Review by Articus

Reviewed: 08/28/03

He's No Hero

Blood Omen 2 was my first foray into the Legacy of Kain series; and I must admit the only reason I picked it up was the price tag, which was $10. I’m not one to pass up a next-gen game for $10, and certainly not one for the Xbox. I did not expect much upon starting this adventure, and in that I was pleasantly surprised. Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2, while a flawed game, is still very enjoyable to play.

Story: The storyline found in Blood Omen 2 is easily the strongest and most worthwhile reason to play the game. This being my first LoK game, I had only the vaguest notions of the previous games, culled mostly from reviews in game magazines. To my delight I found Blood Omen 2's story very easy to become involved in. As the story progresses, more about Kain’s prior history is revealed, cluing in those who have not played the previous installments. The game has a well-written script, sharp dialogue, and a strong overall story, which finds the anti-hero Kain reborn after being defeated by the Sepheraph Lord 200 years prior. Finding himself back in the flesh, he is lead by a mysterious and scantily-clad vampire woman to old compatriots of his, who are leading a vampire resistance against the very foe to whom Kain fell. The story eventually finds Kain questing to reacquire his Soul Reaver blade, and reclaim his former glory. Nicely done, indeed.

Audio: Blood Omen 2 features great voice acting from all those involved. Kain’s voice is very befitting his character, and never becomes annoying or grating. An especially great audio moment is when Kain drinks the blood of an innocent chained to a wall. An evil, pleased laugh emits from him. The other characters in the game all have at least passable voice acting. Various townsfolk and soldiers have small quips, which include begging for their lives.
Excellent voice acting aside, the music in Blood Omen 2 is severely lacking. I often found myself wandering through large portions of a game with no music at all. When fighting enemies, a music track appears and rather fits the combat, but it can become repetitious after a few fours. The lack of a decent soundtrack is clearly felt through much of the game. Ambient sound effects are nicely done and found in great abundance.

Gameplay: The gameplay is what truly prevents Blood Omen 2 from being an excellent game. Kain controls nearly exactly like Lara Croft does in the various incarnations of the Tomb Raider series. Running, jumping, and turning are all quite slow, and reaction to various enemies and events is extremely slow. Combat leaves much to be desired; it consists entirely of using one button to attack, and another to block. The result is often boring and repetitive. All enemies attack in patterns. One must block a certain number of enemy attacks, then attack the enemy. Only one enemy will engage you at a time, which is certainly appreciated as the combat engine could not support multiple battles. Various weapons can be picked up from the dead and used, including several swords and axes.
However, the gameplay does have several positive points. The first and foremost being the ability to suck the blood of your fallen foes and various townspeople, traders, and prisoners. The ingestion of this blood refills your own health meter, and when enough is consumed, your health meter permanently increases, adding a pseudo-RPG element. The inclusion of special powers, which is learned primarily after the defeat of Vampire bosses, is generally well done also. These powers include the ability to jump great distances, control objects from afar, take control of non-combative NPCs, and various combat abilities. This system is not without flaw, though. An attempt to balance the use of these powers results in the horrid repetition of puzzles sometimes more than a dozen times. Such an example is the mind control power. Many times in every level, Kain must take the control of an NPC who will then open a door blocking Kain’s path.
The game is fairly lengthy, divided into 10 chapters comprised of several rather large areas each. Level design for the most part is very well done.

Graphics: Very good. Kain is very detailed, as are the NPCs in the game. The levels are fairly sparse, but still look very nice. Shadowing is well done and dynamic, and the lighting is generally impressive. Cut scenes take place using the game’s engine, and while not overly impressive, they still look nice. One of the best graphical effects is the one you will likely see the most; a gigantic jet of blood exiting a victims body and healing Kain.

Overall, Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2 is a game with an ambitious, intriguing story, but is flawed with simplistic, boring combat and Lara Croft controls. I suspect it can be found for rather cheap, and I do suggest picking it up; you will not mind spending the hours it takes to complete.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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