Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain
I didn’t care if I was in Heaven or Hell. All I wanted, was to kill my assassins. Sometimes, you get what you wish for. The Necromancer, Mortanius, offered me a chance for vengeance, and like a fool, I jumped at his offer without considering the cost. Nothing is free. Not even revenge…”
And so Kain’s adventure begins, after being turned away from a bar late one evening (something which I’m sure many of you are familiar with), only to be ambushed by a gang of sword-swiping henchmen who murder him in the street. The mysterious Mortanius resurrects him as a vampire, giving him the chance to visit justice on the thugs who killed him in such a cold manner, but Kain soon finds that a task of greater magnitude awaits him, returning the land to the peace it enjoyed in the past.
Your quest is to locate and retrieve nine items from around the land, and take them back to the Pillars of Nosgoth one by one. The idea is that each pillar represents one of the evil tyrants that have turned Nosgoth into such a horrible, dark place since Arial (represented by the pillar of balance) was murdered and the rest of them went mental.
As time passes during each day, Kain must have human blood merely to survive. The victim must be stunned and swaying from injury or chained to a wall before you can take what you need, and it is possible to vacuum the stuff in from several feet away – right out of their neck! At first it is likely that you will start out with good intentions, just draining your enemies of their blood, but later on it gets hard to resist slashing innocent villagers for sustenance, maybe after a particularly hard fight where you lost a bit too much energy and there just don’t seem to be any of those dumb thugs around. Of course, it’s only a short time after you’ve crossed that moral border and are hacking into young women by the truckload, sometimes just for the hell of it, or because they “got in your way.”
The lonely, wandering unlife that vampires always seem to follow is well simulated in Blood Omen, mainly because when you kill people within the walls of any dwelling, they are truly dead for the rest of the game and so no longer present any nutritious benefit. These people return as glowing ghosts, which is no good for your blood supply as you can imagine, and this creates the problem that if you stay in one area for too long it will get very thin on people whose blood you can suck, and so you are driven to always keep going, on to the next town where there is fresh supply. Sucking the creepy blue gunge of these wandering spirits will add to your magical energy supply, but this is of less urgency than finding real blood, which you need simply to exist in your undead form.
An every-day problem that you have to deal with is steering clear of water, which burns you very quickly if you touch a river, but just stings if you are caught in the rain. Your power is also subject to being diminished during the daylight hours and heightened at night, so you become noticably stronger in the darkness. A little sun dial and the rotating sun/moon icons will help you keep track of time, and you can use this to your advantage for planning attacks. Moving around becomes more interesting as the game progresses and you earn new forms which you can transform yourself into. As the wolf you can jump up onto platforms that are unreachable as a person, or as the bat you can instantly fly to any of the posts that you have tagged and “remembered.”
No matter what you choose to turn into, it saps your magic power while you are transformed, and so it is wise to keep an eye on the blue hand to the right of the screen, which displays your current magic supply. It can be embarrassing to be walking around undetected in a small town using your magical disguise, when it suddenly wears off in the middle of a street and you are set upon by peasent nutters.
Although it looks like there would be, there are no real RPG elements to Blood Omen, as people talking with you is a rare thing, and even when they do there is no chance to make a reply. The only part that really provides anything over just slashing and hacking your way to the end is the management of your magic spells, and following the well devised story.
For this reason the game may get too repetitive, but for some the story should be compelling enough. The main downside to having no other elements is that you will almost certainly never play through it again after you finish it, with no chance of any real difference in the sequence of events.
Anyone who knows of The Horde, which first appeared on 3DO will recognise the style of Kain’s graphics immediately. Besides the isometric view there are many similarities between the two. It’s all two-dimensional, and uses the old fashioned method of individual frames of animation for each character. This has its good points and its bad points though, because you get wonderfully smooth movement and detailed characters, but all those frames have to be loaded into memory, and that creates some annoying pauses in the action. For example, when you change Kain into a wolf there is a nasty pause as all the new frames are dumped into memory. So you can’t make it look cool and morph as you’re still walking, which would be smart. Manimal never had to put up with this, why should we?
There are other tedious pauses as you step in and out of houses, or into new areas of land, and all this stopping and starting can really try your patience after a while.
Still, Kain’s adventure is strangely involving, whether it’s due to the quality of the dramatic narration at certain points, or the thrill of seeing people as walking vials – nothing but convenient containers for your food before you slay them.
Blood Omen is engaging enough, and if you buy it you will certainly play it through to completion. But there are just some unfortunate problems that impair the gameplay, namely those gaps in the action and the fact that you simply will not be playing this after a month or two when you’ve finished it. Being a vampire is not that much fun after all…