Review by hippiechk

"Defiance now owns my soul!"

Defiance now owns my soul! It will own yours too!
I was expecting this game to be great. But it far exceeded all of my expectations.

I’ve been a Legacy of Kain fan since 1999 with Soul Reaver. And until now, that was my all time favorite game. Defiance has now taken it’s place as the best video game of all time. After playing for only five minutes, I knew that it would.

Defiance is the fifth game in the Legacy of Kain series. It is not necessary to have played the previous four games first, but I would highly recommend that you do. The story of Defiance can stand on it’s own, but if you play the other games first, you’ll have a much better and deeper understanding of the significant events of Defiance.

Story: 10/10

All I can say is WOW! This story totally blew me away. There were several things I expected to happen in this epic, and some of them did, but, they came about in ways I never dreamed of. The way the story unfolded. Excellent plot twists at almost every turn. And many surprises. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, Crystal Dynamics throws you a curve ball. I was not disappointed. And if you are a Legacy of Kain fan, you will not be either. If you’re not a Legacy of Kain fan yet, you will be after playing this game. Questions raised in the previous games are answered here. And many theories are put to rest. All makes sense in the end.

Game play: 10/10

Game play was excellent. A perfect balance of fighting, puzzle solving and exploration of the beautifully detailed landscapes.

The game’s levels are presented as chapters. You start off chapter one playing as Kain. Then you alternate between Kain and Raziel at every other chapter. Again, it adds to the overall balance of the game.

Fighting enemies was fun! Done similarly to the style of Devil May Cry, but better, I think. Both Kain and Raziel are equipped with one weapon each: Kain, the Blood Reaver; Raziel, the Wraith Blade. Both earn and find telekinetic powers and Reaver/Blade upgrades and enhancements. As a player, these provide you with several choices in how to fight and defeat your enemies. I found that to be a very nice added touch that makes the game play very different than most games out there today. Because in most games, there is only one way to defeat any given enemy.

Even though the controls for Kain and Raziel are identical, I found these characters actually play very differently. Kain is stronger, but he’s also larger and heavier which makes him slower, Raziel is tough, but smaller, lighter and much faster than Kain. Both have their advantages.

In Defiance, the fighting was fun. No battles were too difficult, or too easy. And there are enough fights to keep you occupied for a while. The game’s bosses were not outrageously difficult. But some of them presented enough of a challenge to make you have to think about how to progress. Every time you beat a boss, you are rewarded with a beautiful and sometimes mind blowing cinematic that moves the story along smoothly and seamlessly.

One extremely important aspect of Defiance’s game play, is that both Kain and Raziel need to feed throughout their adventures, as their health meters are slowly drained as they simply walk around. If you don’t feed them, they will die and the game will end. Kain feeds on the blood of his enemies, and Raziel, on his enemies’ souls. And they way they feed is gruesomely beautiful! Kain brutally and viciously grabs an enemy and sucks the blood from his/her neck before dropping him/her to the ground. Raziel violently rips the soul from an enemies’ body, devours it, and moves on. There are also health pots scattered throughout the game that either character can simply suck from, if needed. They are very helpful when your health is low and there are no enemies around to drain from, and sometimes, during a boss battle.

The puzzles were extremely well done. Again, not too easy, not too difficult. Nothing was ridiculously hidden, or ridiculously obvious. Puzzles presented a nice balance also, in that there were blocks to move, items to break, artifacts to find. And every puzzle yielded a nice reward.

Even though you play as both Kain and Raziel, Defiance looks and feels much like the two Soul Reaver titles, as opposed to the two Blood Omen titles. However, Defiance does present the best of both worlds flawlessly. Again, perfect balance.

Camera: 8/10

This is one of the (very) minor annoyances of Defiance. For the most part, the camera worked well enough. Though I terribly missed being able to have complete control over the camera at any time throughout the game, as it was in the previous games. In Defiance, you cannot control the camera yourself. Though you can use it too look around the area, or in first person view. But you simply cannot control the camera during a battle, or while just exploring.

There were several times when I was fighting an enemy and I couldn’t see what I was doing as a wall or pillar or something would block my view. And I couldn’t change the angle of the camera to get a better view. Annoying, yes, but not a huge problem. However, the camera in Soul Reaver was much better.

Sound/Audio: 10/10

Superb! The voice acting is the pinnacle of this series’ audio. If any character’s voice were to be replaced by that of another actor, it simply wouldn’t work. The voice acting cast is top notch. You will not hear better anywhere, ever. Aside from the main characters, I especially loved the sounds and voices of the free floating souls in the underworld – calling out Raziel’s name, screaming in agony, begging for relief.

The music is also perfect. Beautifully done to set the mood and tone as you progress through the game. Never annoying, or overriding the speech. It was a nice mix of tracks from the previous games. Fans of the series will find it familiar.

Graphics: 10/10

Stunning! Breathtaking! Wow!
Never have I seen graphics and animation done so well in a game. Vividly bright colors bring the scenery to life. Many times I would stop to look around in first person view at the exquisitely detailed buildings, landscapes, murals, etc. And then there’s the characters themselves. More smoothly rendered than ever before, yet most retain their familiar appearances. They are all beautiful. Right down to the evil glances they exchange, the smirks on their faces, the shock, surprise and other emotions they express. Facial expressions are so realistic. And the lip-synching, flawless. Everything in this game is visually pleasing. The attention to every painstaking tiny detail is extremely obvious. And I am an artist, so I have a deep appreciation for such things.

Replayability: 8/10

There are no alternate endings. But to me, that doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s best that there are not. I will replay this game simply because the story is superb and I cannot get enough of it. The art and animation is beautiful to look at. And the game play is fun.

You don’t have to find every telekinetic power up, or health piece, or arcane tome to beat this game. And all the tomes are unlocked after you beat it anyway, along with all of the bonus materials.

So yes, I will replay even though there is nothing new to find, earn or see.

Bonus Materials: 10/10

As I've said, all bonuses are unlocked when you beat Defiance. Kain’s and Raziel’s tomes offer concept art from past games, some of it, never seen before. But the voice sessions’ out takes are by far, the best of the bonus materials. And these, can only be seen after you beat the game. They are hilarious! It’s fun to watch these people at work too.

Final Thoughts:

This is, without a doubt, the best game in the Legacy of Kain series. In my opinion, the best game ever! It will be tough for any other game to even come close. Crystal Dynamics has redeemed themselves by tying up most loose ends, answering nagging questions, and even raising a few new ones (but not many). It is my belief that Crystal Dynamics has set the standard of what a video game should be.

It is the attention paid to all the fine details of the game that make it so perfect (except for the camera, but even that as I said, was minor). Details in the sound, the aflections and tones of the voices, the detailed renderings of the surrounding areas. It’s never been done so well before. Not even Final Fantasy can touch Defiance in these aspects.

The money spent on production is blatantly obvious. And I love them and thank them for not cutting corners and sparing no expense. Every little nuance of this game has grabbed me. Simply beautiful, and extremely well done. THANK YOU CRYSTAL DYNAMICS AND EIDOS! Defiance owns my soul!

Reviewer's Score: 9.5 / 10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/20/03

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