The Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2
The human imagination has never ceased to amaze humans themselves. From the far past people used to fabricate fictional stories. Using their imagination, they created gods and named planets after them. They made up stories about gruesome beasts, and then hid from them. They even invented imaginary heroes only to go calling for them in times of stress! No matter how stupid these ideas are, they will never halt to fascinate our feeble, pleasantly empty minds. Nowadays, not only do these fantasies dazzle small kids (the ones trembling under their blankets, waiting for the monster hiding in the cupboard to cruelly rip them apart), they even provide gaming companies with a steady income!
One of Eidos’s most known series is the legend of Kain. It made its first appearance in Blood Omen that accomplished quite a success at its time, and was followed closely by the two Soul Reaver games. The main plot of the series centered around a vampire named Kain, who had chosen to curse the whole world and rule it rather than sacrifice himself and let it live peacefully. Players have always been thirsty for such genuine ideas, and that’s why the LOK series was quite a success. Being a vampire, possessing superhuman abilities, and using them to prey on powerless humans never fails to catch people’s attention, especially if some originality was included, like the ability to suck your victims’ blood. But still, the idea alone can’t assure the game’s success. The standards for good games are outstandingly high these days, so for a sequel to such a great series, people will be expecting a lot, a whole lot.
Kain, as the story tells, was no ordinary vampire. He was a vampire with ambition and power. With his soul reaver sword in hand he was a force to be reckoned with, and absolutely nothing could stand against him. In his quest for power, Kain raised a huge army of vampires, and then swept through the human cities in an attempt to conquer them. However, as his dreams for power drew nearer to reality, he met some unexpected foes. A large army of fanatical humans under the leadership of the Saraphim lord confronted him in battle, and using a lethal glyph magic, they defeated him utterly. For the duration of 200 years beyond Kain was thought to be dead, nothing but a buried forgotten tale, while truthfully his tale wasn’t finished yet. Now, after two whole centuries, a small group of vampires revive Kain hoping that he can complete what once was his dream, and every vampire’s dream. To rule Nasgoth.
This story is like a Picasso painting, no matter how long you keep staring at it, it never gets dull. Its opening may not grab your attention as much as others do, but the way it evolves throughout the game is sure to hook you intimately. You will always be meeting some vampires of whom Kain formerly knew, and while some of them will try to help you, others will be hiding you some surprises and gifts. It’s always interesting to observe Kain’s reactions, as a merciless vampire, to different characters and vampires around him. You’ll always be wondering about the way a vampire such as Kain thinks, and the way he would behave in different situations, and for that you’ll find yourself always anticipating his next move. I’m aware this kind of stories may not appeal to some people (the ones who prefer reality to fiction), but I’m from those who greatly appreciate original stuff.
Unfortunately though, when it comes to gameplay, BO2 takes a disastrously steep fall. First of all, the puzzles are extremely annoying. There’s always some red box for you to move, or a hidden lever to pull. Not once are you surprised by a new idea, a change of routine or even any attractive symbol to draw your attention! Actually, the puzzles are so simple that your small brother would blush when he spots you doing them, ok I’m exaggerating, but there is no challenge in them at all. They are so repetitive and aimless that you would feel like doing the household chores or something instead, it may be more tedious but it certainly isn’t pointless! Heck, I’ve even known some people to enjoy doing the laundry more than I enjoyed solving the puzzles of this game!
Back to the point, when I think of action games, I usually like to feel involved in them. If the player can’t truly feel the atmosphere of the game; the fear of the people around him, the danger lurking in the darkness, and Kain’s lavish lust for blood, all these things, if you can’t actually feel them, then the game will have completely failed. What’s the use of playing as a vampire, if you can hardly outrun a simple thug? And then they tell you that you can jump farther and higher than any human who has ever lived, while truthfully you can barely hop around like an athlete of some sort. The game really fails in convincing you that you’re controlling a vampire, not James Bond in disguise. Where’s the legendary speed and mystic powers vampires are supposed to have? They’re nowhere to be found!
Furthermore, Eidos also fails in shaping an environment that can persuade you to so strangely think that you’re some sort of a creature resembling a vampire. Either it is that all people in the city are exceptionally brave, or outstandingly dumb. They always stand there – lazily – waiting for you to attack them before they would even feel disturbed. I’m a vampire god damn it! I’m supposed to kill you and suck your blood you stupid peasant! But looks like that stupid peasant is just too stupid to be alarmed before you start actually ‘killing’ him. He will stand right there, with a moronic smile – or without – waiting for you to come and rip him apart.
I can go as far as to say that the fighting system of this game is a great one, but then again we hit this same obstacle. I suddenly wake up to the outrageously dumb, gravely weird, unearthly strange idea that I’m actually supposed to be a vampire! I’m not supposed to stand right there, evading that guard’s continuous attacks, because he would simply block mine if I don’t wait to the suitable moment to strike. Agility is considered to be one of the most distinctive features of vampires, yet I can barely step two inches aside when my enemy charges to hit me with an unblockable attack of his!
Well, if I would think of it purely as a fighting system, then I can say it’s a good one. There are many types of attacks; they include normal ones, exceedingly powerful ones, and totally unblockable ones. It is really interesting to exchange blows with a guard, blocking his normal attacks, evading his unblockable ones, and finally finishing him off with one of your extremely powerful blows. There is a variety of weapons you can choose from too, all with different moves, and possibly K.O. hits in certain situations. So basically, the fighting system isn’t bad, but unluckily it does not fit the idea of the game. I can’t stress this enough, you never feel that you’re controlling a vicious bloody vampire!
While BO2 fails miserably in portraying that gloomy frightful image of vampires in your mind, it still manages to promote itself as a decent game overall. If you think of it as a normal action game, where you play as some sort of a street fighter – who can strangely suck the blood of people around him – instead of a vampire, then it won’t feel so bad. For one the fighting system is enjoyable, and the boss fights included are enormously amusing as well. They are so creative and interesting that you’ll find yourself constantly asking for the next boss fight to start. To win, you might be using brute strength in a battle, stealth in a second and even some illusive tricks in a third. Sometimes Kain will be meeting his foe on a moving platform, while in others the encounter will take place amidst thick fog. Eidos’ team seems to have an amazingly good taste when it comes to boss fights, and the various ones present in Blood Omen 2 stand witnesses to that.
The bosses in BO2, in addition to being incredibly engaging to fight, are usually very generous when you beat them. They will – so lightheartedly – hand you one of their Dark Gift abilities in compensation for all the pain they have caused you, of course, before they mysteriously die that is. Dark Gifts are supernatural abilities only vampires can have, and they come in very handy to your shadowy figure as you progress throughout the game. Some skills like “Mist”, which make you disappear inside a cloud of fog, could aid you in killing your enemies stealthily, while others, such as ‘Fury’, can be unleashed during combat to deliver mass amounts of damage to your foes. These are the only things in the whole game that managed to convince me, partially, that I’m a vampire, to some degree.
Generally speaking, action games composed of stages, such as this one, are known for their relatively short life span. It is very rare that we see any long prevailing game formed only of stages (levels) without any kind of additional options, such as a mini-game or a multiplayer mode. Thus, I had been expecting Blood Omen 2 to be rather short with little replay value from the outright beginning, but what I didn’t expect, however, was to find it this short. This game is just shorter than a dwarf’s beard. Hmm, a one that’s not been left to grow for too long. Whenever you finish the game the first time, the doors of further replaying will be locked up swiftly and, most unfortunately, forever. You just hit another dead end with no bonuses, difficulties or anything more to draw your attention whatsoever, it’s just – plain simply – the end!
The dreadful world of vampirism can only be simulated by the most inspirational of graphics. It’s not only the good texturing and high details that’s needed; creativity and realism are also required. To believe you are sucking the blood of someone, you will need to see more than crispy highly-filtered pictures. You will need to see some originality, and here’s where Blood Omen 2 gains some points. The general mood of the graphics, in addition to being very realistic, fits the game pretty well. Imagine this: two corpses lie still in a small dark alley; you can see blood splattered all over the place, on the walls, the ground and the many metal rods leaning against the wall. Then suddenly a vampire appears out of the fog, he looks down on his victims, and instantly, a line of blood starts streaming in a rush to his mouth as if by gravity, while his eyes glow dark red, and the corpses start shaking calmly like tree leaves being tickled by cold soft breeze. Do you see what I mean? This is the kind of creativity which makes this game’s graphics great.
When I think of the audio effects of this game, my mind gets really hazy. I don’t seem to remember any kind of sound effect or music part whatsoever, neither good nor bad. This is due mostly to the terribly average audio present in this game; which is lifeless and empty, yet in a manner, not bad. The music barely cuts the limit between being dull and being interesting, ending on a plainly mediocre scale.
This game is a strange mixture, much like a good recipe that was screwed up by a dumb cook. It really had potential, but in the end, the execution was pretty poor. The story and the original idea were like great dough, but were unfortunately ruined by the awful baking powder, which is in this case, the disappointing gameplay. Some small sprinkles of good graphics helped to improve the game, but the bland sound effects came out completely tasteless, ruining the recipe furthermore. In the end, if you didn’t get my point take this: Blood Omen 2 could have been an awesome game, but it was, unluckily, poorly executed.