Review by ALittle

"A step in the right direction for a classic series"

I was rather skeptical when approaching Legacy of Kain: Defiance. I had played every game in the series on consoles, all the way back to the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and it seemed to be losing a step with each installment. Thankfully, Defiance bucks that trend and presents a nice mix of action and puzzles that you can really sink your teeth into. (you knew that was coming...)

In previous installments you played either as Raziel (Soul Reaver games) or Kain (Blood Omen games). This time around, you get to play as both. The game has you play one chapter as Kain, then the next as Raziel. Then it hops back and forth between the two, allowing you to see a bigger picture that encompasses the fates of both.

Graphics - 9

Defiance has some incredible visuals. Any game revolving around vampires needs a good show of blood, and Defiance definitely delivers. Bloody smears left on the walls by tossed opponents, clouds of blood flying as you eviscerate a hapless mortal, it's all presented with flair. The animation is great, too. The combat animations and special abilities, like Kain's ability to dissolve into mist to pass through bars, make the game as good to watch as it is to play.

Sound - 8

There's not a whole lot of music to be had here. The music is usually slow and subdued while you explore, but moves seamlessly into a more frantic pace when you encounter enemies. The voice acting is fantastic, however. The Kain games have always had good voice acting, and this installment is no different. Even the incidental voices of Sarafan guards' alarmed shouts and Kain's quiet, evil laugh as he fatally impales an enemy on the Soul Reaver are of higher quality than the primary voice acting in some other titles.

Gameplay - 7

Here is where Defiance splits the ticket. The gameplay is split between straight out fighting and puzzles. Kain's segments tend to be more action based. It helps that Kain seems to be stronger than Raziel, as Kain seems to have more enemies to deal with. On the other hand, Raziel deals more with moving blocks, finding the right item or ability to unlock the way forward, or platform jumping. Raziel also gets to shift realms again, but this ability is only used as another obstacle to the usual 'unlock the door' type puzzles. As you can likely tell by now, Raziel's chapters tend to bog the game down. This isn't to say that Raziel doesn't get to do some fighting, but while playing Kain, there's not much switch-throwing or jumping, just a lot of things that you need to fight your way through. This makes Kain's chapters more visceral and to me, they are a lot more fun.

One other ding on Defiance's gameplay is the fact that both Kain and Raziel have the same moves. They each get different forms of the Soul Reaver, at least, but that usually makes very little difference when attacking enemies. Their special abilities, earned through combat experience, are almost exactly alike in every way save their name. Kain's Cadaverous Laceration and Raziel's Perforate Carcass do the exact same thing, with only a slight animation difference. The last three moves they earn are exactly the same, even in animation. You'd think the material Kain would fight differently from the spirit-bound Raziel...

Control - 6

I should explain here that the game box lists an analog controller under the 'recommended' specs, rather than the minimum system requirements. This should be corrected. If you attempt to play this game with just the keyboard, get ready for frustration. Defiance is, at it's heart, a console game, so what you're playing is a port. As such, you should come equipped for a console experience. A regular game pad will help some, but an analog stick will give you the best experience. A keyboard or digital game pad can't make the fine adjustments that some of the jumps require, or at least, they can't make them without an hour or two of trial and error. Without the analog control, the game can grind to a halt when you're presented with some of the more difficult jumps.

That being said, the best controller in the world won't help you fight the horrible camera angles Defiance throws at you. You have the option of going into first person mode to look around and better aim yourself, but even that option is not available all the time. The camera usually tries to get behind you, which is where it usually belongs in a game like this, but at times it will move when it shouldn't, and other times it will stay steady when it ought to be moving. This is most noticeable with Raziel, who gets the lion's share of jumping. The camera makes it difficult to line up for a lot of jumps, and you'll often wind up jumping blindly (and either dying or having to set up for the same jump again). There are spots that require you to do precision jumping, so you can't always plan to overjump and count on a wall or other obstacle to stop you from plunging to your doom. At one point about mid-game, you'll need to jump on some pillars, and failing a single jump means you get to virtually repeat half the chapter. This is not a good thing and a serious oversight by the developers.

Overall - 7

Better controls, better use of camera, and less puzzles would have giving Defiance a better score. As it is now, the Kain segments serve as the reward for slogging through the Raziel segments. If you haven't had your fill of Tomb Raider-esque jumps and puzzles, Defiance would be a worthwhile addition to your PC gaming library.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/29/04

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