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Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was somewhat of a sleeper hit on the Playstation when it was released back in 1996. It was received well by the people who played and reviewed it. Slow loading times, and less than stellar graphics were the only weakpoints of the game. Those that picked it up and looked beyond the latter point found an engrossing, well-written story with some shocking twists, extremely violent action-based gameplay, and some RPG elements that set it apart from most, if not all PS games released that year.

There’s a long history about the creators of the Blood Omen game and the creators of the Soul Reaver series that’s too complex a tale to weave here, so I’ll avoid it, and flash forward six years to now: Blood Omen 2 hits the stores, and it picks up 600 years after the original game’s events. If you’ve only played the Soul Reaver games, you’ll be confused somewhat to the timeline of events, and even more confused if you try to figure Raziel into the picture. My suggestion in this case is to simply play through this one and groove on it, and if there’s a PS or PS2 in the household, track down a copy of the original Blood Omen, just to see where it all began. The sequel is a really good game with some depth and even more violence than the original, however, the move to 3D has taken away some of the first games uniqueness, in my opinion. Still, there’s a lot here to warrant an immediate purchase-there are very few GOOD action-based adventure games on the Xbox (Azurik? eh. Nightcaster? uh, no). Genma Onimusha comes close, but it’s not as long as Blood Omen 2, and the dark delight of playing a truly EVIL character is the big draw here. Blood Omen 2 will suck you in (no pun intended) the moment you fire it up all the way to the smashing conclusion, and you’ll be checking your mouth for fangs a few hours after you plunge in.

Story

“My armies are all slain. My castle lies in ruins. My enemies have taken everything from me, all my wealth and power. But they could not kill me. I still walk the Earth, weak but alive. They have taken everything but the beating of my undead heart. Now they will learn of fear, these mewing babies who thought they could destroy me. I shall regain my powers, and I shall come to them in the night. And my visits shall not be kind.”

Blood Omen 2 takes place four hundred years after the original Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, in which the vampire Kain chose to rule the world of Nosgoth in its damnation rather than die for its salvation.

Since the events of that period in time, Kain had become the powerful commander of an army fixated on ruling the land of Nosgoth. In response to power, another faction known as the Sarafan are a group of militant and zealot humans led by a mysterious and potent figure, known only as the Sarafan Lord. Determined to wipe out the vampire scourge, the Sarafan clashed with Kain’s army over decades of bloodstained and infernal conflict. Eventually, this war ended when the Sarafan triumphantly defeated Kain’s army. In the final battle, the Sarafan Lord defeated Kain in Mortal Combat, stripped him of his Macabre Blade–The Soul Reaver, and tossed him off a cliff into an abyss of apparent demise.

After more than 200 hundred years drifting in a void of unconsciousness, Kain groggily awakens in a strange place with almost no memory of his former self. Another vampire named Umah, had taken him in and revived him to health adter Kain’s little recollected and deadly battle with the Sarafan Lord. Worse still, his trusted weapon, the Soul Reaver is missing. As Kain regains presence in the waking world, Umah begins to fill him in on the events of recent past, while fragments of Kain’s shattered memory return.

Umah recounts to Kain that when his torn body was found, it was revived and brought to the capital of Nosgoth, the city of Meridian. In the two centuries that Kain has been dormant in hibernation, the Sarafan have risen and taken fascist control over most of Nosgoth. Far from the great empire they once embodied, the Vampires now exist only as a small resistance to the Sarafan, called the Cabal, in Meridian. It is into this resistance that Kain emerges and is now, by brotherhood and lust for vengeance, a part of. The ambition of the resistance is simple: slay the Sarafan Lord, and the Sarafan Order will crumble.

Because the Sarafan have no knowledge of Kain’s existence, he is the perfect agent to locate and kill the Sarafan Lord. Kain agrees to help the Cabal for the time being, until which time he sees fit to follow his own agenda, and seek revenge at all cost…

Presentation

Decent manual that explains all the necessary elements. We are treated to a nice opening video of the game, which plays out the story quite well to set you in the mood. It is done well and enjoyable to watch. Simple menus but set the gothic mood well. There are your typical options, and then the option to view the opening video, two trailers of Blood Omen 2 and some others. Easy to understand in-game menus and meters. Incredibly fast loading times, and overall a nice package.

Graphics

Unfortunately this game is a Playstation 2 port. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Playstation 2 hardware but the fact that Microsoft packs the Xbox with powerful hardware and seeing it not being used to its potential is a downer. The game is ported as mentioned before with a few Xbox enhancements. Some areas of the game seem like it was made off different hardware besides the PS2 and Xbox. The lighting effects in some area look very plain and dull. The textures may be bland at times, and character models are somewhat blocky. The game runs in higher resolution, beautifully modeled cities, with nice detail. Certain effects are done well such as the mist (smoke) effect. In some places the graphics shine, like one room where there is a thin layer of water on the floor and a realtime reflection showing the rest of the room, but there are very few places where the graphics really impressed me. The other characters in the game tend to walk like robots, except for Kain. Some of the animations are bad and there is noticeable clipping. Overall the graphics could use improvements in small areas and don’t make much use of the Xbox hardware.

Sound

Top notch sound presentation in most areas. The voice acting is done well, and I simply think that Kain’s voice rules. Quite funny when going for a kill on a normal civilian you will hear them screaming etc. Other atmospheric sound effects are done well, such as steam hissing and the like. There is only one noticeable problem with the sound and that takes place during cut-scenes, the actual voices of the characters are lower than the surrounding effects and that tends to make it very hard to hear. Even with tweaking sound options, it is still a problem. Very small, but can get quite annoying when trying to listen in and get some hints or story elements. There are a few nostalgic reproductions from the original Blood Omen, but for the most part there is a sound for everything and the DD 5.1 reproduction is virtually flawless there is almost always a background sound for example running water or wind russeling tree’s, that it adds another dimension to a game that I have never felt before. The musical score to this game is also as equally well done. No other game series has had the ambiance of the Legacy of Kain series, from voice overs to the little sound effects this game is top notch, and as I mentioned before the Xbox version supports Dolby 5.1 so you will be in Blood Omen heaven.

Gameplay

Blood Omen 2 plays fairly well in the third-person perspective. The camera works well, and there is never really any trouble with it. Blood Omen 2 has a good fighting system. The usual fight consists of learning an enemy’s combo, blocking the repeated attacks, and then countering with your own three hit combo or putting them in a choke hold and executing a finishing move. Enemies also have an unblockable attack that you will need to use your dodging abilities to avoid. As you block blows, your ‘Rage meter’ builds up, and once you fill it up to a certain point you can execute certain ‘Dark Gifts’ (skills) during a battle. Once you have finished a foe or a helpless townsperson you can suck their blood, and this will fill up a portion of your life and also add a little to your ‘Lore meter’ (Once this bar fills, your life bar will increase in size. It is like the experience you get in some RPGs.) You learn skills as you progress through the game. The way you gain most of these skills is by defeating a boss. You start out with the skills ‘Fury’ and ‘Mist’. One of the few problems with the gameplay is that it gets very tedious trying to do simple things. Such as trying to climb a ladder which can be a problem to do since you must be exactly lined up to do it and then at that point it won’t always respond correctly. The gameplay also gets very repetitive, and the puzzles are uninspired and mostly dull (consisting of mostly just simple switch pulling, crate moving, and the like.) Expect to get bored within a few hours with the gameplay but luckily the story will keep you playing. It gets the job done but really takes away from the experience in the long run.

Value

There isn’t much to be had here. You beat it once and you will pretty much put it down since there isn’t anything else to do or unlock. No harder difficulty levels, no secrets, so don’t expect much there. The story might be the only thing of value here. Expect to play through the game at least 10-15 hours the first time. There is a total of eleven levels in the game.

Closing Notes

This may not be a reason to own an Xbox, but it’s an excellent game with a few shortcomings, and I for one can’t wait for Blood Omen 3. The story is simply done well and will make you want to keep playing.

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