Review: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (Sony PlayStation)

Review-Blood-Omen-Legacy-Of-KainBlood Omen: Legacy of Kain definitely sets its stall out early and has perhaps one of the most memorable opening sequences of any game. Kain is killed by assassins, a blood curdling scream emits as a sword is thrust into his chest. He accepts vampirism to exact vengeance without considering the cost of the deadly deal. So begins your adventure - a bloodthirsty Zelda for grownups. After Kain deftly exacts revenge on the bandits, a voice summons him to the seek and restore the Pillars of Nosgoth in order to seek the true culprit who ordered his demise.

Kain's first foe is the unfortunate crypt keeper from where he awakes. Enough sword swipes and he staggers allowing Kain to either kill him, or drain him of his precious blood - your health. As he fine dines on the poor sods' face, blood trickles down your heads up display into a vial. The HUD - as attractive as it is - takes up 1/3 of the screen. This is a little unnecessary, but does have all the relevant info and looks fantastic. It also has a sun dial - Kain is weaker during the day, his powers increasing by night which is a brilliant touch. Some caves only open during a full moon - so the game adds layers of exploration at different times of the day!

Initial thoughts is that the camera is quite poor. Often you have very little looking space to see what is ahead of Kain on screen. Thankfully there is a zoom out button but unfortunately this in turn makes the graphics suffer. What hammers the last nail into the coffin is the frame rate. It is shockingly bad when you have three characters on screen at once or if Kain is in a large room... On his own... Turns out large rooms can slow a vampire - so make sure you always have one handy! The graphics are generally pleasing, the lighting effects in particular are sumptuous - torches flicker and stain glass windows shine a plethora of rainbow radiance.

The biggest stand out feature though is the voice work. Kain is portrayed as an English nobleman but as the game progresses his blood lust brings out a ruthless killer. Kain's voice actor - Simon Templeton - sounds amazing and really brings home the spirit of the unhinged vampire. Imagine a really really angry Bill Nighy who has just got to the last episode of Breaking Bad only for a power cut to happen in his house. Put that image into an enraged vampire hell bent on revenge and you are some way there. Add in to the mix that Kain looks like the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters 2 and you have a completely rounded off character of doom at your disposal!

The land of Nosgoth is generally varied - forest, volcano and snow etc. These aren't overly imaginative but given the ye olde game context it fits the mood perfectly. The dungeons and castles you explore all have save points dotted around like Starbucks in a capitalist country. I like that as it means that a dungeon doesn't have to be an arbitrary slog if you accidentally mess up. The game wants you to experience the whole thing - getting stuck due to difficulty turns people off.

Review-Blood-Omen-Legacy-Of-Kain-Screenshots

In the towns, people mill about - Kain can decimate them all or leave them be, a useful med kit on legs for later perhaps! Some houses and dungeons have slain victims reappear as ghosts which when sucked replenish mana but not health - so be careful to keep a few meat bags in the land of the living. The villages look nicely detailed (if not all quite samey looking) but their inhabitants don't seem to mind a vampire turning into a werewolf, slapping around a woman and then changing back again. For the record I am not advocating beating up women (or turning into werewolves) - there are men to pig stick too - so equal rights!

Combat is chunky, clunky yet somewhat satisfying. Kain gleefully cackles as he slices enemies with each mash of the attack button. Watching a foe drop to the ground swimming in a pool of their own blood never gets old. However, Kain's war cry of 'Vae Victis' is frustratingly annoying. Usable items come in the way of tarot cards which can be found strewn across the world or hiding in convenient barrels waiting to be smashed. As gory as these items can be - one removes the skin of your opponent just leaving a fallen skeleton - you may as well just hack foes to death as there is a glaring issue with Legacy of Kain...

The loading times are horrendous.

The pause screen alone (which you use to equip armour, spells, weapons and items) takes an age to load. You can map items and spells to the shoulder buttons and use them on the fly, but you will use the inventory screen often so it becomes a chore. This cuts into the immersion which has atmosphere in spades, but you are never far away from the next load time for it to sink in.

As you progress Kain learns abilities that can turn him into different forms. These include bats (for fast travel), a wolf (to traverse higher ground - bit odd seeing though the wolf is traditionally the immortal enemy of a vampire), a ghost (to walk across water and through some doors) and finally a human guise (which lets Kain mingle with townsfolk). All are useful in their own ways, adding to the exploration of Nosgoth.

Puzzles seem to be an issue however. They all (and I mean ALL) have an over reliance on pulling levers and switches until you hear something unlock, then going back to find a new way forward. It feels good finding new areas though, for every Zelda fairy pond, there is a blood fountain adorned with skulls which further increase Kain's abilities.

There is some strategy to the combat throughout the game. For example, the hand axe weapons are super powerful but are two handed weapons. This means that you can not cast spells or use items. Also the Soul Reaver sword does not allow Kain to suck blood - it tears his foes limb from shin but consumes mana. Some experimentation is helpful in teaming up two or three powerups to make an all deadly combo that little foe could withstand. Equipping armour that damages your enemy when they strike and using shield magic is a perfect one two knock out blow that leaves would be killers ripe for some sucky sucky action. The only issue with the weapons is that there are too many delectable choices on how to kill everyone - not a bad thing, but you will over rely on the same ones time and time again.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain Gameplay Video

Conclusion

Blood Omen doesn't particularly do anything new for the adventure genre, it is just refreshing to play a game of this type but with a more adult demographic in mind. The story is pretty solid and the cut scenes (though looking tired today) are gory and fun. The game has action in spades and makes you feel like you want to continue on. If you take one thing out of playing Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, make sure it is you imagining him being in the Twilight films. Oh the mess he would have made. Who needs a sexy werewolf when you can wash his innards all over the garden?

Link: Find Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain on eBay


Last Updated ( 03 October 2014 )  

James 'ewjim' Evans

Jim is a self confessed know it all when it comes to 16-bit gaming. With a strange fondness of playing rubbish videogames for the fun of it, there is no stoop too low he won't go to for entertainment.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) DemonicNinja 2014-10-03 18:31
The horror..no the Horror!!!...great review!!
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