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Kerrik52's LoK Retrospective #12 - The Essence of Blood Omen


With the entirety of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain behind us, I think it is worthwhile to summarize all the game's elements to really understand what makes this franchise tick. Especially since once we move past Blood Omen, a lot of what I have talked about so far will be left by the wayside to focus on the franchise's core elements.

The quickest way to summarize Blood Omen is through its contemporaries, both for what Blood Omen does and does not do like them. At its surface, calling it edgy Link to the Past gets you pretty far. It has a top-down perspective, simplistic sword & magic combat, puzzles, a somewhat open overworld, dungeons, only everything is covered in blood and grime.

The biggest differentiating factor though is the heavy focus on story and the presentation thereof, beating both Final Fantasy 7 and Metal Gear Solid to the punch when it comes to FMVs and full voice acting on the Playstation.

But it is not as serious as I remember it being. It was my intent to refrain from cracking jokes about Legacy of Kain, as I felt the series deserved better. But Blood Omen is pretty narmy. The script itself is serious, but due to the production, it ends up feeling a bit silly at times. The small pool of voice actors in particular, as Simon Templeman and Tony Jay voice all the male NPCs by putting on incredibly silly voices, which I cannot communicate fully over text. But you are playing along yourself, are you not?

Beyond that though, it is so grimdark that it feels silly at points. The frequent murder basements became a bit of a running gag and without any narrative heft to the game's towns, you have to fill in the blanks yourself. And I for one care little for imagining the reasons for all this excessive debauchery and prefer to instead crack jokes about it.

Apropo of nothing, here is a video showcasing the HMS Bitter, the game's grandest secret which I could not think of a good spot to discuss.

It is important for the main theme of corruption though, which I have been hammering on about for this whole time. With Nosgoth being such a crapsack world and close to everyone of its big players being malicious at best, it follows that the world at large would suck so much and why Kain going for the "Bad Ending" over the good one makes sense to me.

Anyway, here is my list of things that constitute Blood Omen:

  • A large focus on a linear narrative without clear good characters.
  • A brutal world full of deceit and monsters with multiple factions vying for control.
  • Full voice acting with a theatrical flair.
  • Themes of revenge, decay, corruption and destiny.
  • Time travel.
  • Simplistic combat built more on resource management than skill.
  • A gameplay loop centered around weighing the risk of combat versus the health reward it brings.
  • Constant health drain to incentivize combat.
  • Lame boss fights.
  • Rudimentary puzzles.
  • Significant player progression based on increase in health, "ammo" and the aquisition of new abilities and equipment without any levelling system.
  • A semi-open world with metroidvania elements, tons of secrets and a population to interact with.

With all of these things put together, you get something quite unique, especially for the time. And the sequel will carry most of this over, but there will naturally be some additions and omissions that changes the resulting game.

On that topic, I want to highlight how little Blood Omen leaves open for a sequel. Remember our two remaining questions?

  • "Who was Janos Audron of Uschtenheim?"
  • "What is the origin of the Soul Reaver?"

That, coupled with the two endings leaves preciously little to build upon. If we continue from the good ending, with Nosgoth restored and Kain dead, the only thing I can imagine would be a completely new story focused on a new set of Pillar Guardians. Perhaps you could go for a different angle with their relationship, maybe have half be good and half be evil and build a conflict out of that. It would work, but it would feel so distant it might as well go for a new setting.

The evil ending is similarly restrictive. One idea is to make the game about Kain conquering Nosgoth, which does not seem interesting, as Blood Omen has proven him to be quite unstoppable and you would need to introduce new, unheard of factions to build a narrative out of it. Now that I think about it, I think that would work best as an RTS, which is funny, given Silicon Knights' background on PC.

You could also make Kain the villain and have someone fight to kill him and save Nosgoth. Out of these three paths, this one has the most narrative weight, which should come as no surprise, since that is what Crystal Dynamics went with. But destiny had other things in store for this franchise and it would not end up being that simple.

Join me next time in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver as I discuss the history of the game's development and the two "X Factors" that against all odds turned this series from duology into legend.

As always, Vae Victus!

- Welcome to my world, Enjoy your stay, But always remember, There is no return.

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About Kerrik52one of us since 3:12 AM on 02.28.2016

Greetings, one and all. I'm known as Kerrik52 around these parts and I'm Swedish dude working as an app developer.

I play a lot of games, even the bad ones if they have something interesting to offer. I then write about them on this site for you all to read. I've written about a ton of stuff, but nowadays I mostly write reviews of games with the odd disscussion blog making its way out of my brain every month. My pride and joy is my From Software retrospective, which I highly recommend as a substitute to actually struggling through their first-person games on your own.

When it come to games, I'm mostly an action, platformer, horror, Immersive Sim and JRPG fanatic, but I try to keep my gaming diet varied from time to time. Here are some games/series I love:

Souls Games
God Hand
Immersive Sims
Resident Evil 4
Tales of
Ratchet & Clank
Devil May Cry
Legacy of Kain
Spyro the Dragon
Shin Megami Tensei
Anything by Falcom

I have a very low standard for movies, but I still have some distinct favorites. These include:

The Secret Life of Walter Witty
Pooh's Grand Adventure

Anime is a bite of a side-gig for me, but I'm a proud member of the Symphogear Choir.

Go ahead and share a piece of your world with me and I'll pay back in kind. Don't be deterred if I answer you with a wall of text though. I just can't help it sometimes.