In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Crystal Dynamics promises a simplified storyline, clearer objectives, less puzzle-solving and more focus on the action/fighting. So will this be enough to lift the series to new heights? For some time, Raziel and Kain's outings have been a moderate success story for Crystal Dynamics. Although regularly eclipsed by another Eidos title, the little-known Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics has always done reasonable business with the vampire saga. Now the California-based developer is centre stage as Eidos hands the next Tomb Raider game to them (ending a long relationship with TR creators Core). With the spotlight firmly on them, there's more need than ever before to make their current franchises successful as Defiance brings together the stars of Blood Omen and Soul Reaver, with a major facelift to boot."After Soul Reaver 2, we felt it was time to step back and re-evaluate the franchise", comments Amy Hennig, director of the series, who's worked on the saga since it began on the first PlayStation. "With Legacy of Kain: Defiance, we're taking the game in a new direction, emphasising heroic action while still preserving the game's compelling story and adventure elements." Hennig adds, "Our innovative new combat system emphasises intuitive controls, over-the-top attacks and combos, powerful telekinetic assaults and visceral finishing moves which draw from our heroes' dark, vampiric natures".
First and foremost, Crystal Dynamics has overhauled the entire combat system for both characters. Taking full advantage of their vampiric talents, they've expanded their moves and added lethal combos to their bloody attacks. The need for action above cut scenes doesn't mean the story's not as compelling as in previous chapters, but as the FMV is streamlined to allow you to get stuck into the action with minimal delays (unlike the lengthy cut scenes of, say, MGSII). "The combat, action, and story of Legacy of Kain sets a new standard in epic adventure gaming", says Rob Dyer, President of Eidos Interactive. "Legacy of Kain: Defiance skillfully combines the strongest elements the franchise has brought to the videogaming universe."Along with this overhaul comes the opportunity to select one of two vampires; Raziel, the anti-hero demon from previous Soul Reaver games, and Kain, the powerful demigod who's appeared in every episode so far.
A Common Evil
Gamers who've followed the series see the twisted saga continue, answering questions not addressed previously. New players will be embraced by a stand-alone tale which explains everything without boring experienced gamers to tears. The entire story unfolds from each character's perspective, revealing their darkest secrets and fulfiling both of their destinies with one almighty conflict in the game's finale.
As we said earlier in the feature, the new title's gameplay structure is much more action-orientated. A great example of this is the 'gang attack' nature of the fighting. Instead of coming across a group that battles you one by one, they all attack at once.The combat system in this latest chapter is remarkably more responsive, with elaborate combos allowing you to execute attacks in the air as well as on the ground. In fact, you can perform as many aerial attacks as ground ones.
Games familiar to the series will be happy to hear Kain and Raziel have their swords to defend and attack. Added to this are a number of special attacks that relate to their swords and their new telekinetic abilities. These unique attacks can be linked with basic attack moves in various ways, allowing a nearly endless list of possible combos to master.In line with the previous titles, Raziel still needs to feed on souls, while Kain requires blood. Raziel seems to be extracting souls in the same way he did before. However, Kain can now draw blood from a beaten opponent through telekinesis as well as the traditional go-for-the-jugular method.
Aside the scope of battle, the gameplay also includes some intricate but far from baffling puzzle-solving. Like in previous Soul Reaver titles, Raziel switches between the spectral realm and normal world, with some puzzles requiring him to jump back and forth. Kain also needs to solve various puzzles in his chapters. As part of a series, Legacy of Kain: Defiance is an outstanding improvement on anything that's gone before. Defiance's environments are quite stunning to look at, with massive areas to explore and fight in. A great example of the impressive look of the game is Raziel's first level. This is where the body of an Elder God occupies much of the level, and moves around slightly to give the impression that the whole environment is alive. A great start to the game.Physically, Kain and Raziel look very similar to their previous incarnations, but this time sporting some impressive new detail and plenty more animation. Defiance's camera system features a more cinematic feel, designed to more effectively send you in the right direction. Unlike previous titles, the camera works very well. In fact, you have no problems keeping your eye on the action this time. Plus you can also access a first-person perspective via the right analogue stick.
Defiance is looking pretty fab all round so far. The game's new method of storytelling and emphasis on combat offer refreshing changes of pace for the series, and its good-looking characters and level designs mean we're really looking forward to seeing the full game when it hits the shelves in November.
- Play as both Kain and Raziel for double the fun
- Engage in intense combat, utilising thrilling combo moves and physical agility to destroy hordes of human, demonic, and undead foes
- Employ new telekinetic powers to manipulate the environment and hurl your enemies into obstacles, impale them on sharp objects or throw them off ledges to their deaths
- Feed your dark hunger by sucking blood and devouring the souls of your enemies to survive
- A redesigned in-game camera offers dynamic views of both the action and breathtaking environments
- Massively-improved enemy AI, we're told
- The ability to skip non-critical cut scenes
- Secret areas and hidden bonus items reward exploration and enhance replay value
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (1997 – PC, PSone)You are Kain, journeying through the depraved lands of Nosgoth in search of your killers. You quench your thirst with the blood of your victims along the way. Morph into a Wolf, Bat, Vampire or Mist to slaughter those who oppose you in your quest for revenge.
Soul Reaver: Legacy of Kain (1998 – PSone)A mysterious entity, Raziel, seeks vengeance for his betrayal by his master, Kain. Cursed to stalk the dark realms of Nosgoth, he must kill to survive and solve puzzles to progress and face Kain again.
Soul Reaver 2
(2001 – PS2)
Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2 (2002 – PS2)Once again you're the vampire Kain, the most evil figure ever to appear in a videogame. You move through crowds unseen, cloaked in stealth as you travel through the peasant herds on which you feed.
See: www.eidos.com for information on the new game.
PSi2: This is the first title in the series which gives gamers the opportunity to play as both Raziel and Kain. Are their stories intertwined or separate?MG: Although you alternate between playing Kain and Raziel, their stories are very much intertwined. In fact, at the beginning of the game, Kain is trying to find Raziel, who is separated not only by distance but also time. Eventually their two storylines merge together.
PSi2: Can you choose which character you control?MG: No. Since the game is chapter-based, we alternate between playing Kain and Raziel, based on the chapter the player is in.
PSi2: What powers and abilities do Raziel and Kain share, if any?MG: To avoid confusion, both Kain and Raziel's basic mechanics work the same way. However, they have a lot of specialised moves and attacks, which are different per character. For example, Kain can't glide, but he has a stronger Telekinetic attack. In addition, both characters' Reaver blades are enhanced with special combat abilities as Kain and Raziel progress through the game. For example, one of Raziel's charge moves allows him to become invisible.
PSi2: There's been a lot of tweaking to the game since the last episode, what's new?MG: Obviously, for a start we've united two strands of our story universe under a single banner (Legacy of Kain). For the first time, the player can to play both as Raziel and Kain in one game, allowing for a more interesting variety of game styles based on each character's abilities. We've also made a conscious effort to focus on creating a more robust combat system that allows for more frantic and rewarding gameplay. In addition, we've changed the camera system to move from our traditional behind-the-player camera to a more cinematic in-game system.
PSi2: Will this installment have more action than puzzle-solving?MG: There's a pretty good balance. We haven't abandoned the puzzle-solving aspects of the series, but there definitely is more action than in Soul Reaver 2. In the end, I would estimate the split is around 65% combat, 35% puzzles. We've also reintroduced boss battles, which were missing from the last game.
PSi2: Have the camera mechanics been altered or improved at all?MG: The camera system has been completely overhauled. We've changed the camera system to move from our traditional behind-the-player camera to a more cinematic in-game system, similar to the camera system in ICO. Although we were really happy with the old system, we felt the player spent way too much time managing the camera, which was a pain during combat or gliding. The new system requires no input from the player. In the past, the player had to reposition the camera by rotating it with the right analogue stick. Now the camera is spline-based, which allows us to position the camera for the player. Not only does the camera now feel more cinematic and fluid, it also allows us to help guide the player.
PSi2: Will there still be a free view function?MG: Yes. Although we manage where the camera looks, the player can nudge the camera while moving to look around further. Or if the player stops, they can go to a first-person camera and explore their surroundings as in the previous game.
PSi2: Are the levels very linear or can you go back and have a go at previous levels to try and do better?MG: The game does play through in chapters. However, you can definitely go back and explore previous levels. We have bonus items hidden throughout the game, so we actually reward the player for exploring more.
PSi2: Tell us a little about the work you've done on the combat system for each character and what they can do.MG: The combat system has undergone a major overhaul, to allow truly simultaneous conflict with multiple enemies. We've enriched the fighting mechanics with a cool new system of combos, many over-the-top moves and improved enemy AI. Enemies no longer just run in and wait their turn to fight you – now they choose between (for example) trying to flank the player, hanging back and launching projectile attacks, using longer-range hand-to-hand attacks or getting close in for some dirty hand-to-hand brawling. Kain and Raziel also have a new combat ability: telekinesis. Using a very simple but effective game mechanic, the player can pick up or throw attackers into objects within the level. For example, the player can impale an enemy on a hanging spike, or set the creature on fire by throwing it into a flaming wall torch.
PSi2: As a vampire, do you have to feed off your victims?MG: Absolutely, although it's slightly different for each character. Kain requires blood, so he must feed off 'live' victims. Raziel requires souls, so he can feed off of both live and spectral enemies [sounds delicious – Ed].
PSi2: There's talk of telekinesis in the game. How does that work?MG: Telekinesis has been featured in previous Kain games, but it was always used as a non-combat ability that was mainly used to solve puzzles. For Legacy of Kain: Defiance, we've added it as a combat mechanic. Raziel and Kain can use their telekinetic attacks to pick up enemies and throw them into objects such as hanging spikes or lanterns, or even to throw them off of an object such as a cliff face. They can also use the attack to simply push an enemy away from them. Each character has a telekinesis power meter which drains as they use a telekinetic attack. It recharges over time, and as the player progresses through the game, this recharge becomes faster. However, the player needs to balance how they use the attack. Simply pushing an enemy away uses a tiny amount of energy. Picking up an enemy and throwing them high up into a spike uses more.
PSi2: FMV moments in Legacy of Kain have always been stunning. Are the sequences in this one better?MG: We're not doing an FMV as such in this game. All of the 60 minutes of cinematics are done in-engine now, however the quality is amazing and fans won't be disappointed. Since Soul Reaver 1, console technology has obviously come along way, and the in-game Kain now looks as good as the Hi-Res Kain that was in the first Soul Reaver FMV.
PSi2: Are they 'cross-legs, need-a-wee' long or short and sweet?MG: There is over 60 minutes-worth, so yeah, go to the bathroom first. However, unlike previous games, you can pause or skip all cinematics!
PSi2: The story has always been strong in the Legacy of Kain series. How does this game's storyline compare with previous episodes?MG: Fans of the previous games won't be disappointed. As always, the story has been written by Amy Hennig. Without giving away anything too much, Amy's made a huge effort to make sure a lot of the loose story ends from previous games get wrapped up in this one.
PSi2: What would you say is the key to keeping a franchise fresh without losing its following with radical changes?MG: The challenge has been to keep the technology and gameplay fresh and innovative as the series matures. You have to strike a balance between preserving the basic elements (mechanics, features, characters, world) that are pillars of the series, while having the courage to discard elements that failed to work, or are no longer relevant. For instance, changing the camera this time was something we didn't have to do as its worked fine since Soul Reaver 1, and in fact a lot of games still use our old system successfully. However, the team felt that changing the system would not only make the game easier to play, but would also give it a much more appealing and cinematic look.
PSi2: Would you say Raziel and co. have a cult following? If so, would you prefer that to the pressure of say, Tomb Raider proportions?MG: We have an incredibly loyal and vocal fan base that we follow on the online forums, so we're always conscious of this when making game decisions. I'm not sure if the number really makes any difference as far as pressure goes.
PSi2: Are all the original voice actors back for this one, or are they new?MG: All the original actors are returning. Michael Bell will again play Raziel and Somon Templeman plays Kain.
PSi2: The series has always enjoyed moderate success. Do you think Kain's legacy can continue on PS2, even with Crystal Dynamics taking over the Tomb Raider franchise?MG: Like anything in this industry, I think Legacy of Kain will continue as a franchise for as long as it's a financial success, which is why the team hasn't got complacent since the last game. For Legacy of Kain: Defiance, we've tried to focus on game elements that keep our loyal fans happy, but also attract new players to the series.
PSi2: With franchises more important than ever, how important is the Legacy of Kain series now in the Crystal Dynamics portfolio?MG: The Legacy of Kain series has always been a mainstay of the Crystal Dynamics portfolio for a long time, and as long as it continues to be successful, I can't see any reason to change that. The team is already making plans for the next game.
PSi2: Will we ever see Kain enter a modern human world and cause a bit of chaos in the 21st Century?MG: Well, throughout the series Kain and Raziel have jumped around time, so it certainly would be within the realm of possibilities. Sounds quite fun, actually!
- Bloody and violent, the new game pulls no punches
- Kain uses his massive sword to defend against multiple attackers and can protect himself with ease
- Expect some awesome aerial battles over the rooftops of Nosgoth
- Kain doesn't have to touch his victims to feed. Through telekinesis he can move the blood to him
- Raziel has his telekinesis moves too, here moving a victim into mid air
- Raziel's new combos mean he can take on big groups all at once
- Kain pulls his telekinesis move on an unlucky attacker
- Kain's a big guy, but he has to adapt his strategy to beat giants...
- This entire level is alive, moving in the background as you fight
- Kain, like Raziel, can defend against certain attacks
- Raziel faces some [TO BE ADDED] competition in the cemetery level
- 'Expect grander level designs in the new game'