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Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PlayStation) artwork

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PlayStation) review

"Vae victis--suffering to the LOADING"

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PlayStation) image

I used to consider falling out of love with a classic the absolute pits until I replayed Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain on PlayStation and encountered a worse notion. Thanks to this game, I discovered cognitive dissonance, the unpleasant sensation that comes from adoring a title's campaign whilst detesting its technical flaws. Honestly, I adore Blood Omen and would love nothing more than to tell you to snag it on eBay immediately, but that would require disregarding this version's undeniable shortcomings.

For instance, Blood Omen begins with a grainy CG cutscene in which a vampire named Vorador slays a few sorcerers and their watchdog. Though the segment sports some decent character models, its shoddy animation reminds us that the game is visually dated. Vorador and company move stiffly and boast peculiar, expressionless faces. This wouldn't have been out of place during the game's release in 1996, but nowadays seeing someone unleash a blood-curdling scream with an emotionless countenance--as one of Vorador's victims does--is rather awkward. You might believe I'm badgering this game because of its age, but bear in mind that we're talking about the same platform that showcased Final Fantasy VIII and Legend of Dragoon, two games that displayed superior CG animation.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PlayStation) image

Once the choppy segment concludes, you'll enter the realm of Nosgoth. There, you assume the role of the titular nobleman-turned-vampire, traversing terrain that might as well be The Legend of Zelda as envisioned by Anne Rice. The early phases of the campaign offer only simple pleasures and basic three-hit combination attacks. Best of all, though, is the ability to telekinetically burst a foe's artery and extract a long crimson strand of blood that flies directly into your fanged maw, complete with a ridiculous SLUUUURP! As sunlight fades, it's also possible to enter a townsman's abode and drain his hemoglobin while he sleeps. Heck, you can even return to that same domicile and drink the vital fluid of the dude's ghost to restore your mana (read: MP).

Developer Silicon Knights must've been on a Nintendo kick while producing this title, as they also channeled another classic from that company: Metroid. Roadblocks impede your progress, preventing your free rein in Nosgoth. The only way to surmount such obstacles is to obtain key weapons or spells. For instance, slender trees prove to be nuisance prior to the first major boss encounter. Afterward, though, you'll have acquired a pair of axes that make short work of any skinny pines unfortunate enough to have grown in Kain's path. Water, which is acidic to vampires, is also problematic… at least until you're able to transform into a vaporous apparition following a story event.

There are rewards for exploration. The game branches in several areas and offers a plethora of alternate routes, hidden chambers brimming with consumables, and dungeons (some of which are optional) that hold powerful magic and helpful equipment. It's thanks to such extracurricular undertakings that you might nab a spell such as Inspire Hate, which turns all of your opponents against each other. One of my favorite finds, though, is the flame sword that not only inflicts optimal damage, but reduces the opposition to immolated pulp.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PlayStation) image

As if slicing demons and highwaymen into sizzling ribbons wasn't enough, Blood Omen offers you a profusion of other horrific ways to murder your assailants. For instance, one blast from the Lightning Bolt spell sends severed body parts cartwheeling through the air. You can also toss a couple of shuriken-like "flay" stars, which instantly peel the skin and muscle off their victims, leaving behind a scarlet skeleton. Personally, I prefer an item called "Font of Putrescence," a disease-like expendable weapon that causes the afflicted to melt into a caustic green puddle. Anyone moronic enough to step into the iridescent soup similarly dissolves.

I wish I could report that the game's combat is a nonstop bloodbath. Unfortunately, you'll spend most of the campaign cutting through adversaries with mediocre weaponry and the aforementioned three-hit combos. Though Blood Omen's martial mechanics are far from broken, they're not terribly interesting. An individual can only stand initiating basic cleaves for so long before the experience grows chore-like. Sure, you have the gory artillery listed above to save you from complete tedium, but they're all finite in supply. It's therefore wiser to be frugal with such equipment rather than deliquescing, skinning, or igniting everyone you meet.

Middling combat is the least of Blood Omen's woes, though. You come to understand this any time you summon a menu, exit a house, or transition from gameplay to a cinematic sequence. That's when a single ominous word materializes on your screen: LOADING. Do you need to switch weapons? Well, that'll cost you one LOADING to enter your inventory and another when you resume play. Did you select the wrong blade? That'll be two more LOADINGs. Are you heading to another region of the world map? That's a LOADING. Entering the brothel? LOADING. Rearranging your spells? LOADING. Recommencing your quest from a save file? You're damn right that'll be additional LOADING, and more still to come when you realize you need to equip the spiked mace and swap out Flay for Implode in your quick item menu. That's got to be about seven or eight LOADINGs in your future...

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PlayStation) imageBlood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PlayStation) image

If, like me, you're not a fan of constant loading screens and grow impatient when they're prevalent, then you might understand why I'm torn between adoring and despising this title.

Buried beneath a mountainous heap of LOADINGs, a bit of nauseating animation, and a helping of tiresome action, there is a terrific game in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. More than anything, it's worth experiencing for its lore. The world of Nosgoth is an intriguing place decked out with all manner of Gothic scenery and inhabited by some of the oddest denizens, from thin-armed demons to anthropomorphic slugs. Ultimately, I still think Blood Omen is at least worth playing through for those who wish to get into the Legacy of Kain series. You might want to consider procuring the PC iteration instead, though, which sports drastically reduced load times.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (June 19, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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