Review by Duterasemis
"The best Legacy of Kain yet."
The Legacy of Kain series began in 1996, with a joint venture between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics which was dubbed Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. It was quite a departure from the other games of its era, with the bitter anti-hero Kain as its protagonist and telling a dark story fully integrated into the gameplay. Since then, it has moved on to Raziel's story, and Defiance brings both together beautifully. It is, without a doubt, one of my personal favorites, and Crystal Dynamics' best product thus far.
Gameplay is, of course, the heart of any game, and Defiance delivers beautifully in a category that previous Legacy of Kain installments have been lacking in, to say the least. The combat is pretty much the core of the game now, utilizing a Devil May Cry-esque system to make full use of Kain and Raziel's powers. Both control quite well, bearing the same layout in order to keep control a simple issue. But cool as he was, Dante could never do what Kain and Raz do. The telekinesis (or TK) system is an absolute joy to use, allowing the player to do all manner of unpleasant things to his or her foes. One can blast their foes back, or lift them up into the air to toss them off cliffs, into fires, onto spikes, and even towards Kain (and later, Raziel) to initiate or continue a flurry of attacks. It can be used to push away foes so that one can concentrate on a particular antagonist, or be integrated into combos as described above.
The puzzles are less complex than in Soul Reaver 2, but still somewhat challenging, at least for Raziel. His chapters focus less on combat and more on puzzle-solving, and they are a decent challenge for those that enjoy this sort of thing.
There are only a few issues that annoy me. First off, the camera system could have stood some more tweaking. The previously used ''follow-me'' system would simply not work in this game, but Crystal D is rather inexperienced with the static, cinematic-style camera that Defiance uses, and it shows. It sometimes obscures vision, and allows enemies to disappear off-screen for a bit, or else confuses and disorients the player with flawed placements. Also, it does not make objects transparent when it swings behind them. This, too, makes combat more frustrating. Second are the glitches. There is not an overwhelming amount of them. Few are significant--some occasional AI glitches, a collision detection problem or two, but there is at least one known glitch that stops the game, forcing the player to reset and go through again.
Bear in mind though, these are minor gripes, and the gameplay overall is absolutely mind-blowing.
Three words that cover this department: ''Oh. My. God.'' Crystal Dynamics are the masters of texture-mapping. From the beautifully rendered environments to the equally well-rendered, textured, and animated characters and enemies, this game is astounding in terms of its beauty. Raziel scrambles along and leaps about as the agile ghoul he is, and Kain's heavy leaps and sword swipes are befitting of the ancient warrior. Lip-sync is flawless. The cutscenes have been expertly-made to ensure that they look stunning, and fit the scripts well.
What's more, the Spectral Plane, to which only Raziel can go, given his nature, is far eerier than it has been in the Soul Reaver series. There is a constant blur of sorts, a ''visual echo'' that complements the shadowy realm, with its twisted landscape and frozen light.
Bravo, Crystal Dynamics.
To go into depth in this department would spoil the game. Just know that it is good. Really good. Amy Hennig is a fantastic writer, and this work shows it. Many questions raised by previous games are answered, and the few raised are just enough to whet the player's appetite for the next installment. There are even a few surprises for veterans and newcomers of LoK alike.
Sound and Music
The sound in this game is very good. Kain's footsteps resound realistically in the hallway of the Sarafan Stronghold, and crunch in the snow outside. The screams of foes falling off cliffs, the hideously chilling taunts of Raziel's undead foes, the war cries of the Sarafan== all contribute to a wonderful ambience that draws the player in.
The voice acting, of course, is wonderful. The old cast of players is assembled again, and each captures their character flawlessly. Simon Templeman's dramatic and deliberate voice lends a lot of depth to the arrogant and bitter Kain, Michael Bell creates the perfect voice for the brash, sarcastic, and tormented Raziel, and every other voice is done to perfection. This is thanks not only to Amy Hennig's brilliant dialogue, but also to the talented actors, and of course the directors who would not settle for anything but the best.
The music is done very well. It uses music from past installments, and adds on to them for combat and cutscenes, and even introduces a few new tunes. Thankfully, they include the veritable theme of the games, Information Society's ''Ozar Midrashim,'' a dramatic instrumental that fits the series well.
But where the sound is at its best is the Spectral Realm. It is absolutely chilling now, filled with the tormented whispers of souls, the sound of weeping women, the wearied chants and agonizing screams of dead men, and the occasional bone-chilling whisper of ''Raziel...'' The player is made to feel as if he or she is actually in the world of the dead.
I have chosen not to rate this section at all. The game runs about 15-20 hours on the first run, and gameplay itself is a bit linear. If you're like me, then you play games like this to death, not happy until you've played it so much you actually start to become sick of it and move on to another game. However, it might be annoying to some gamers. Thankfully for them, cutscenes can be skipped, and hits can be turned off, so one can fully enjoy the gameplay and try to get all the power-ups there are to get. However, they give all the bonus materials away as soon as the player beats the game. The ''Arcane Tome'' system would have worked better if players had to work harder, to unlock sections of the bonus materials instead of getting it all at once. Hopefully, CD will improve on this in the next game.
LoK: Defiance is enjoyable for all players, and an absolute masterpiece for fans of the series. If you are unfamiliar with the Legacy of Kain, go out and rent it first. Otherwise, I suggest you go out and buy this incredible game immediately.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/16/03
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