As common as Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was throughout the PlayStation’s heyday, its predecessor in Blood Omen nearly by no means will get talked about. Although not for a scarcity of making an attempt. Launched 25 years in the past right now in 1996, Blood Omen not solely gave us a memorable anti-hero in Kain and unveiled the world and wealthy lore of Nosgoth to gamers for the primary time, however it additionally ended up in authorized purgatory that has left it to be largely forgotten by the mainstream. Which, in case you’ve performed the sport, is a rattling disgrace.
For individuals who walked in late, Blood Omen takes place within the land of Nosgoth, and centres on a nobleman named Kain. After being assassinated by a gaggle of bandits, Kain accepts a take care of the necromancer Mortanius, who resurrects Kain as a vampire to actual his revenge. After killing his assassins, Kain seeks to reverse his situation. He quickly learns concerning the Circle of 9, a gaggle of sorcerers who shield and symbolize the Pillars of Nosgoth. The Pillars are the well being of the world, which have change into corrupted because of the Circle of 9 having been pushed insane. Kane is then tasked with restoring steadiness to Nosgoth by killing the sorcerers, thereby permitting new guardians to take their place.
Initially conceived by Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack and artwork director/author Ken McCulloch as “The Pillars of Nosgoth” in 1993, Blood Omen drew upon a number of influences to form what would change into its gray morality and its multilayered protagonist. Dyack states the primary affect was Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novel sequence, which featured a “complicated and compelling” storyline which Dyack needed to emulate. Different novels included Brian Lumley’s Necroscope sequence and Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. Lastly, and significantly for Kain, Dyack drew upon Clint Eastwood’s character of William Munny from Unforgiven. Dyack needed to create a personality that was morally ambiguous, which up till that time, video video games actually had no protagonist that was made up of those shades of gray.
It’s this consideration to the sport’s lore and character growth that made Blood Omen such a blast to play. Nobody within the recreation is a pure “good” or “evil” character. Together with Kane, everybody dances that line, being equally able to doing what’s thought of good or evil, and even that’s as much as interpretation. In truth, Silicon Knights even created a doc to stipulate the assorted themes and interpretations of Blood Omen‘s cinematics. The sport units up Nosgoth as a land divided by people and vampires. Even in that division, humanity has its personal issues with inside strife, with these wanting to save lots of civilization, and people wanting to finish it.
The writing for Blood Omen is just a factor of magnificence. It appears as if each character has their share of elaborate dialogue, due to McCulloch. Clearly, Kain has a few of the greatest, with moments equivalent to his recalling of taking Mortanius’ Faustian discount, not caring if he was “in Heaven or Hell”, and solely wanting vengeance, however later noting that “Nothing is free. Not even revenge.” After all, you want somebody to ship this dialogue successfully, and English actor Simon Templeman acquired what McCulloch was asking for, and delivered with perfection. Likewise, the opposite actors, together with Tony Jay (who voiced Mortanius), Paul Lukather (the vampire Vorador who turns into a “father determine” for Kain) and Anna Gunn (who voiced Ariel, the guardian of steadiness), ship nice performances. Coupled with the rating by Steve Henifin and Scott Shelly, all of it contributes to a bleak ambiance that drives the immersion.
However all the wonderful writing and performances don’t make a recreation by themselves. It’s the gameplay, in any case. Fortunately, Blood Omen delivers on that entrance. The sport is performed from a top-down Legend of Zelda model, with Kane navigating the world and getting access to quite a lot of weapons, vampiric powers and spells. And in a case of 1 part enhancing others, the writing and performances come into play with Kain providing detailed descriptions of his powers, weapons and gadgets. This alone makes you need to seize and look at every part you choose up, and in a while, work together with the NPCs you meet.
Anyway, as you may anticipate as a vampire, Kain is imbued with energy to show into mist, a wolf, a bat, and on account of magic, disguised as a human . All of those are integral to exploring the world, significantly as a human the place you’ll want to achieve info from NPCs. And as a vampire, Kain is damage by precipitation and is weakened by solar, requiring gamers to hunt shelter, or in a while, use magic to mitigate the consequences. And naturally, Kain should drink blood to be able to regain his well being. Gamers must watch to ensure that they don’t drink the incorrect blood, as black blood will injury Kain, whereas inexperienced blood poisons him. You may also eat blue blood from ghosts to regain his magic, or by accumulating magic spheres.
Talking of magic, Kain can receive a number of spells all through the sport. Other than the spells that will let you drain blood from enemies with out gorgeous them, you might have spells that will let you management people, throw lightning, and create shields. Not one of the spells really feel ineffective, as all of them serve a goal. There’s one specific spell that sadly can break the sport for you in case you abuse it, however extra on that later. As for weaponry and armour, you once more have a range accessible to you, with every coming in useful throughout particular conditions. Relying on the weapon, gamers have to be cautious to not outright kill enemies (equivalent to with the Flame Sword and the Soul Reaver), as doing so would price them an opportunity to drink blood. Utilizing two-handed weapons additionally prevents Kain from utilizing magic, so once more it pays to decide on properly.
Blood Omen is a linear recreation, with Kain having to go to villages and cities on his quest, however there are many “off the trail” areas to discover, made up of forests, caves and crypts, all with a mixture of exploration, fight, and puzzle-solving. The environments for the time are well-detailed, using then-novel results equivalent to colored lighting to spotlight secret passages and switches, and employs an total darker, barely desaturated palette to emphasise the dreariness and harsh world of Nosgoth. Clearly by right now’s requirements, it you possibly can see limitations with the crunchy pixels, however it’s hardly one thing to complain about. Likewise, the animations of the pre-rendered sprites can’t examine to, say, Symphony of the Evening, however once more, it’s nonetheless fairly serviceable.
What’s nonetheless a difficulty with the sprites is the collision. It’s essential to line your self up accurately to assault, as will your foes. Being barely offset will trigger you (or the enemy) to overlook, leading to you having to both cease attacking and realign your self, or maintain attacking and hope your foe walks into your swings. That is particularly egregious once you’re swarmed by enemies, inflicting you to even be blocked from transferring, or because of the lack of invincibility frames, being frequently hit.
This minor subject is contrasted with the larger subject of Blood Omen‘s magic system, which may (and does) break the sport. Casting the Repel spell will virtually make you invincible to enemy assaults and replicate magic assaults. Coupled with the Chaos Armour (which displays enemy injury again at them), you possibly can waltz by means of many areas as long as you might have sufficient magic energy accessible to you to case Repel.
However these game-related points take a backseat to the overarching subject which is the rights to the sequence. For these unaware, Silicon Knights (which created the characters and story for Blood Omen) partnered with Crystal Dynamics to get the sport printed. Nevertheless, regardless of Silicon Knights’ makes an attempt to make sure that they’d the rights to the characters (one of many recreation’s opening screens states as a lot), Crystal Dynamics (which had additionally supplied further funding for Blood Omen‘s growth) felt they’d the rights. The prolonged battle additionally introduced Activision into the fray, who distributed the sport on PC. Quick-forward to right now, and Silicon Knights isn’t any extra, with Crystal Dynamics being a subsidiary of Sq. Enix, and the rights points are nonetheless not fully cleared up. Solely earlier this month plainly the sport was given the go-ahead to be launched on PC once more by means of GOG, however the consoles are one other subject, fully.
Probably game-breaking spells apart, Blood Omen continues to be very a lot one thing to be skilled for the apparent high quality storytelling and fantastic ambiance. It’s from a time earlier than we had a sizeable variety of video games that featured morally-grey conditions. And even right now, enjoying as an anti-hero as multi-layered like Kain continues to be an fulfilling expertise, be it for the writing or Templeman’s superb efficiency. And naturally, Blood Omen was the beginning of a sequence that also enjoys a following right now, although primarily attributable to its sequels. It’s a disgrace that the legalities behind the rights nearly doomed Blood Omen to be forgotten, that are nonetheless unclear now. Whether or not we see a brand new entry within the sequence or perhaps a reboot/remaster is the query that followers have been asking for a painfully very long time. Maybe with Blood Omen lastly getting cleared for launch once more on PC, the Legacy of Kain sequence will lastly get that renewed consideration it so deserves, and the excellent rights points can lastly be addressed.