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Score: 6.8 / 10
I must be getting older. When Blood Omen
2’s protagonist, Kain, says he’ll hunt down and kill the vampires that
have sided with his arch nemesis, the Sarafan Lord, I couldn’t quite
resolve it with the fact that vampires have been hunted to near
extinction (in the game world). That is to say, does it really serve
your cause in the long run to help move that extinction along when you
yourself are a vampire?
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.
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 funnelled 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 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.
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), I’d have reservations
recommending it to hard-core gamers. 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.