The fifth and possibly last installment in the popular Legacy of Kain series opens where Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver left off, however, this time the player must use both the titular vampire Kain and the wraithlike Raziel to accomplish the quest. Once again the world of Nosgoth sits perilously close to its destruction with only these two unlikely heroes to save it.
Fans of the series will not be disappointed with the lush atmosphere, consistent setting, rich storytelling, and all around professional voice acting that have become trademarks of the series. Indeed, the consistency of the plot and history is truly remarkable. Even plot holes left in Soul Reaver One find themselves brilliantly corrected as the plot unfolds, and the dizzying existential arguments about finally materialize into a single cohesive argument.
Unfortunately, Soul Reaver Defiance is a video game, and as such I feel that the luscious trappings of the philosophy and plot are saddled with dated and frustrating game play. Much like Namco’s RPG Xenosaga, I found myself desperate for the next cut scene. While the fighting engine in Defiance does improve some from the jerky combats of its predecessors, battling enemies often becomes a repetitive chore. The lack of variety in the enemies only heightens the sense of deja vu as you find yourself killing the same three monsters over and over again.
Beyond the repetitive fights, the true game play fault lies in a static and often frustrating camera angle. Time and time again the player is forced to repeat jumps because the angle cannot be judged. Furthermore one can end up blindsided by an enemy or trap as they enter the room.
On the bright side both Kain and Raziel are functionally immortal, so dying is only a minor setback in completing your quest. Although the inability to die does make it easier to get to the wonderful cut scenes, it does detract from the challenge of the overall game.
Graphically, Legacy of Kain: Defiance does make substantial improvements over its predecessors. Both Raziel and Kain’s character models look sharper and more detailed that ever, and the backgrounds show careful planning in color and texture. However, many of these nice backgrounds repeat themselves, much like the enemies.
Neither the background sound effects nor the music of Defiance leaves much of impression. Although former Information Society front man Kurt Harland continues to do the score, his wonderful themes from Soul Reaver one and two are either abbreviated or absent, often replaced by really annoying digitized voices and screams.
Overall, Legacy of Kain: Defiance is not a horrible game. It does provide an intricate and satisfying continuation of the series story that fans of the series simply must see to believe. It’s just a shame that more attention was not paid to the mechanics of the game itself, to make it truly worthy of its Legacy.