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Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain Game Review
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain | Review and Plot Overview
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was developed by Crystal Dynamics and Silicon Knights and published by Activision and Crystal Dynamics for PlayStation and PC. Official release dates were 15th of November 1996 for the US and 1st of March 1997 for the UK. It was written by Denis Dyack and Ken McCulloch, produced by Andy Trapani and Rogsaura Sandoval, and directed by the before mentioned writer Denis Dyack. The music score was done by Steve Henifin.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is the first and the title game of the Legacy of Kain series, and it introduces us to the concept and the atmosphere of the dark world of Nosgoth.
Our main character is Kain, nobleman in his human days and in the first few minutes of the game. Shortly after, we gain control over a dark, vengeful Kain, assassinated by brigands and brought away from the light and resurrected as a vampire. We immediately understand that the character under our control is hardly a protagonist or a typical hero - Kain is all the opposite. We now control an antihero, and start to roam the decaying lands of Nosgoth.
Graphics and gameplay
Blood Omen is, unlike the rest of the games of the series, a game that resembles an RPG more than an action adventure game. It is the only installment of the five in which we observe Nosgoth from above - we control Kain from the bird's eye perspective.
This game features a 2D overhead 32 bit graphics, that is smooth and detailed and will appeal especially to the old-fashioned gamers and nostalgics. In case you have a good machine, you will be able to run this game in its full potential and enjoy details such as the masterfully rendered colored lights that will show you secret passages and hidden levers all over Nosgoth. However, even if you are forced to enjoy the visuals at a lower resolution, in interlaced mode, the game will still look appealing and you will be able to pick up on that air of nostalgia and melancholy that marks this game as unique.
Some gamers that prefer 3D graphics end up avoiding this game but enjoy the latter parts of the same series. This is a mistake. Blood Omen has a lot to offer even to those who are not partial to the old-fashioned 2D games, and it is important not to avoid playing it just on account of this.
As for the gameplay, if we disregard the controls that are just a bit clumsy until you get used to them, the combat and the exploration is more than enjoyable, and particularly for overhead RPG fans. At first, it is a bit hard to control Kain in combat, but once you learn how not to miss, Kain will wield his sword of choice and cast a powerful magic spell effectively at the tap of your button. You will enjoy Kain's transformations - as a werewolf you will leap over pits and chasms, cover large distances by flying as a flock of bats, or simply mingle with the commoners by transforming into a human peasant.
The world of Nosgoth and story background
Sometime in 1993, Denis Dyack, the writer and director of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, had another story in mind. His initial story was called "The Pillars of Nosgoth", and this is the root of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, that was derived from it and promptly renamed.
The Pillars of Nosgoth remained the crucial concept, not just of Blood Omen, but of this entire series. The main background information you need as a player is to understand the premise of the Pillars and their practical and symbolic meaning for Nosgoth.
This concept is one of the central motives of the entire series. The Pillars of Nosgoth are literally pillars that stretch out endlessly into the skies, virtually holding the balance of the entire world. Each of the Pillars represents something else - Death, Mind, Energy, Nature and so on. The Pillars are protected each by their own Guardian, each of them destined to be born only to serve and protect their Pillar - chosen by the Pillars from birth. Together, they form the Circle of Nine - nine Guardians, nine Pillars and Malek the Paladin, their protector. All of them are more or less Kain's obstacles in this game.
This is the basic premise of the game and the only background information you need to understand the plot from the very beginning.
Music and voice acting
Of course, solid music and voice acting are paramount for a good game, especially nowadays. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and this entire series, are in fact the jewels among the video games in this aspect.
The music score was composed by Steve Henifin, and he did an excellent job at making this game very enjoyable by adding just the right touch of ambiance wherever necessary. Each theme corresponds well with each dungeon, and this feeling is only enhanced by the fantastic voice acting. The voice of Kain is the talented Simon Templeman, and they couldn't have chosen a better voice for him. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, and you will enjoy the dialogues even more because of their top-notch performance.
Plot analysis / spoiler talk
The first scene of the game shows us the Sarafan, the holy warrior order of Nosgoth, and the consequences of their merciless vampire hunt. This is a sight observed by the six members of the Circle of Nine, who are pledged to protect the Pillars of Nosgoth. All of a sudden, the first twist of the story happens - vampire Vorador enters the room and strikes them all down, including the Conflict Guardian Malek.
This is only the background of our story, however. Finally, we switch to our unorthodox hero, Kain, and see the scenes in which he is assassined by brigands, and then resurrected by Mortanius as a vampire. Kain now faces certain weaknesses that plague the vampiric race, dangers such as exposure to daylight and contact with water. But our diabolical her is now concerned with finding his assassins and taking his revenge.
After his swift vengeance, Kain loses his purpose but not his anger. Mortaneus sends him to the Pillars. There, Kain meets the spirit of the long deceased Balance Guardian Ariel, who explains to Kain that the decaying of the Pillars is only the reflection of Nosgoth that is also decaying, and tells him that in order for the Pillars to be restored, Kain must defeat all of the Guardians and purge the Pillars one by one. With the notion that he might find peace for himself this way, Kain goes on this quest. But he is still skeptical of ever being cured of his vampiric curse.
However, Kain begins to relish his change - he begins to understand his strengths, his advantages, and slowly starts developing into a character of Kain we will have in the rest of the installments. The process of losing humanity had started, all but accelerated by his encounter with Vorador who implants the seed of arrogance into Kain's mind. Vorador believed he was a God. So why would Kain not be one? Yet he is still afraid his vampirism will sooner or later consume him entirely.
Our antihero cuts down all of the Guardians, and Malek, and soon acquires his trademark weapon - the sword Soul Reaver. The story progresses fast - Kain is tricked by Moebius, the Time Streamer, and changes the course of history for the worse. The plot thickens as Kain rushes back in his bat form to the Pillars to defeat the only Guardian left to restore the balance of Nosgoth - none other than Mortanius, his maker. After a fierce battle, Kain barely manages to cut him down.
The balance is, however, not restored as one Pillar remains dark, and Kain realizes that he is now the Guardian of Balance. He is now faced with a choice - to sacrifice his life to restore the balance and the extinction of vampires, or to preserve and rule over the vampiric race and condemn Nosgoth to decay.
Unwilling to lose his life, Kain chooses the latter and rules Nosgoth in its rotting and corrupted state. The Pillars collapse.
Overall impression and replay value
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is despite its old-fashioned graphics and bird's eye point of view one of the best games you can pick up and play. It is the first part of one of the best stories a series of games can offer. After you finish it, you will probably want to see the next part of the story right away.
Regardless of the other installments and if you played them or not, you will go back to this game. You will want to find all of the secret passages and all the switches that open new different ways you have not yet taken. You will want to explore Nosgoth again and again. And that is the real value of this game. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is a game you should play if you have the possibility, and as soon as possible.
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