Top positive review
16 of 17 people found this helpful
LoK deepens in dramatic force and improves gameplay.
on 13 February 2004
The Legacy of Kain must stand as the greatest fantasy epic in the popular media that is the least known. The Saga of the Pillars of Nosgoth deepens and reveals more and more fascinating backstory with every passing episode.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance is the game in which the two strands - of Kain, the blood drinker and Raziel, the Soul Reaver - are united, with both characters playable for the first time. Soul Reaver (1) was the first 3D game in the series, and introduced some really original gameplay, most notably the shifting between the Material Realm, the day to day world of the living, and the Spectral Realm - where walls, floors and pillars would distort and shift, sometimes revealing new paths to inaccessible areas. In his pursuit of Kain, Raziel had to find and defeat each of his brothers in brilliantly designed boss battles. In addition there was the Citadel of the Humans, which was not directly related to the plot, but where your behaviour to the humans would determine whether they worshipped you or fled you in terror. Nothing did the ego more good than to watch NPCs fall to their knees at your appearance! However, the depth and beauty of the storyline and the visciousness of the battles was sometimes at odds with the oddly prosaic puzzles that had to be solved for Raziel to progress. Sometimes it seemed that Raziel's saga was advanced not by his ability to switch between realms or his prowess with the Reaver blade, but by his talent for solving jigsaw puzzles! Soul Reaver 2, heavily anticipated (and even more so after it was cancelled for the Dreamcast) was expected to be bigger and better than Soul Reaver 1, but transpired in fact to be little more than a transitional game designed to deepen the backstory of Nosgoth, but very little else. Gone were the side quests and vast explorable environments of Soul Reaver 1; gone were the boss fights. No sooner was a puzzle solved and the Reaver enhanced with a new ability than the player was forced to sit through a seemingly endless cutscene in which either Kain or Moebius would explain to Raziel that everything he had just accomplished in his determination not to act the pawn to either of them, had in fact been entirely what they had expected and wanted him to do; or to fill in the increasingly complex history of Nosgoth and the discovery of Raziel's true nature.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance absolutely overcomes all the problems of the previous two games, with the best balance yet between action, puzzle solving and storytelling. Soul Reaver set the standard for environment design, whereas Soul Reaver 2's largest improvement over its predecessor was in character design, particularly of the enemies you have to fight. Defiance improves even further on both of these elements, with better lighting and shadow effects in addition.
Defiance, it has to be said, is every bit as linear as Soul Reaver 2 - but the saving grace is the compelling urgency of the plot. Raziel and Kain have no time or desire to explore Nosgoth anew, and their singlemindedness is very effectively transmitted to the player. As you progress through the story, even though the complexity grows so that it will be sometimes incomprehensible to any player new to the Legacy of Kain, nobody can fail to be impressed by the increase in excitement and dramatic tension to an absolutely fever pitch, which will by the end of the game leave the player absolutely breathless.
Gameplay is a lot of fun. Both protagonists gain new moves as they increase their fighting experience, and the character animation during fights is of a very high quality, with very satisfying gouts of blood issuing from one's adversaries! Bosses make a very welcome return, at least 10 major ones by my count, plus half a dozen more "minor bosses" in the form of walking statues. Having got approximately half way through the game, I was left with the impression that the serious puzzle element of the previous games had been toned down to please the action fans. Then Raziel arried at Vorador's mansion, a veritable labyrinth of mind-bending complexity sufficient to satisfy the most hardcore of puzzle fiends, which took me two days to solve.
The glory of the entire Legacy of Kain series is the quality of the writing and voice acting. All the former cast members have returned yet again to give us the benefit of their magnificent voice talent: Simon Templeman as Kain and Michael Bell as Raziel are as excellent as ever, and they are perfectly complemented by Tony Jay as the Elder God, Richard Doyle as Moebius and Paul Lukather as Vorador, as well as others I don't want to reveal in case of spoilage.
Gripes and niggles: Whenever a major change in the format of a game occurs you'll see it promoted as "solving the problems of the previous versions", when sometimes there wasn't any problem, and the new system makes it worse. Here this is sadly the case with the camera system. I was entirely unaware of any serious camera issues with the two Soul Reaver games, and certainly the switch to a cinematic, Devil May Cry-style third person camera position creates far more problems than it solves. Furthermore there are more than a few glitches which have crept into the new version, presumably due to insufficient time for testing and a more rigorous insistence on a release deadline. However, as the game progresses the problems become less irritating and are submerged beneath the overall excellence of the game.
An absolutely worthy addition to the Legacy of Kain series, and in fact the best game so far.