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Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (Windows)

Mature
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
71
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Dr. M. "Schadenfreude" Von Katze (590)
Written on  :  Oct 16, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.29 Stars3.29 Stars3.29 Stars3.29 Stars3.29 Stars

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Summary

Begins one of the hughest storylines ever. If ever a game DESERVED a re-make, this is the one.

The Good

THE STORY of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain takes place in Nosgoth, a land where all life depends on the existence of an ancient edifice known as The Nine Pillars. Each Pillar represents a power of the land, and it's protected by a Guardian. These Guardians are called the Circle of Nine, Protectors Of Hope.
It all starts in a time when vampires were being hunted down and exterminated by an order of warrior-priests created by the Circle, called The Sarafan.
In revenge for these "vampire purges", an ancient vampire called Vorador would slaughter six members of the Circle.
Malek, Guardian of the Pillar of Conflict and palladin of the Circle, failed to save them, and thus was damned to live as a ghost inside a hollow armour, bound to protect the Circle for eternity.

He wouldn't do much of a good job, since some centuries later Ariel, Guardian of the Pillar of Balance, would be murdered by an unseen assassin. Nupraptor, Guardian of the Pillar of Mind and lover of Ariel, would find her corpse and descend into madness. He would retire to his mountain retreat and sew his eyes and mouth to shut the world outside.
His madness would infect the other members of the Circle, turning them into tyrants, dedicated to desecrate the land they were sworn to protect. The once white and pristine Pillars would crack and turn to a dirty black as the whole land enters a downward spiral of decay.
In this very moment, in the town of Coorhagen, of noble crib; Kain is born to human life.

Thirty years later the now proud nobleman Kain is looking for adventures far from home, when he is ambushed and murdered in the road by brigands. Blinded with rage and yearning for revenge even after death, Kain accepts the offer of Mortanius, Guardian of the Pillar of Death, who offers to bring him back to make his justice.
"You will have the blood you hunger for" grins Mortanius, and Kain indeed returns... as a vampire.


From this moment on, we take control of Kain, who will soon find out that his revenge is a much bigger task than he first thought, and it involves solving the mystery of Ariel's murder and returning the Pillars to their former purity, via the only possible method: to kill the corrupted Guardians.
Throughout his quest, Kain will learn that in this time of doubt and decay, nothing is what it seems, and mysterious forces are bent on using him as a pawn for their dark ends. Who is Kain's real ally? Maybe no one is.


The storyline revolves in an enormous spiderweb of deception, half-truths and betrayals, all of the while the land of Nosgoth descends slowly into what seems to be its demise. Kain's only interest is to find a cure for his vampirism, which he's promised will come once Nosgoth is restored; but we will soon learn that this may be yet another deception... maybe he will just have to deal with the fact that there is no cure. Maybe Nosgoth is beyond redemption, and the only difference will be WHOSE corrupted hands will get the remaining crumbs.

The storyline is what I found the strongest point of the game, and the very thing that got me hooked into play throughout the whole fully-2D totally-outdated thing, in this times of accelerated-3D glory (October 2003).
The storyline itself is cleverly conceived, and storytelling is done with great talent, as to keep you interested at all times.

Connected to this, there's something intangible but equally amazing, which I call THE POTENTIAL of the game.
Due to its technical limitations (remember it's been released in 1997), the game leans in a number of pre-rendered FMV sequences and a LOT of spoken description of places and events. These descriptions are so well done, that at times I felt like reading an epic novel, and I pictured several key moments in my head, as they might look if made with today's technology. The dark and eerie swamps of Termogent Forest, the fastuous mansion of the vampire Vorador, the epic Battle of the Last Stand —when Kain joins the biggest army of Nosgoth in order to face a megalomaniac invasor known as the Nemesis and his hordes of destruction... All those moments are just eager for someone to take them and turn them into a fully 3D DirectX 9-powered experience.

THE SOUND in my humble opinion, simply shines with its own light. The game is FULLY spoken, which is pretty great considering how old it is. Not only descriptions are as glorious as to read a good novel, but voice acting in general is just amazing. Voice acting of the LEGACY OF KAIN series is already known to be among the best ever.
The music does a very good job creating the atmosphere, it's nothing revolutionary in any way, but it's totally enjoyable and it even has some brilliant moments. I LOVED the grim and twisted tune played in the mansion of Ezelvir the Dollmaker.

GAMEPLAY-WISE, the game is one of those games that fool you in the beginning with some RPG'ish elements, but soon prove themselves to be nothing more than a hack&slash game with a lot of goodies (spells, armor, weapons) to choose between, much like DIABLO II. This is not exactly good, neither it is exactly bad... all the contrary :P
The game offers quite a bit of variety for an action game, and it has a large number of secrets —there's even a ranking you get at the end, adding up the way you played, stuff collected, secrets uncovered, et cetera— which gives the game a fair deal of replayability.

Finally, there's a very cool feature called the Dark Diary, which is an option in the main menu from where you can replay the FMV's you've seen so far. Since the main points of the story are told through these FMV's, after you finish the game you get to play the whole storyline in about 20 minutes worth of pre-rendered video.

The Bad

I can't help but feeling I'm being unfair when I think of "the bad" of this game. The thing is, I played it in mid-2003, after playing the awesome LEGACY OF KAIN: SOUL REAVER 2, and most of the flaws that I can point out are related to technical issues, which might just as well answer to the limitations of 1997.

THE GRAPHICS look poorly, but then again, you can tell that there is a lot of work put into them: several different scenarios, lots of details, different weather conditions, day and night...
Same goes for the FMV sequences. They look even worse than many in-game sequences do nowadays, but these might just be reflecting the limitations back then...

However, one flaw that I'm very certain IS a flaw now and WAS a flaw back then, involves GAMEPLAY. If it wasn't for the storyline, I don't think I would have given this game more than one hour of life. The thing is, the whole game is pretty much the same: you travel through open fields, enter a town, investigate a few houses, and sooner or later you get into your target building/cave/mansion, which is a maze you need to traverse until you find the boss character. You defeat him, and then the whole thing starts over. On and on again, until you defeat all the bosses. The visual settings change more or less, but the things you have to do are always the same.
On top of this, the combat interface sucks. You only get to slash with your sword, not having any key to avoid or cover from attacks, so you need to walk away from the attacker, face him again, slash, walk away...
The use of spells at times makes the whole fighting a bit easier and more enjoyable (specially watching the different effects the spells have on your enemies) and even adds some interest into the otherwise lame and simplistic "puzzles" (like when you use the "Control Mind" spell to gain control over an enemy and make him pull the lever which opens the door that grants you access), but in time it all gets repetitive pretty soon.

The Bottom Line

As of today, I'm a HUGE fan of the LEGACY OF KAIN games. I met this franchise almost by accident, and I ended up falling in love with its imaginative, enormous and well-detailed story. This series of games are among my top 5 favourite games ever, and that's quite amazing since at a first glance they are nothing more than the combination of the two most cliched and un-interesting topics ever: vampires and middle-age fantasy.

Once I played the 3 most actual games of the series, and readed a lot of plot analysis and diverse material about the legendary and elder first game, I finally decided to suck it up, and go face it myself. The game looks way outdated (I believe it would have actually looked outdated even at its own time, back in 1997), its gameplay is pretty much crap, and you need to do some tweaking to get it to even work under WindowsXP... and yet, I don't regret my decision. The experience was worth it.

So, do I recommend this game?
Tough question.
See, first of all, except for the story, don't expect ANYTHING to surprise you... probably even considering the game's age.
This is the kind of game that can only be appreciated by the kind of people who agrees with me that "the more a game resembles of a book, the better it is."
For people like me, this is an amazing story, and a game full of potential.
I truly hope that someone takes over the thing and makes a full-power 3D version to show the rest of the world what they've missing...
Otherwise, is their loss.