When you look at just how far the Legacy of Kain series it is very hard to picture Blood Omen as the starting point for the multi-million pound franchise….but it was & it is one of the best games in the series.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is the starting point of the series anti-hero, Kain.
The player takes the role of Kain…a nobleman who makes the mistake of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After being kicked out of an inn he is attacked by bandits looking to rob him. You can try & run or fight but inevitably their numbers are too much & they kill Kain.
Mortanius the Necromancer offers Kain a chance for revenge…Kain takes it unaware of the price. He awakens in his crypt as a vampire….
The game has elements of action & role-playing seen from a top down, two-dimensional angle. Set in the fictional land of Nosgoth, a world dominated by humans & vampires, the gameplay is made up of traversing both outdoor landscapes & indoor dungeons while solving puzzles & avoiding hazards.
The land of Nosgoth is kept together by the mystical pillars of Nosgoth – 9 in total protected by a human guardian. These guys make up the Circle of Nine & were created by the Sarafan, an order whose mission is to eradicate the vampire race. The Sarafan no longer exist & the remaining vampires have gone into hiding. Instead humanity is trying to kill each other now in an all out war between 2 rival factions.
When the Guardian of Balance, Ariel is killed one of the pillar guardians, her lover, Nupraptor goes insane, taints his fellow guardians, infecting the pillars & beginning the end of Nosgoth.
This all takes place before Kain awakes in his crypt with vengeance on his mind. His realisation that he is now a vampire is initially met with despair & regret but as the game progresses Kain accepts what he is & sees it as more of a blessing than a curse.
Kain’s quest is initially about getting revenge on the men that killed him outside the inn but after gaining his revenge, Mortanius tells him that the men were just the instruments of his death & not the source. For that he must seek out the pillars of Nosgoth…there he meets the spectral figure of Ariel who tells him the only way he can find peace is kill the circle of nine to restore the pillars & the land.
As Kain the player must explore all corners of the hostile land, visit dangerous dungeons & plague ridden towns to find the circle of nine & end their lives.
To help him on his quest Kain can pick up lots of items & weapons as well as learning new abilities. These abilities will help Kain access previously unreachable areas & locked out areas. There is nothing linear about this game…provided you have the tools you can go almost anywhere. Fast travel is initiated by transforming into a bat (including a nifty little cut-scene) as well as transformations into a wolf (fast-movement & jumping), a cloud of mist (reaching impassable areas) & a human (going un-noticed amongst other humans & allowing you to talk to them).
Kain’s health drains slowly over time & when he takes damage but can be refilled by drinking the blood of enemies or NPC’s. Strike an opponent a number of times to daze them…from there you can drink their blood with a press of a button or strike them down. Several people can be drank from at once & the sight of the blood flowing towards Kain while a sucking/slurping noise is heard is so cool.
As Kain learns magic he also gains a magic meter that drains upon use. The spells serve a number functions such as attacking or switch hitting. The real fun comes from the weapon side of Blood Omen. Kain can use a number of weapons such as swords or axes but the real fun comes once you get your hands on the Soul Reaver, the most powerful weapon in the game.
There are also some really cool magical tarot cards that offer unique spells that kill in impressive fashion with bodies exploding into bits, some melting into a green puddle & my favourite…the skin ripped off leaving a bloody skeleton.
Blood Omen is a game filled with adult themes…its violent, has numerous references to slavery, class war, plagues & sex (Kain can often get blood refills at the local brothels).
One of my favourite things about Blood Omen is the attention to detail. Go into the brothels & there is erotic art on the wall. The plague victims clearly seem to have a form of the Black Death. My favourite though is the murder of anyone in their beds…drink their blood & watch them fade away leaving a darken hollow on their pillows…depressing but so well done.
Blood Omen does a lot of things right especially for those who consider perseverance in gaming is important (the game isn’t an easy run) but it also takes a few mis-steps.
The one that no-one was happy about is the loading times. Every entry into a building, cave, dungeon & often just other rooms gives you a loading screen that seems to drag on. In some of the bigger cities you are surrounded by accessible houses but you won’t want to go in any of them ‘cause of the loading! It’s frustrating as there are plenty of games that came out around the same time that are no where as bad.
Even looking at your equipment page brings up a loading screen (thankfully there are a few quick button options).
Some areas of the game can be extremely frustrating to navigate as it just isn’t clear where you need to go. I remember being stuck in one of the earliest dungeons because I had failed to see a small switch on a wall that I could push. In larger, more open areas (the forest leading up to Vorodor’s Mansion) there is no clear direction to go & the map, while useful, could have used some work.
These issues, while annoying, don’t really detract from the experience though. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is filled with fun & interesting things to do. The story is rich & has a history that you want to learn more about. Nosgoth feels like a fully formed world & as a vampire you feel as powerful as they can be but aware of your own weaknesses.
This is what started the franchise off & is often the forgotten gem of the series. People want more Soul Reaver but I want more Blood Omen with this much love & care put into it.
By today’s standards it is far too dated (it’s not going to be a game we ever get remade) but if you can look past the visuals & loading screens you will find a game filled with hidden depths. The story, voice acting & general style of the game is infinitely appealing for those who like the darker side of life.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain