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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Eidos

 

Developer

Crystal Dynamics

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- Looks and sounds great

- Interesting story and engaging protagonist

- Good control

- Cool Dark Gifts

- Quick loads

 

 

- Limited replayability

- Lock-on combat doesn’t work well

- Levers everywhere!

 

 

Review: Blood Omen 2 (Playstation 2)

Review: Blood Omen 2 (XBox)

Review: Gungrave (Playstation 2)

 

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Blood Omen 2

Score: 6.9 / 10

 

One advantage to reviewing a game I'm already very familiar with is that it slashes required play time by about 65%.  Going into a game knowing what's required, where to go, and what's going to happen next is a huge advantage.  The strategies are already known so hacking through to learn the ins and outs is easy.  Yay, for that!  However, you'd think with all the time gone by since Blood Omen 2's initial release back in April 2002 on Playstation 2 and Xbox, there could have been some changes made to rectify problems and gripes brought to light by critics and gamers.  But I'm digressing even before I start...

 

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Blood Omen 2 (BO2) is actually one in a series of games that until now have appeared primarily on Sony consoles with Soul Reaver having been released on the DC and PC as well.  New gamers can be excused from not knowing where BO2 fits in the timeline since it doesn’t affect how you play the game, but for the dedicated fan:

 

“Blood Omen 2 takes place two hundred years after Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, and several centuries before the events of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.  The vampire Kain awakens in a strange city with almost no memory of his former self.  Another vampire, Umah, has taken him in and revived him to health after a deadly battle that Kain barely remembers.  He is weak, and has lost much of his former powers.  Worse still, his weapon, the Soul Reaver, is missing.  Umah begins to fill Kain in on the recent past [and that a Cabal of vampires is plotting the Sarafan’s downfall], and pieces of Kain’s shattered memory return.”

 

The story and character design are BO2’s strongest features.  Even though Kain starts the game by slaughtering prisoners that are chained to the wall and continues the carnage throughout the game, he becomes nearly likeable by the time the credits roll.  Kain’s a complex character driven by two base desires: blood and revenge.  One reason the story manages to outperform most action games is its linearity – Kain moves from Point A to Point B and the story is stronger for it.  However, the linearity is BO2’s second biggest detraction.

 

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Being linear, BO2 forces you to go to specific points even though some levels seem to have more areas to explore.  Puzzles are scattered throughout and many require backtracking through a level to make progress.  On the whole, the level design is fairly good (with the odd nook to find) and it captures a mood of dread and foreboding even if you’re funneled from one location to the next.

 

The biggest hit to BO2 stems from the combat and since combat is an integral part of BO2 the flaws are especially 

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glaring.  The right trigger “locks” onto a target allowing you to execute a number of punch and grab moves.  I put “locks” in quotation marks for a couple of reasons.  First, you have to hold the trigger down to maintain a lock – you can’t just hit the trigger.  The other reason is that it doesn’t really lock onto the target unless you’re directly in front of the enemy all the time.  For example, Kain’s locked onto an enemy but that enemy manages to flank him – Kain will still be locked on but he can’t attack backwards or block (or even jump) making him a sitting duck. (Dodging to the side does nothing.)  It forces you to run away then line them up again. (I would have liked something along the lines of Legend of Zelda’s Z-targeting.)  In a fortunate quirk, enemies only attack one at a time so you don't have to worry about taking on multiple enemies all at once.  Other than the above, the control is solid and easy to learn.

 

However, combat can be a joy when used in conjunction with Kain’s Dark Gifts, that he attains from defeated boss characters.  Although he can access Immolate (lighting enemies on fire during combat) and a cool Jump power, my favorite is a power that Kain has right from the start of the game called Mist.  This power allows Kain to virtually disappear when standing in clouds of ground fog and sneak up on enemies to execute some brutal “instant death” attacks.

 

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Besides Kain’s claws, there are also a variety of weapons to use.  Each handle a little differently but if you decide you don’t like a weapon you’re carrying, you can’t drop it unless you come across a different weapon or die.  The other way a weapon can be “dropped” is that it just plain wears out and breaks.

 

Graphics are crisp and manage to be dark without being totally murky.  The animation is good if repetitive at times.  When Kain kills a victim and sucks blood from the corpse the same animation is played again and again.  By the end of the game you’ll wish they’d come up with a few different animations or at least given the opportunity to skip them. (There’s no way to skip the cutscenes either.)  Sound design is subtle, with much more ambient sound and NPC conversations going on, than a heavy music score.  The emphasis on ambient sound creates a better atmosphere than if the music was relied on alone.

 

While I’d definitely recommend Blood Omen 2 as a rental (and possibly as a “buy” if you’re a Legacy of Kain fan from years gone by), I’d have reservations recommending it to hard-core gamers, although at $20US....  It’s got a great story and a well-defined protagonist, the graphics and sound provide a suitable sense of place, but the problem with the “lock” during combat and the funnel quality will more than likely turn some people off.

 

- Omni

(January 12, 2003)

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