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Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1

Posted: April 15th, 2015, 9:58 pm
by DaHeckIzDat
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is an action RPG for the original Playstation. It tells the story of Kain, a nobleman who is right off the bat killed by bandits. On the verge of being sent to hell, a necromancer contacts him, offering to bring him back to life and promising him the power to destroy his murderers. Kain accepts the offer, but is appalled to find that he has become a vampire. After exacting his revenge against the bandits, Kain realizes that the necromancer has other plans for him. Unwilling to follow the sorcerer’s orders, Kain begins a quest to destroy his wicked master and free himself from his curse.

When I bought this game, I was looking for a deep, rich fantasy experience with a long, epic story. Blood Omen takes place in the fictional country of Nosgoth, a land full of magic and wonders, both light and dark. However, the game’s first flaw comes into play here. While the world certainly is large and seemingly full of amazing sights, you won’t really get to see many of them. Played in a top down view, similar to the classic Legend of Zelda games, you are unable to look into the distance at all. The only way to see these otherworldly wonders is to touch certain triangles that are placed on the ground, which pulls you from the game to look at a still image that, honestly, is less than impressive. While playing the game, all you’ll ever get to see (besides Kain) is the bland landscape you traverse through, full of trees that grow too close together to walk through and cliffs that all rise straight up from the ground. There are no hills in Nosgoth, apparently— just sheer cliffs. Kain looks good (for such an old game, anyway), and animates smoothly. Still, I wish the programmers had pulled back the camera a little so that we could see something besides him.

This would be an acceptable (yet regrettable) flaw if the gameplay was good. Unfortunately, it’s not. Unlike in the Legend of Zelda games, which give you some fairly wide open areas to explore, Blood Omen keeps you on a restricted path, with the occasional forking road. These paths tend to be long and narrow, preventing Kain from having enough room to move when fighting his enemies. In most other games of this type, striking your enemy will push them back a little, allowing you to reposition yourself if you need to. This is not the case in Blood Omen, as your enemies will stand firm with every strike, often leaving you with no option but to mash the attack button and hope the other person will keel over first. And while you can’t push your enemies back there are some that can so to you, which is really freaking annoying when they would knock you into the edge of the screen, bringing you back to the previous are and thereby respawning any enemies you had managed to kill beforehand. The game can range from incredibly easy to insanely hard, depending on how well you master the swordfighting. After striking an enemy a few times, they will drop their weapons and enter a sort of trance-like state, at which point Kain will be able to drink their blood and restore some health. This, essentially, turns every enemy into a chance to regain health. If you become good enough at the combat, you may be able to strike down most enemies without a scratch, and then drink their blood to restore what little health you did lose. On the other hand, if you’re not able to master the combat, there is no other way to regain health, so you’re out of luck.

As you play, Kain will gain new abilities, such as the ability to turn into a wolf or bat. The wolf, inexplicably, is the only form that will allow you to jump, and is therefore your only option for scaling cliffs. It would have been a much better option to use the bat for this, but, instead, they use the bat form as your method of quick travel. Once you turn into the bat, you are then brought to the map screen, in which you can choose from a series of landmarks to transport to. Infuriatingly, you are unable to cancel the action from this screen, so if you choose the bat power by mistake you could very likely be forced to transport yourself miles away from your current position, after which you must trek all the way back on foot.

Kain’s tale of darkness and revenge had a lot of potential, but actually turns out rather dull. I blame this mostly on the lack of any emotional attachment you have to Kain. There are very few cutscenes in the game, so the story is actually portrayed through Kain’s voiceovers during gameplay. While Kain has an excellent voice actor, I just couldn’t sympathize with him, with his snobbish attitude and constant pity parties. Yes, I know this is typical of vampires, but that doesn’t make relating to one any easier. I’m just not into the bad-guy-as-a-good-guy thing, you know? I made it about seven hours into the story, waiting for something to happen that would catch my interest, but it never came. After finding out that the story typically goes on for 60+ hours, I finally gave up. I’m just not willing to give up that much of my time for a game I don’t care about.

Speaking of Kain’s voice, you’ll hear it an awful lot while you play. Like I said, he has a talented voice actor, but there will come a time when you just wish he would shut up. You can hardly swing your sword without him giving an evil laugh or yelling “Vae Victus!” You don’t even need to be hitting anything— just start swinging your sword and he’ll yell and laugh like he’s having a good ol’ time. Coupled with his constant voiceovers, you’ll soon be pining for Link’s silence.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain had a lot going for it. It had an interesting premise, great voice actors, and a game formula that, if handled better, could have created a very fun game. Unfortunately, it ultimately falls flat. Poor combat, an uninteresting story, and an ugly game world cost the game far too much, and reduces it to nothing more than another sad case of unrealized potential.

I give Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain a 4.0 out of 10.

Re: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1

Posted: April 29th, 2015, 8:03 pm
by ActRaiser
Thanks for a really well written review. I remember at the time that it got great reviews and even a friend recommended it.

Funny how Silicon Knights went on to make one of the best games for the Gamecube, Eternal Darkness, and then downhill from there.

Re: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1

Posted: April 30th, 2015, 3:22 pm
by JustLikeHeaven
Nice review. I loved this game back in the day. I re-acquired it a few years ago and was alot less enamored with it. The game certainly has quite a bit going for it, but I don't think time has been all that kind to it. It's very soap-opera-y and overly dramatic, but in that videogame way that I LOVE. The gameplay itself is a broke man's Zelda. The combat and special weapons are fine, but it's really about beating your foes into submission so that you can suck their blood. Killing them outright means you screwed up. The effect of Kain sucking the blood from some dazed bastard or chained up maiden was always a hoot. The blood would pour out of their body in a straight line and he could drink it from across the screen. It was delightfully dumb and added a nice goofy charm to the game.

The world and characters of Nosgoth has always been pretty unique (especially for gaming), but they've never managed to make a game that lived up to the world they created. The Soul Reaver games came close, but this is a series that is ripe for a next gen re-imagining. Crystal Dynamics impressed the hell out everyone with the Tomb Raider reboot. They should turn their attention to the realm of Nosgoth and reboot Kain.

Re: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1

Posted: April 30th, 2015, 3:39 pm
by DaHeckIzDat
ActRaiser wrote:Thanks for a really well written review. I remember at the time that it got great reviews and even a friend recommended it.

Funny how Silicon Knights went on to make one of the best games for the Gamecube, Eternal Darkness, and then downhill from there.

Maybe it was better back in the day. Did they make this after Eternal Darkness? Since that was on Gamecube and this was ps1, it seems like this probably came first.

Re: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1

Posted: April 30th, 2015, 5:16 pm
by Rev
I imagine this game was a lot more impressive back when it was first released. It seems that most 3d games from that era hadn't really figured out how to properly so these types of games yet so a lot of the earlier games are pretty poor by today's standards. Are you planning on playing soul reaver? Thanks for the good read.

Re: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1

Posted: April 30th, 2015, 6:34 pm
by DaHeckIzDat
I don't know. Is the story in the first game important for playing the second?