If not for the pesky camera and repetition, this could have been one of the best games ever.
The Legacy of Kain series is somewhat alien to me. I've only briefly played the original Blood Omen
and only played Soul Reaver
about halfway through before the computer that I was using had crashed or some other mishap that prevented me from finishing it. But after finishing Defiance, I have a strong urge to find and play through every game in the series.
First of all, the graphics are top-notch. They don't go overboard in pushing the envelope, but utilize all the tricks that are becoming a standard now. Facial expressions, accurate and believable lip-syncing, blur effects, fluid animation, and so on and so forth. The result is a near flawless game, graphically. From the very beginning to the very end you will be immersed in the textures, colors and architecture of the world around you, even if it does get very
repetetive as you go on (more on that in a minute). Characters couldn't look more believable, and the cutscenes are a real treat to watch. The lip syncing and facial expressions really make you wonder if you're watching a CG cinematic or an in-game cutscene.
The storyline is...well, confusing, really. At least for me, one who barely knows anything about the series. It is obvious that fans of the Legacy of Kain series will get the most from this game, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially towards the end. This game has a very unique element to it, in that throughout the game you play as two different characters, Kain and Razael, both searching in their own when and where for the same goal, and as the story progresses, you really feel the epic climax building up when the two characters' timelines intersect, and when it does, oh boy was that ever a moment in gaming I'll remember for some time.
Fighting is also a lot of fun, though I much more enjoyed fighting in the material plane rather than Razael's spirit-world. Something is just more satisfying about impaling a human archer on a torch and watching him burst into flames than smacking some weird booger-monster into oblivion. Though that certain has its own appeal. I found that I never got bored of the fighting, despite its repetition. Battles could always be fought in a different manner, using the different styles of fighting available. You could just go in, sword-slingin' and cut'em up, or you could use telekenesis to fling'em off a cliff, or impale them on a torch (heh heh), or use one of your six-or-seven special elemental attacks to do all kinds of extra damage. Not to mention the other abilities you get as you gain combat experience, which, while tricky to perform at times, are great to do. Fighting was a blast, throughout the entire game.
The puzzles are also great. Those of you who have played the Soul Reaver
games will be pleased to know the same original materal plane/spirit world unique puzzles are there for Razael to explot, though I was disappointed to find they weren't used quite as much as in previous games. As for Kain, his puzzles are standard "knock over this thing so you can climb up here to get the key" type puzzles, which can be good, I suppose, if you don't like difficult puzzles. Normally, I really don't like puzzles that leave me stumped, but I felt these were just a little too easy.
Voice overs are absolutely wonderful, combined with the graphics, facial expressions, lip-syncing and amazing storyline, again, it makes you question the idea that you're playing a game or playing a movie. A real fricken good
movie. The way the storyline developes as you play through the game as two characters is...just amazing. I wouldn't think that sort of tactic would really work -- playing as two characters, one at a time, I mean. I would think it would get annoying, but it's not at all, as for the story to unfold properly it needs this system, and it's just a real treat. I found I didn't favor one character over the other, and fell in love with both throughout the game.
When I see some of the ratings for this game, I just want to scream "UNDER RATED MASTERPIECE!" but then I control myself and take a look at perhaps why this game is not rated as high as it should be. It all becomes quite obvious.
First, the camera. Now we're really yet to see a camera that is completely friendly to the player, but they really could have done better with this game. The camera never really "follows" the player, but appears to ride on an invisible rail, switching from time to time to fixed locations. You cannot control the camera (except enter first-person mode just to look around) and it never follows you over the shoulder. Instead, it always points at you, but from fixed locations. Sometimes it remains static, other times it moves around. I really appreciate the cinematic element this creates for the player, but it just doesn't work in some places. I recall at least two locations that the player MUST be able to reach, that is completely
oblivious to the camera. You would have to enter first-person view to see it, or happen upon them by chance. There may have been other such locations, but I can only remember two. Because of this, you may find yourself wandering around the same four rooms for a half hour before you discover where you're supposed to go. Also, throughout the game, the camera will switch to another camera view as you're moving, say, into another room. Because of this change in view, you might find that where just a moment ago you were pressing the "right" key to move to the right, you character is now facing left. The game compensates for this by keeping your character moving as long as you hold down the button, but this can be very disorienting and more than once I found myself caught in a enter-the-room-leave-the-room loop because of the camera switching.
The other thing that hurts the game is the repetition of the levels, especially when playing as Razael. As the game progresses, Razael must acquire new elemental Reaver abilities, and to get these, he must travel into ancient Vampire guardian tomb places. I think there are six and all, and they all look exactly the same
. And not only that, they're a real pain in the ass to get around in. This, unfortunately, is where you'll probably spend most of your time as Razael, because the puzzles, while not difficult, can take some time to get through, and when you have to do these damned things one after the other after the other after the other...it's aggrivating. VERY aggrivating.
Also: Vorridor's Mansion is a pain in the ass level :P
The Bottom Line
If not for the camera annoyances and those Vampire elemental Reaver places, this game, I think, would be rated as one of the best games ever. But despite those two faults (there are others to be sure, but I consider them minor) the game is an amazing experience with a fantastic storyline and graphics that immerse you in the Legacy of Kain universe. If you're a fan of the series, this addition will make you cream your pants. If you've never played any of the others, I'd suggest you play them before this as it can prove to be somewhat confusing, but I for one enjoyed this game more than I've enjoyed most games I played in 2003.