If there is a game series that I am compelled to replay, it’s Legacy of Kain. The amazing and intricate tale spun throughout these five games is one of my favorite across any medium. I have difficultly categorizing this, as this should be considered as a whole. Separately, each game as their strengths and weaknesses, with the first being the only one to truly stand on it’s own.
A nobleman, Kain, is murdered by a group of assassins. On the precipice of hell, Mortanius the Necromancer offers Kain the chance for vengeance, but at a cost. He returns to the lands of Nosgoth, cursed as a vampire, seeking revenge and a cure. Both goals are tied to the Pillars of Nosgoth. Each pillar corresponds to one of the members of the Circle of Nine. The circle has been corrupted by the death of Ariel, Guardian of the Pillar of Balance, affecting the Pillars, poisoning Nosgoth. Ariel tells Kain to cure his condition, he must destroy the circle. Kain sets out to kill the eight remaining members.
The first Blood Omen stands apart from the rest of the series gameplay wise. This was developed by Silicon Knights and published by Crystal Dynamics in 1996 for the original Playstation, written by Dennis Dyack and Ken McCulloch. The game was a 2-D overhead hack and slash dungeon crawler with a few RPG elements. Think Diablo, though more story driven and less loot. Due to Crystal Dynamics winning the license after this entry, the games took a completely different direction (3-D platforming/action). This choice in style helps the game still hold up well. The only flaws are it’s very anachronistic cutscenes and poor load times.
Along with different weapons, armors, and spells (current equipment could be seen on the side of the screen), Kain acquired the typical vampire powers; bat (fast travel), wolf (jumping), mist (travel over water and through grates), and human (disguise). Most of these powers, combined with the day/night and lunar cycles, were used to uncover the games 100 secrets.
A key element to the game, and series, is amazing voice acting. Consistent throughout, every performance sells the characters and situation. Simon Templeman is callous and awe-striking as Kain, constantly narrating his surroundings. His speech is reminiscent of Shakespeare. Mortanius is portrayed by Tony Jay. I couldn’t begin to chronicle his work, but it’s safe to say you’ve heard his voice before. Paul Lukather is the hedonistic old vampire Vorador, a father figure for Kain. The list of outstanding actors goes on. It’s worth pointing out that Ariel is voiced by Anna Gunn, of Breaking Bad fame. I barely recognize her voice here, the sign of a good performer.
It bears mentioning the completely ridiculous feeding mechanic. A button press would have Kain hold his arm out, pulling blood from distance trapped or staggered opponents, drawing a torrent directly to his mouth. It looks fine here, but completely ridiculous in later games.
Again, the series as a whole weaves such an amazing story that it makes me feel inadequate as a writer. The concepts and ideas employed here have influenced me for years. Every item and character has a deep, rich backstory. So thought out that later writers were able to mine amazing concepts from them to further propel the story. Case in point, Soul Reaver. Blood Omen is downloadable on PSN, and I’m looking forward to diving back in. I would imagine the load times have improved.
Love the Kain series? Wish it continued under Silicon Knights? Comment below!