Everything about Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain can be explained by director Denis Dyack's desire to make "a game which adults would want to play". As a result, Silicon Knights made a game that deserves the M rating according to the ESRB, and in the process made something that it thinks is for adults.
In fact, Blood Omen was, at best, what edgy teenagers wanted to appear more adult, as there is nothing truly "mature" about the game. In their pursuit of making a game for adults, it appears that the developers not only loaded the game with wanton bloodlust and gore but also removed the "juvenile" concept of "fun" from the game altogether.
To top that off, the game has some excruciating loading times on the PS1. So much for busy adults wanting to play this game.
#A23: Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain:-
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics.
Developer: Silicon Knights.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10-point system. I fully recommend games that get above a 7, and those that get below are mostly a waste of time. The recommendation for a game scoring a 7 largely depends on your personal taste.
"The initiation of a new Aeon. When it becomes necessary to utter a word the whole planet must be bathed in blood..."
After a CGI opening that makes it clear that this isn't a game for kids, with death, blood, and gore aplenty, you are put into control of the game's protagonist, Kain who is immediately murdered and resurrected as a vampire.
Now undead and angry, Kain must wreak vengeance against his killers and their masters. You know that because Kain will constantly narrate his thoughts, expressing his wishes for vengeance in the most graphic and edgy ways possible. In fact, that style of narration extends to the entirety of the story, which is supposed to be presented in morally ambiguous ways. That's the aim, but not the result, which is that everyone is simply terrible, but to different degrees.
There is an irony in a corrupt character curing the corruption of the world
Sure, the world of Blood Omen is interesting, with the central lore about the Pillars of Nosgoth and their role in preserving the balance of the world shared between humans and vampires suggesting some hidden depth. Unfortunately, this story is not elaborated on much in the game, and beyond its muddy graphics and interesting world map, there is little to gather besides the narrative pauses of Kain.
Early in the game, villagers run from you on sight (since you are a vampire), but you later get the ability to disguise as a human. I thought that would be the point the game opens up and the story starts to shine. Instead, all villagers repeat the same color dialogue while giving a hint about what to do next. There is no personality to the villagers, just as there is no personality to the world other than its fervent desire to be edgy and cool.
"I didn't care if I was in heaven or hell. All I wanted was to kill my assassins. Sometimes, you get what you wish for"
The best way to describe Blood Omen as a game is that it is an unfun Legend of Zelda with an extra dose of lacking charm. It's a top-down Action-Adventure game in a poorly designed world, filled with poorly designed dungeons, where you fight poorly designed damage-sponge enemies in boring and unresponsive combat.
Shaking the basic combat and exploration is Kane's vampire abilities and weapons. For his adventuring needs, Kane has access to some forms that allow him to talk to humans, jump over short chasms, and fast travel. To more easily dispatch his enemies, Kane can either use some powerful magic spells through an MP gauge, or limited-use gadgets that you can find while exploring.
You can also suck the life out of dazed enemies
While these systems shake things up, you will get sick of them thanks to Blood Omen's key design flaw, which is its excruciating loading times. Every time you go into a dungeon, a village house, or the main menu, you will be greeted with seconds of blackness. More deadly and frequent is the shorter, but still notable, time the game loads when you go into your magic or transformation menu. There, what's supposed to be a snappy skill management system grounds the game to a halt.
If the game ran faster, you may be able to forgive its less-than-stellar mechanics and world design. However, with its technical limitation highlighting the weakness of its combat and level design, you are forced to contemplate how much fun you would have playing something else every time you are greeted with that black screen.
"Of all the methods I employ, this is perhaps the cruelest. Causing my victim's body to shrink on itself, crushing bones and rupturing organs til the pressure inside bursts the sack of fleshy skin, springing its contents for all to see"
In its pursuit of "adult" approval, Blood Omen naturally goes for a muted color palette for its world and a more realistic design approach to its characters and creatures. Both aspects work for what the game wants to look like, and thanks to its intelligent use of polygonal graphics, the game looks fine beyond its muted graphics, Silicon Graphics was known for its technical master in regards to graphics, as evidenced by the impressive (for the time) CGI scenes that punctuated key moments in the game.
Yet, it should be immediately apparent from any screenshot of the game that there is a glaring issue regarding the presentation.
Do you see what I am talking about
There is a big freakin banner that takes nearly a third of the screen. This banner is supposed to be the information display, but it takes so much real estate from the screen that you wonder how its design was ever approved. Seriously, this by itself is a testament to the poor design of the game.
At this point, I half expected the game's soundtrack to be a half-cooked mess. Instead, it's a solid effort at creating atmospheric music. In many ways, it complements the style of the voice acting and the world itself
If by making a game "which adults would want to play", Silicon Knight meant making a game devoid of joy and fun, then they have succeeded with flying colors. However, I don't think that the end product is something that most people would enjoy. This is a "mature" game in the eyes of edgy teenagers who want to grow up fast.
To be fair, something is interesting about the game's uber-edgy aesthetic and style, and I could see some people enjoy it despite its janky nature. Yet, one thing no one would enjoy is the game's excessive loading time.
That's where I implore you if you are still interested in playing this unfun game (which still wouldn't be fun even if it had instant loading), then play it on anything other than a PS1.
1- Break barrels for some loot.
2- Press the action button next to dazed enemies to suck their life force.
3- Use the wolf form for faster walking speed.
4- Some gates open based on the moon/sun phase.
5- You slowly regain MP.
6- If you ever want to experience this game, play its PC port.
Silicon Knights had a great grasp in making CGI scenes
For those reading one of my PS1 review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed both major Generation 4 consoles, and am now reviewing Generation 5 consoles. I already finished reviewing the Sega Saturn, so I am now reviewing the PS1. In these reviews, I take a top 100 games list and review the games that interest me in that list.
This time, my review series is based on this list from Retro Sanctuary and other sources, since the PS1 can handle a list bigger than a top 100.
Also, note the following:
-If you have any suggestions for a game that is not on the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest them.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Too bad they didn't have much grasp on making a decent UI
This is probably my most controversial review, since Blood Omen is much appreciated by some people. I think it's flawed in almost every way, and doubly so on the PS1 with its excessive loading times.
The next game on the list is one I am positive I will enjoy, and that's Wild Arms. I played the remake on the PS2, but the original is different enough (and shorter) that I would like to experience it.
For Previous PS1 Game Reviews: