; but pleasantly surprised. It’s a game whereby although its story is a huge part of it, it, to me, still doesn’t take precedence over the gameplay completely.

 

Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I would have with the game’s control scheme is that the command of attacking with melee weapons can be quite inconsistent at times. The way Kain’s sprite is animated doesn’t work well with trying to time each strike and can cause delays in doing so, it would seem. But apart from this one minor issue, there are no further major concerns with the controls to address. It’s as well the developers added a fast travel system since unless Kain is in lupine form, moving around can be quite slow. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

To complete the game 100% can take there around 20 hours, which was fairly impressive for a game at the time, but it also gave players an insight early on into the direction whereby games were going at that point. Titles that last only a few hours at a time were no longer cutting it with players, and so developers seemed to start making longer games to accommodate for this; no longer was it just Squaresoft and Enix making games lasting hundreds of hours each, but developers like Konami, Silicon Knights, and Crystal Dynamics would also follow suit, and Blood Omen is simply an example of this increase in standards. 

 

Storyline – 10/10

The story of Blood Omen is morally complicated, tragic, and wonderfully dark. It follows the story of a nobleman named Kain, who is one night attacked and killed by a group of assassins. Finding himself in the underworld looking down at the abyss below, the necromancer Mortanius offers Kain a chance for revenge. Kain takes up the offer with the price being that he now walks the earth again as a vampire thirsty for human blood. However, his revenge against his killers turns out to be only a bit part of a far bigger plot embroiling Kain in an entangled nest of intrigue, death, manipulation, moral ambiguity, mental and physical pain, and loss. 

Blood Omen plays out very much a traditional Shakespearian tragedy, but with its mythology, settings, and set of shady and deceitful characters, it made for something very fresh in terms of storytelling at the time, which in all honesty, has never truly been replicated to this day. The story of The Legacy of Kain series, in general, would go on to become something even deeper and thematic, but the foundations laid down for all this with the first game were silently groundbreaking at the time.

 

Originality – 9/10

This game did a lot of things in terms of both gameplay and story that had not been seen before, and in terms of story at least, have rarely been seen since. Similar combat systems have been worked into many different games following the release of Blood Omen, and this game certainly had its influences in terms of gameplay, but regardless, it still stands as an experience unlike any other, and still mightily enjoyable to play today. To complete every quest and uncover every spec of expertly written dialogue and backstory is still a very rewarding gaming endeavor. 

 

Happii

Overall, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is a must-have for any fan of video games tackling the dark fantasy theme. It may never get the remaster it deserves, due to the legal issues between Crystal Dynamics and Silicon Knights, but this doesn’t take anything away from the original game; it’s a certified pleasure to play through every time. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Legacy of Kain: Defaince Header

Legacy of Kain: Defiance (Xbox, PlayStation 2 & PC)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Nixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer – Rosaura Sandoval

PEGI – 16

 

Developed at the back end of the sixth generation of gaming, and the last game in the series to be released following the cancellation of both the MOBA Nosgoth and Legacy of Kain: Dark Sun, Legacy of Kain: Defiance offered a pretty different take on gameplay compared to the rest of the series, whereby the player would assume control of both the central characters of the series as opposed to them being alternated between games. To me, although it is the worst game of the series, that isn’t to say that it’s bad; not by a long shot.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals are about as extremely varied and as wonderfully disturbing as any other game in the series. Taking place across multiple time frames, like Soul Reaver 2, it portrays the land of Nosgoth from a multitude of different perspectives, from the time before the pillars collapsed to the time before Moebius would revive the Sarafan order and proceed to extinguish the vampires. The game also still maintains the dark and morbid atmosphere associated with the prior four games, as well as a feeling of isolation and helplessness, adding a great deal of tension to the overall experience.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

Though three of the five games are generally linear in their style of play, Defiance took this to a whole to level; largely to my disappointment. The combat is still quite varied and there exists a very strong puzzle element reminiscent of the other games in the series, but there is considerably less to do than in the likes of the original Blood Omen or Soul Reaver. From a gameplay perspective, it is indeed the least enjoyable in the franchise, but in retrospect, the basic premise does have it’s strong points, and it is certainly worth at least one playthrough.

 

Controls – 7/10

The biggest problem I had with the game’s control scheme is that the camera angles can make playing the game needlessly complicated in some instances. Often times, I found that the camera can be zoomed out a little bit too much, making it hard for players to see what they are doing with the character; this becomes an especially big problem if they are trying to overcome certain platforming sequences that can be found throughout the game.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

Lasting about as long as either Blood Omen 2 or Soul Reaver 2, gamers can clock in around 15 to 20 hours, which whilst isn’t a terrible lifespan, doesn’t go above and beyond anything that had already been released within the series at that point. The developers started off with a game that lasted an exceptionally long time, and the lifespan of each game gradually became less and less, which is an issue I have with the series in general, but Defiance clocks in as the shortest game from my experience.

 

Storyline – 10/10

A key difference between this game garnishing a 7 instead of a 6 for me, however, it’s a fantastic storyline. Developed in a time when vampires could be considered cool, and before Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart spent five films staring at each other, Legacy of Kain: Defiance presents the latest chapter portraying two vampires worth investing time into; the former ruler of Nosgoth Kain, and his former lieutenant Raziel. Kain is in search of Raziel in order to deliver a warning to him, which will prevent any further catastrophe from happening within the land of Nosgoth, and to fulfill his own destiny as the fabled scion of balance, and Raziel meanwhile escapes from the underworld and his captor, The Elder God, in order to return to the physical world and find answers regarding his own purpose and realize his own free will. My brief synopsis really doesn’t do the story justice in honesty, and it is worth playing the game to simply find out what happens; something that I personally rarely advocate in my reviews.

 

Originality – 7/10

In terms of its narrative, the entire Legacy of Kain series easily has the best story ever told in a video game in my own personal opinion. It went leaps and bounds ahead of any other video game story and presented players with something reminiscent of classic literature and epic fantasy. From a gameplay perspective, however, there have been many different games like this but with even greater variety, and Defiance doesn’t really stand out in that respect. Though it is fairly enjoyable to play through there was most definitely room for improvement as well in terms of gameplay.

 

Happii

Happii

Overall, Legacy of Kain: Defiance is the worst game in the series, but it is nevertheless a joy to play through; if only for the story. Even so, Issues I encountered with gameplay don’t make the title unplayable by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s plenty of addicting combat and puzzle-solving to keep players relatively busy throughout.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Blood Omen 2 Header

Blood Omen 2 (PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox & PC)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Nixxes Software VB

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Glen Schofield

Producer – Sam Newman

PEGI – 16

 

Garnishing high commercial sales, but low critical scores from most reviewers at the time of its release back in 2002, Blood Omen 2 takes place in between the original events of both the original Blood Omen and Soul Reaver, telling the story of the events leading up to how the vampire Kain began to build his own empire throughout the land of Nosgoth. Although this game is one of the lowest ranking games in the series on both Metacritic and GameRankings, in my opinion, that’s not to say that it’s bad; not by a long shot.

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

The visuals may not be among the most astounding of the sixth generation from a technical standpoint, the conceptual design is outstanding, with the game taking place in nigh in eerily empty towns, industrial strongholds, and vast castles; all the while, the game maintaining an extremely dark and imposing atmosphere. And despite the fact that many of the NPCs in towns are simply mainly copies of two or three character sprites, there is a fair amount of diversity in enemy design, as well as boss design, with the player having to fight against such enemies as the Hylden race and oversized insects.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The developers were looking to create a more action-oriented Legacy of Kain game, and it’s certainly made evident in Blood Omen 2. Whilst the combat doesn’t play as big a role as it did in the original Blood Omen game, there’s enough in Blood Omen 2 to keep the game entertaining throughout, with an arsenal of weapons to use, and abilities to take advantage of certain situations with. For example, the mist ability can be used to perform stealth kills and the jump ability can be used to kill enemies from great distances. And though there is considerably less of a puzzle-solving element to this title, unlike the two games in the Soul Reaver series, there are a few instances that require some lateral thinking, such as when having to use the charm ability to possess people into opening certain doors or lowering bridges in order to advance.

 

Controls – 8/10

The problem with the control scheme in Blood Omen 2 is that the moving and walking mechanics can feel quite stiff. It reminds me somewhat of Blasto, whereby the camera needed to be moved in order to turn in different directions; albeit this game’s controls are nowhere near as annoying as the aforementioned example. Regardless, however, the combat system has been handled by the developers surprisingly well under the circumstances, having a kind of Ocarina of Time feel to it, in the ability to lock onto targets and maneuver around them, so I don’t think too many marks should be taken away from the game in this respect.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

For a linear action-adventure platforming game, 15 to 20 hours is a fairly impressive amount of time to last. It may feel like a step down compared to many other games in the series, especially the original Blood Omen, but it still lasted about as long as most other good games released around the same time, such as the original Jak & Daxter or Ratchet and Clank. There is also some replay value, as there is a code that can be imputed on the title screen, which will give Kain the ability to wield both the Soul Reaver and the iron armor he wore in the original Blood Omen game; although of course, the code is different for each port of the game.

 

Storyline – 10/10

I’ve highlighted a few times throughout my blogging career that the Legacy of Kain series easily has my favorite video game story of all time (albeit unfinished), and this game is simply a telling of one out of the five main chapters. After the events of the first Blood Omen, the vampire Kain builds up an army of vampires, appointing four legionaries in the process, and resolves to take the land of Nosgoth for himself. However, he is opposed by another army known as the Sarafan, a band of fanatical humans, which had once been disbanded but are newly revived by their mysterious leader, known only as the Sarafan Lord. The two armies collide at the capital of Nosgoth, Meridian, and Kain clashes with the Sarafan Lord; the battle ending with the Sarafan Lord dispatching Kain, and taking from him his legendary sword, the Soul Reaver. 200 years later, Kain awakes from a dormant state to find that a small vampiric resistance faction called the Cabal had restored him back to health. Within the time Kain had been asleep, the Sarafan have taken over Nosgoth themselves, enslaving humanity and hunting down every vampire they can find. Kain joins the Cabal and sets out on a quest to defeat the Sarafan, and their lord, and thus resume his ascent to power with the end goal of ruling over Nosgoth at last. Blood Omen 2 is considered weaker in the story than the others, but I personally find it just as enthralling as any other entry in the series.

 

Originality – 6/10

Although this title may not be overly original in terms of gameplay, and even visual style to any great extent, the overall concept and the progression of the series’ story serve to keep it relatively fresh and make it stand out among many other games released at the time. Indeed, I’ve noticed that throughout gaming history, there haven’t been a great many mainstream games released that focus on vampirism; the only ones I can think of off the top of my head are either Castlevania or Bloodrayne.

 

Happii

Happii

To summarize, I happen to think that Blood Omen 2 is fairly underrated, and despite it’s few flaws, it is a game worth playing through more than once. With action-packed and varied combat, coupled with the continuation of an incredible story (one that doesn’t even necessarily require players to have played any of the previous games), it will keep players extremely entertained for a pretty impressive amount of time.

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)