Crystal Dynamics
Eidos
Action
1
11.11.03

Legacy of Kain: Defiance


The Legacy of Kain franchise has had a huge following ever since Blood Omen, the first of the series, became available for the Sony Playstation in 1997. However, I can't say I was one of them. I'd pick the game up for a little bit, but I was always turned off by how complex, and sometimes completely vague the story was. But after picking up Legacy of Kain: Defiance, I have a whole new outlook on the series. Not only does Defiance explain any question you could have had about the other games, but it does so with a whole slew of new improvements and style.

I'm just going to skim the surface of what is going on here… it's just too much to get into. Whether you are a follower of the series or new to the game, the story of the game (and all previous versions) is laid out in plain view for you. Basically, the story revolves around Kain, a nobleman and leader who turned vampire attempting to gain control of the world; and Raziel, a formal lieutenant of Kain who has been cast down into the spectral world by the Elder God. Both characters stories play out hundreds of years apart from each other, but they both tie together by the end of the story.

Gameplay

Defiance is the first game of the Legacy of Kain series where you get to play as both Kain and Raziel in the same game. Both characters are very similar in control, but each has different skills that allow them continue on the paths that they need to follow. For example, Kain can walk through grated doors, while Raziel must be in the spectral realm to do so. Kain can't touch water, but Raziel can swim underneath the surface to reach another chamber. Kain is mostly used during combat-heavy levels, while Raziel is partial to puzzle-solving quests.

Most importantly, Defiance sports a much improved combat system. Both characters have separate telekinesis (TK) powers, which allow them to knock down, lift, and throw characters. You'll also find the familiar reavers, with Kain having slightly less variations available than Raziel.

As you proceed through the game, you'll learn new moves that will help you through battles as they become more difficult. This proves to be great and disappointing at the same time; half of the time I was unable to duplicate the controls shown to do the move correctly. The moves are sweet once you pull them off, but more thought should have been put into how to actually get the moves to work.

Something else that I wasn't exactly happy with in Defiance was the camera system. The fixed point/floating camera concept works great, until you get it caught behind a wall, or end up fighting an enemy off the side of the screen to the point where you can't see anything that is going on. It makes for some excellent views of the levels, but it's not worth it at all if you can't see what is going on at certain points.

Last but not least, Defiance seems to have quite a bit of bugs in the level design. At one point I jumped between two rocks with Raziel, and I was unable to move afterwards. The only thing I could do was reset my system and start over. At other points in the game, you can run up to certain points in walls and all the sudden begin to fall into an infinite void. These seem like things that could have been easily fixed, but for some reason they were overlooked before the game shipped.

Graphics

The graphics are the most impressive aspect of Defiance. It's obvious that a lot of research time was put into the level design and textures. You'll come across a good bit of jaw-dropping areas, all while enjoying it at a steady 60 frames per second. Character motion is completely fluid and believable, and slight effects such as a snowfall or a light haze really set the atmosphere. Effects from the reaver and special attacks look especially nice.

One thing that every player might not enjoy is the effect applied to Raziels spectral realm. The multi-offset-layer blur is cool at first, but unfortunately becomes a little annoying and disorientated after playing with it for awhile. Then again, you may just love it and not mind it at all. It's really a toss-up, but you may like it.

Sound

The sound in Defiance doesn't disappoint either. The voice acting for Kain and Raziel is better than ever, and the background scores really set the mood of each level. The faint screams and cries for help in Raziels spectral realm are enough to give you chills.

The only complaint I have about the sound is what you hear when attacking an enemy. It almost sounds like you're squeezing water out of a sponge, or squishing a big fat juicy bug with your shoe. Although these sounds aren't exactly what you expect to hear as you knock someone down with your reaver, it doesn't really take away from the experience.

Replay Value

As much as I enjoyed playing through this game, I don't think I'd play through it again. Its fairly long (about 35-40 hours), and you'll most likely get just about everything the first time through. Fans of the series may want to play through a second time, but the story is completed well enough that you feel satisfied with just one run through.

Bottom Line:

Although it lacks some refinement and could use a good polish, Legacy of Kain: Defiance is a game worthy of the popular series. Excellent gameplay, beautiful graphics, and amazing sound make for an awesome experience. It's definitely worth buying, but if you don't want to purchase it, at least give it a rental play…you won't regret it.

Related Links:

Official Legacy of Kain Defiance Website

-Greg Cooper




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