Legacy of Kain: Defiance
The apparent conclusion to the Legacy of Kain series offers up a proper ending along with a range of graphical and gameplay enhancements.
By Rick Larson
The Legacy of Kain series has been very strong for the past several years. The impressive storytelling and enjoyable gameplay have created a large following of fans, really drawing them into the world of Kain. The only real problem has been the lack of a good, true ending. Not to say we want the series to end, but so many fans have been begging for these cliffhanger endings to end. The last two games with Raziel in the spotlight really frustrated many with its sudden halt in the story. Luckily Crystal Dynamics picked up on gamers' pleas for some closure, and created Legacy of Kain: Defiance - a game that not only heightens the plot but also adds an ending.
But a proper ending isn't all this game has to offer. Defiance has really been given the full makeover. Everything from the gameplay to the graphics and sound have been tweaked and enhanced to things as enjoyable as possible. The most important aspect of the series has always been the story, so that's where we'll begin. As the game begins the plot starts up where Soul Reaver 2 left off. To give a brief recap for anyone that missed the original, Kain was supposed to absorb Raziel into the Soul Reaver in order to fulfil his fate and prophecy. Kain stopped this however, hoping to earn some great power to defy Mobius. Defiance begins with Kain and Raziel separated by nearly 500 years. Kain's main intentions are to join with Raziel to defeat the time keeper Mobius, and fulfil the vampire prophecies. Raziel on the other hand is just searching for a meaning to his life and freedom from the underworld he is condemned to. Strangely enough, Kain wants to befriend Raziel while Raziel is hot headed and wants Kain's blood to spill. This is quite a difference from what many followers of the games are used to. As the game progresses, the story unfolds enjoyably as you switch back and forth through the roles of Raziel and Kain.
So the biggest new gameplay feature is that there are two main characters that each get equal amount of play time. Basically roles will be switched every other level. The controls are different for each character but only slightly so; players will never get confused when alternating. Special abilities are about all that changes. Each character's abilities revolve around their reavers but are used in different ways. While Kain can use his elemental powers as projectiles Raziel uses his to alter his surroundings such as freezing waterfalls so he can climb them or switching between realms. This offers good similarity but enough variety to keep it interesting. Along with these powers, the new telekinetic feature adds a twist to fighting. At any time our anti-heroes can use there telekinetic power to grab an enemy and either draw him in close for an attack or impale him on a spike. Key elements such as climbing, gliding, and the always popular soul and blood sucking powers.
Sadly gameplay falls short in a couple key areas. The new camera system is intended for a cool cinematic effect, which it does pull off at times, but often gets frustrating and seems to much like the poor Resident Evil camera. Above all, the most aggravating part of the game is the repetitive levels. Playing as two characters basically translates out into playing the same level twice only with small twists due to the 500 year time difference. That only means a wall may be destroyed for Kain but not Raziel. Then there are the god-awful vampire temples that the characters have to explore to get new abilities. It is basically the same level for around half the game doing the same thing over and over with slightly different puzzles. I expected more variety after playing the past titles. These levels make it seem as though they were rushed.
Graphically speaking, this game is a huge step up from the previous games including the most recent Blood Omen 2. The character models are very impressive boasting good poly counts and fluid animation. The environments look just as high quality with numerous textures and landscapes. These areas are also well structured to provide the many puzzles the series is known for. Defiance also hosts several new abilities with some very nice lighting and explosive effects. Slowdown is basically a no-show in this game as well. You can take on numerous enemies at one time without the worry of any framerate issues. The camera is supposed to do a quick transition between each room, but I found on more than one occasion the camera simply forgot to change, putting me in another room unable to see anything that was going on. This really becomes a problem when you are suddenly attacked during one of these incidents. The overall quality of the graphics are still well above average.
Defiance's sound quality is up to par with all the other titles of the series - pretty high quality. Voice acting sticks out the most in this category. Really, there are few titles in the genre that can match the voice acting in the Legacy of Kain series. This is what really pushes the story along. It also allows immerses you deeper into the gothic world. The sound effects aren't as good as the voice acting, but are good quality and do their job. Defiance's soundtrack is very decent and fits the game's environment. It isn't the best ever but it's enjoyable and creates a great atmosphere. In the end it's really that voice acting that makes the sound a shining star.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance does a lot right and a little wrong. It had the potential to be and instant classic but due to the camera, repetitiveness, and slight lack of depth, it falls short. There are several unlockables to find including concept art and filming of the voice actors. This creates a bit more depth but the game can be wrapped up in a good 4 to 5 days, maybe a week if time is taken.