Review by Hellfire X

Reviewed: 04/09/04

Good, but suffers from usual console port flaws

I've always been a big fan of the Legacy Of Kain, and I was drawn to Defiance by the seeming merger of the two series, Blood Omen and Soul Reaver. This was intended to be the game to draw the series to a conclusion, and is easily the best looking and best sounding of them. Unfortunately, this one suffers from a fatal flaw. They decided to change the player's perspective of the game from the originals, and while interesting, it makes for an incredibly frustrating time.

Story - 7/10

If you're a newcomer to the series, I suggest you leave this on the shelf and try to hunt down at least the two Soul Reaver games before tacking this one. The instruction manual does try to some extent to clarify the story so far, but it is extremely condensed, and may still leave you wondering where certain pieces fit. The story basically picks up from the end of Soul Reaver 2, with both Kain and Raziel seeking to avert their undesirable destinies. Though complex at times, the story does have its fair share of enjoyable moments, but the constant switching between Kain and Raziel ruins the flow in certain places.

Graphics - 9/10

This game really shines in the graphics department. They're not exactly the sort of thing that will stretch a top of the range graphics card, but for the compatibility range they are intended for, they are very impressive. It runs virtually flawlessly on a 128MB graphics card at 1024x768 with all settings at maximum. It will run on as little as a 32MB, but you'll be missing out on some seriously good graphics. The detail on the Kain and Raziel models is immaculate, as is the world detail. Standing outside Vorador's mansion and in Avernus cathedral, you can really appreciate this. The distortion effects in the spectral realm give it a unique look. The effects on Raziel's Reaver are also worthy of note. Rather than just a spike with coloured ''smoke'' around it as in previous games, this time the Reaver actually looks like a wraith version of Kain's Reaver, hilt and all.

Sound - 8/10

When playing as Raziel, those of you who have already played Soul Reaver 1 will recognise a lot of the music. Though completely re-performed, the music in the material realm is essentially the same. I haven't played Blood Omen, but I'm willing to bet that it is the same case for Kain. While obviously lacking in originality, I always liked the music from Soul Reaver, and it works every time to create the dark atmosphere that this game needs. The howling of tormented souls in the spectral realm is pretty chilling as well.

Gameplay - 6/10

Now for the game's weaknesses. I've tried my best to like the way this game plays, but it really doesn't work. The keyboard controls for this game are seriously bad. Being a console port certainly didn't help it, and trying to play this game with a keyboard is like trying to drive a car round a shallow bend with a steering wheel that only let you turn at 45 degree angles. It is possible with a keyboard, but you really need an analogue controller to enjoy this game. But it doesn't end there. In all their wisdom, Crystal Dynamics decided to do away with the Tomb Raider style third person view where the camera stays very close to the character and can be manipulated, and tried to use the awful loose camera of Devil May Cry. While it was tolerable in Devil May Cry, it is seriously frustrating in this game. Picture trying to line yourself up for a jump, going to take it, and then suddenly veer off to one side as the camera decides to pan round. It is the sheer inability to predict what the camera will do next that will have you tearing your hair out as you try to take the same jump for the tenth time. It screws up in combat as well, having a tendency to hide behind pillars and rocks while you try to annihilate everything in the room completely blind. Another case is trying to fight an enemy who has decided to stand right next to the camera, giving you virtually no room to move or anticipate an attack. There is a first person view mode, but it's only for looking around.

While being able to play as both Kain and Raziel seems appealing, this soon fades as you begin to realise just how similar they are. The special moves they can acquire, though named differently between characters and executed slightly differently, serve exactly the same purpose. The only real differences between them are the abilities of their respective Reaver blades, and that Raziel is slightly more mobile and less powerful than Kain. This can lead to battles becoming incredibly tedious as you use the same moves over and over again. The usual methods of healing remain the same, with Kain draining the victim's blood (and this time, actually biting at their necks like a proper vampire if executed close enough) and Raziel devouring the victim's soul. The lack of an ability to block is quite annoying, and dodging is a bit hit-and-miss as well. The most annoying aspect of combat though is that some of the larger enemies can simply break your attack chain by attacking themselves. More simply put, you can land one or two attacks in a chain without a problem, then your enemy begins an attack, your next attack does nothing, and he smashes you while you recover. Even counterattacking doesn't guarantee that they won't do this. Trying to judge when they will do this tends to slow combat down, and more often than not you'll get it wrong. Attack one time too many and you'll be hit hard.

Overall - 7/10

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with this game. If it had simply stuck to the old perspective and was a bit more forgiving with the controls, it would have been a seriously good game. If you're a fan of the Legacy Of Kain, this is worth buying just for the story, as no amount of dodgy controls will deter from trying to finish it. You might want to wait for the price to drop though. If you're just looking for a good third person action game or have never played any of the other Legacy Of Kain games, this wouldn't be a bad buy, but you might be better off looking for one of the older games.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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