Legacy of Kain: Defiance
Everyone who doesn’t know the Legacy of Kain series yet is either from another planet, or someone who must hate story-based games an awful lot. It’s a given fact that everyone who played the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain or Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver games anxiously awaited the sequels for moths or years. The games are a story, and every sequel reveals more and more about the realm of Nosgoth. Sadly, they always ended with the typical cliff hanger and left the player slightly irritated that the game had already ended, with the story unfinished. Soul Reaver 2 was no better, and thus we all waited for its follower. And it has finally arrived: Legacy of Kain: Defiance
First of all, let’s discuss the resemblances with the previous games. For starters you still control Raziel and Kain. Their appearances haven’t changed much, only a few adjustments to give the models more detail. The areas where the player walks around are still chasms between large rock formations, gothic castles, decayed ruins and ancient Reaver-temples.
Just like in Soul Reaver 2 the puzzles consist of visiting such temples and empowering your sword with ever stronger elemental powers, at least for Raziel’s part of the game. Kain struggles through the game trying to empower his blade with shards of the balance emblem. Both Kain’s and Raziel’s reaver have changed little, Raziel still entwined with the ‘wraith blade’ around his arm and Kain wielding the twisted ‘Blood Reaver’.
Raziel also still ventures between the spiritual and material realm, he is still able to switch from one to another at any given moment and it’s still a nice sight to see how the world around you twists and turns into new strange shapes when entering the spiritual realm.
It is good to see that the typical murals, architecture and music have been preserved, since they add much to the atmosphere of the game.
It is best that when you play this game, you have already checked out the other games from the Legacy of Kain series too, especially if you want to get the most out of the story. While there has obviously been a great effort to make the game accessible to everyone, you might find yourself lost in the story or unable to understand what the characters are talking about from time to time if you have not played the previous games. The fans will be pleased to hear that after cliff hanger after cliff hanger, finally, there is a real kind of ending, however some questions will remain unanswered.
Then concerning the differences: the most obvious change must be the camera angles. The game no longer possesses a 3rd person camera, but now the camera is fixed in certain corners in every area, and follows the character from this corner. This gives the game more of an interactive movie feeling and during fights it almost feels you are playing a 3d beat’m up game instead of an adventure. This makes combat a lot more fun than it used to be, but the new camera comes with a downside; Often you will find it is rather difficult to calculate a jump or see a piece of a puzzle, and from time to time the camera will be behind a wall or pillar, making you completely blind to what your character is doing. This has been fixed in some way by a first person view that can be activated, but this does not really help a lot.
Also new is the larger focus on combat. Most of the time you won’t walk around for more than 2 minutes without facing one or more enemies. Both Raziel and Kain have to feed to sustain themselves for longer periods of time, and an XP meter has been installed which, whenever filled up, grants the character a new combo that can be used during fights.
Another ‘new’ part during combat is that you always fight with your reaver. You can no longer pick up weapons of the ground and fight with them.
Something the fans will enjoy very much is the fact you can play with Raziel and Kain in this game. Each chapter you switch characters, and witness the events both characters experience throughout the story of the game. Unfortunately, the characters are very similar in a lot of ways. Kain is a slightly better fighter and Raziel can access certain areas a bit more easily than Kain, but these differences are very small and it feels most of the time you are playing the twin brother of the other, with a few more limitations or changes and a different model, but that’s all the difference there is.
The real charm of both characters lies within the small differences in attitude and the graphics. The way Kain opens doors, the new way Raziel feeds and shifts between realms, the myth and intrigue of the characters they meet along their journey, those aspects give you a preference for one of both characters, not the way they feel when you play them.
Tragically, most story-based games do not last long. As soon as you’ve finished the game you’ll not be tempted to play it again instantly, since you already know the story and all the mystery has gone. Even more tragically is the fact that as with all Legacy of Kain games since Soul Reaver, this game too can be finished within a time-span of about 48 hours, and the only reason it takes that long, is because you often find yourself wandering around without any sense of what you are expected to do and out of pure frustration you go and find yourself a walkthrough. Players who are unfamiliar with the Soul Reaver saga will find themselves sooner on the net searching for a walkthrough then they might expect.
Conclusion: You don’t go and buy this game for its renewed gameplay, nor for the stunning graphics. No, you buy this game because you want to know the next chapter in Nosgoth’s history. And believe me, the story is worth buying the game for. Think of the game as an interactive movie, with beautiful areas to wander through and action-packed combat. Unfortunately you’ll soon find yourself irritated by al the combat and the often unclear puzzles.