Review by McGray
"Do not feed the vampires... Really."
Over time, vampires evolve into higher states of being. They start out relatively human and, as time passes, lose their humanity in favor of their dark powers. As is to be expected, the Legacy of Kain series has also much evolved since the first game, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. It first split into two different mini-series inside of the series itself: Blood Omen and Soul Reaver. One, Blood Omen, showed Kain's ascension to power, while the other series told the tale of Raziel.
After Soul Reaver got two games, I guess Eidos figured, ''Hey, why not stamp another game onto the series, and this time feature Kain?'' Not a bad idea, I'd say. A good one, as a matter of fact. But the actual fact of the matter is that Blood Omen 2 is so disjointed from Blood Omen, you honestly wouldn't know it was in the same series, aside from a few signature details (I.E., Kain's presence, the mention of the Soul Reaver now and again). I don't know what happened here, but I'll delve into the depths of Blood Omen 2 and lay everything out on the table. This is my opinion now, Eidos.
Story: After Kain's ascent to power in Blood Omen, he formed an army of vampire generals and rose to be the most powerful being in Nosgoth. A large group of renegade humans, however, made up Sarafan, a noble organization out to destroy the vampire plague. Lead by one known only as the Sarafan Lord, they charged into battle, and the armies collided.
Kain cut down the troops, made his way to the Sarafan Lord and locked in mortal combat with him. The Sarafan Lord beat Kain, however, and hurled him off of a cliff to his apparent death.
Now, 200 years later, Kain awakens in the slums of Meridian, capital city of Nosgoth. He was nursed back to health by Umah, an individual in the vampire resistance known as the Cabal. The Sarafan have risen to power and forced humans and vampires alike into slavery under their cruel reign, and the Cabal is the only group willing to stop them.
What's worse, Kain's former high lieutenants of his army have gone over to serve the Sarafan, and this pisses Kain off like crazy.
Now Kain sets out to destroy the Sarafan and the Sarafan Lord, slay the traitorous vampires, and take back Nosgoth, as he is king.
What a prelude. What you see is what you get -- the story doesn't get much deeper. Unlike the story of Soul Reaver 2, which required a ton thought and was fun to think about, Blood Omen 2 raises questions that are, in some instances, unanswerable (read: Vorador's appearance, alive). Some say that BO2 takes place on an altered time line (explained in Soul Reaver 2), but this in itself doesn't make sense, because the altered time line has too many holes to come full circle to Blood Omen 2. Ah well -- you wouldn't understand unless you played SR2, and for those who haven't, forgive me.
Fact of the matter is, BO2 provides a lack-luster story which just isn't that interesting and doesn't get much better as you go.
Gameplay: First and foremost: what is with all the blood? There's so much blood in this game, it's irritating. They throw it at you in buckets. Heck, they throw it at you more than Mortal Kombat does. After every enemy (or pedestrian, or anything that moves; you know, whatever), you're required to drink their blood to gain Lore (explained later on). You press and hold a button to drink, and you have to watch Kain go through the same tiresome animation time after time. First he slurps the blood through the air and into his mouth, then when he's done, the blood line snaps and the excess falls to the floor. Then he wipes his mouth and you regain control of him. The bad part is, a lot of enemies, especially the ones late-game, have a lot of blood. Some of the strongest enemies in the game can have blood that takes a full 6 seconds to devour. Add onto that the 2 second ''Lemme wipe my mouth'' animation, that's 8 seconds down the tubes, while in Blood Omen 1, you'd have that sucker and all his friends drained in less than 3 seconds, thanks to simultaneous slurpage. And don't try to skip out, either -- you have to drink ALL the blood from your enemies, because if you don't, you don't get any Lore. It doesn't matter how full on health you are, you MUST drink blood, whether you like it or not.
Lore, as mentioned above, is obviously rather important in BO2. After every meal, you're given a certain amount of Lore. This Lore is an unexplained essence throughout BO2, but when you get enough, your Blood Vial energy (as well as Lore Meter) increase. The bigger your Blood Vial, the more blood you can hold. The more blood you can hold, the longer you live. The bigger your Lore Meter, the longer it takes to fill up enough Lore for another expansion. So there you have it. Drink blood, gain Lore, get more blood, gain more Lore, and so it goes until you beat the game.
Allow me to explain why Lore sucks:
1) You must drain every enemy to get adequate Lore, and that takes a long time.
2) It is never explained.
3) The process is repeated over. And over. And over. And over again.
4) And so it goes for the whole game.
And there you have it.
Of course, how can you get Lore without draining your victims? How can you drain your victims' blood without first killing them? ''Oh joy!'' you think, ''Killing is fun!'' Yeah, it was. Now you've got BO2 to worry about. Let me explain the combat system:
It works like any other system, at first: You lock-on. With this, you can strafe and move about while remaining fixed on your opponent (albeit extremely slow moving). You can also block, dodge, and attack. With blocking, you have two options: you can choose assisted (hold the button) or un-assisted (where you time your presses of the block button to block attacks). Neither of these is very impressive, and both ways make blocking annoying and boring.
With side-stepping, they may as well have left it out. There are 3 kinds of enemy attacks: The first is a regular attack, which is MEANT to be blocked. You cannot side-step this. These are the most common and the least damaging. The second is a medium attack, in which the opponent glows yellow and attacks. You can block and side-step these, and they do more damage than a regular attack. The last is red, which does a lot of damage and can't be blocked, only side-stepped. What fun.
Finally we've got attacking. Truly exciting, attacking is. Or maybe not. Kain has a basic 3-hit combo with every weapon throughout the entire game. The combos differ from weapon to weapon, but some weapons are just like other weapons, except they look different. You can also grab an enemy, but a lot of enemies will either duck or attack Kain while in the middle of executing a grab. With the combos, Kain attacks speedily, but most of the time, enemies either block your attacks (which also damages your weapon), dodge your attacks, or let the attacks pass right through them with a hardy chuckle, because they find the collision detection as humorous as I do.
Speaking of collision detection, you know what's annoying? Killing an enemy and having him fall right through a wall. Hey, it may not be that bad for some games, but for Blood Omen 2, this is a pain. What if he's got a huge weapon? What if you really need the weapon? What if the weapon fell through the wall? Suck.
Speaking of weapons, now, why should I care if they're damaged? Why do I care if they fall to through a wall? Well, let me explain. In Blood Omen 2, you could consider Kain a sort of nomad as far as weapons go. He has no starting weapons, aside from his claws. Every human enemy you kill has a weapon, and some can be found around the environment. You pick up weapons as you go for completely temporary use.
Every time you block an attack or hit an enemy who's blocking, your weapon takes damage. When it accumulates enough damage (not a lot at all, really), it breaks. It simply explodes in your hand and you're left with your claws. This goes for all weapons, no matter how big they are or well-forged they look. Enemies' weapons never break, though. Isn't that odd?
Other than that, the game is played from a solid behind-the-character viewpoint, with Tomb Raider controls. You turn by pressing right or left and can only move with forward or back. The camera can be moved only limitedly with the c-stick (yes, I have the GameCube version), and immediately snaps back to default position after released.
Checkpoints are reached every few minutes in Blood Omen 2. If you die, you're returned to the last save point you ran over without a weapon. You can save at any time, and when you return, you're sent back to the previous save point.
The game is played through in chapters, (11 of them, if I'm not mistaken). The game is extremely linear, however. There is one path, and only one path, to get through each level with. Aside from a few Lore Chests here and there which give you a tiny bit more Lore, there are no hidden things to find throughout this game. Also, when you beat a chapter, you may never return to that specific area again. Unlike the past LoK games, where you're free to roam Nosgoth at your liesure. In Blood Omen 2, you're shunted through the game with no allowance, or need, to explore.
Puzzles range from the difficult to the mind-numbingly easy. As said by several other reviewers at GameFAQs and otherwise, there are some puzzles that make you literally feel stupid when you figure them out, just because of their inexplicable simplicity, while others provide decent challenge.
There are also new abilities (''Dark Gifts'') you gain. You start out with Mist and Fury, then you get Jump, Berserk, Charm, Telekinesis, and Immolate later. You go throw levels to find the vampire leader. These vampires used to be high captains and admirals of Kain's army, and his most-trusted (some of them, anyway) allies. Some levels have a vampire leader, while other levels call tending to other matters.
On to the abilities. There are areas of the game which have Mist floating around the floor. In these areas, you can activate Mist form and becomes completely invisible and silent. Here you can make stealth kills using the weapons you have, or your bare hands. By approaching an enemy from behind and locking on, a skull icon will appear over their head when you're in the right place, and then you can make your stealth kill by pressing the attack button (or forward + the attack button). There are two stealth kills per weapon.
These stealth kills are very gratifying and always fun to watch. A few that come to mine is one where Kain approaches the enemy from behind without a weapon and punches his hand through the enemy's chest, grabbing their heart, then dropping it on the ground in front of them as they sputter and die. Another is when Kain has a mace, and approaches the enemy from behind and stealth kills by bringing the mace to the side of the victim's head and, with one clean swoop, bludgeons the head right off of the shoulders without the enemy even wincing. Always fun, always brutal, always satisfying.
Some enemies (the Sarafan warriors) can detect your presence in Mist form, however, and you cannot stealth kill them in this manner. Also, by passing in front of an enemy closely in Mist form, they can detect you. If you're damaged, attack in any way, use any Dark Gift, or try to drink blood while in Mist form, you become physical again, and thus, visible.
Fury is used by accumulating enough of your Rage meter to unleash a furious attack. By blocking blows, you fill your Rage meter, and with enough, you can use Fury, Berserk, or Immolate (when you get the latter 2) and unleash an unblockable or series of unblockable attacks.
Jump allows you to jump huge distances, Telekinesis allows you to activate distant switches meant solely for the telekinesis ability (and that's all this ability can move, besides throwing bodies back a bit), and Charm, which brain-washes innocents and gives you control over them, allowing you to activate a switch or something beyond your reach.
The sad part is the extreme linearity of the gifts, Telekinesis and Charm. Innocents are usually only put in places you can get them at, and if you're not supposed to be able to access that civilian, it won't let you Charm him/her. You also can't Charm combatants.
The Telekinesis ability can't be used for anything except switches. No block moving or anything. It can be used to blast enemies back a ways, but it takes too long to recharge the ability (it happens over a few seconds) to make it of any real use.
The other abilities are fun to use, but wear out their entertainment value rather quickly.
Block puzzles are in Blood Omen 2, but fear not, all ye who have played Soul Reaver; the block puzzles aren't anything near as bad as in that game. This is good and bad. Good, because it's not so mind-numbing and tedious to move a block to a certain place and flip it and so on and so forth. Bad, because Kain has no where near the block-moving-mobility that Raziel does. He can move the block forward and backward, that's it. No sideways movements from this, and that is very frustrating, as you have to let go and resituate yourself just to make a quick right turn. Thankfully, the block puzzles are small and scarce.
The main thing about Blood Omen 2 is that it doesn't feel like a Legacy of Kain game. It just doesn't fit with the rest. The story has almost no relevance to Blood Omen 1 AT ALL, whereas every single other game in the LoK series has a relation to every other game in the series in some way. Soul Reaver hints at the happenings of Soul Reaver 2 and tells a bit about Kain's adventures in Blood Omen now and then, Soul Reaver 2 tells about Soul Reaver and tells quite a good deal about Blood Omen. Blood Omen 2 has next to NOTHING to say about Blood Omen, and looking at the events in Blood Omen, you'd never see Blood Omen 2 coming. It's the story that's so disjointed, and that is the biggest reason why this game doesn't feel like a LoK game.
Graphics: The graphics in Blood Omen 2 are nothing to be amazed about, but nothing to be repulsed by either. The environments are nice to look at most of the time, and have a decent amount of variety from level to level. You always play at night. There's never a day level in the game (and if there are, those are awfully dark days).
Enemies vary a bit, but not by much. There are maybe 10 different enemies throughout the game, give or take some, and some of these are just simple skin changes or enemies given a different weapon than the rest.
Level design isn't bad. It ranges from the quaint little town or Meridian all of the way to a level called ''The Eternal Prison'', which, actually, is in no way connected to the LoK universe. It's basically a sort of sci-fi level, thrown in for casual gamers who don't want to think about what they're playing. I now give a nod to the ''Why this game isn't LoK'' paragraph above.
Another odd thing to rant about is Kain himself. They've completely changed his appearance from the first game, facially. His face is now longer than it was before, and on the whole, completely different looking. You wouldn't know it was Kain if the same voice actor wasn't doing his part.
Kain dons several different armors during the game, wearing each one for about 3 or 4 levels a piece, and the levels are pretty long.
Other than that, I can't think of anything really astonishing to say about the graphics. Overall, they are sharp and get the job done well, but they're not amazing.
Sound: If it weren't for the impeccable voice acting that every LoK game has to offer, this section wouldn't even be considered. The music is hardly noticeable, the enemy sounds, grunts and sayings aren't anything special, and the sound effects are rather dull.
Actually, there is one thing a certain enemy said that stuck out in my mind: There is a particular group of enemy called ''Glyph Warriors''. They wear huge armor and carry large weapons. Almost every time I went to hit one, he'd block the attack and then laugh at me. That always pissed me off, so I fried him or some such to compensate for the humiliation. Other than that, enemies make no sounds to be impressed by.
The voice acting is always a treat with the Legacy of Kain games, though. Simon Templeman returns to take up the reigns as Kain, while a few others also come back. The vampire leaders sound kind of iffy, though, and the voice acting for them is only on par. Maybe it's because they hired such nerdy sounding guys to do the work. Who knows.
The voice acting isn't perfect. There are glitches in the game (especially the PS2 version) that really bring the score down. Like, you may walk toward two townsfolk and listen to them talk, and one person keeps repeating the same line over and over again. Or you may come back later to that same pair and find that one is babbling on and the other character is either far away or dead. Very strange indeed. On the Xbox and GCN versions, these glitches are minimum, but still exist.
Anyway, there you have it. Sound is dull, all save for voice acting, which still has its flaws.
Replay Value: The game is played through by lengthy chapters. Not all that lengthy: long enough to be considered ''big'', but short enough to still be considered a ''level''. Each level can be beaten in one sitting, taking no more than an hour or two at most, and the first few levels are even shorter than that.
Once you beat it, I honestly can't think of a good reason to go back through it, period. There are no unlockables of any kind, no hard mode that I can remember (and if there was, would you really want to suffer through all the blood-sucking again?), and not enough entertainment value to keep you coming back.
Rent or Buy?: As said above, there is no reason to come back to this game. If you're a die-hard LoK fan, I'd say give it a rent just to see what happens, because you'll be able to beat it within that time. Chances are, you won't want to play it after that either. Though I confess, I DID have a fun time on this the first pass through, but that was only because it took me 1 hour to get sick of the blood-sucking, and another hour to figure out that this game is nothing but more of the same the whole way through. After that, it became tiresome to the point of exasperation (''Haven't I sucked enough blood YET?''). I can't recommend a buy on this one to anyone.
Overall, Blood Omen 2 isn't that great of a game. A disjointed, boring story and gameplay combined with next to no replay value brings the game's score down a lot. Sharp graphics and excellent voice acting save it from being a disgrace, however. A disappointment, to be sure. Oh well; I'll live if I don't die.
Story: 6 (Only because it IS a LoK game)
Replay Value: 1
Reviewer's Rating: 2 - Poor
Originally Posted: 06/18/03, Updated 06/18/03
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