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Crystal Dynamics



M (Mature)



Q4 2003



- Combat is much more versatile and intense than the previous installment
- Looks great
- Sounds good
- Tells a compelling, if confusing, story



- Camera flipping takes a toll
- Some aimless running around



Review: Blood Omen 2 (XB)

Review: BloodRayne (XB)

Review: Blade II (XB)



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Legacy of Kain: Defiance

Score: 8.4 / 10


legacy of kain defiance xbox review          legacy of kain defiance xbox review


The two biggest complaints I had with the previous Kain instalment was the method for “feeding” and the lock-on combat. (Scoot over to our review of Blood Omen 2.) In combination, they knee-capped an otherwise atmospheric action game with a cool protagonist and semi-interesting story. Legacy of Kain: Defiance addresses most of the criticized aspects of Blood Omen 2 while upping the presentation and inserting a baffling story.

But on the topic of story, Defiance puts you alternately in the boots of vampire Kain and soul-sucker Raziel. They have a history, which is explained in the manual and by cutscenes accessed through the main menu. Examining these may give you a better idea what’s really going on in Defiance, but it served to baffle me (at least at the outset). In a nutshell, it’s all about time-traveling vampires. And although the story is on the confusing side, you can’t help but anticipate the cutscenes that move the story along thanks to the great delivery by the cast. They give the impression




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that they take the role seriously – deadly seriously – and it pays off with some good encounters.

The combat is drastically improved over Blood Omen 2. No longer do you lock onto opponents and dispatch them one at a time. Kain and Raziel can take on enemies in a free-form nature with a variety of attacks, but chiefly with the blade they share (albeit in different forms), the


Reaver. Enemies can be tossed into the air then minced mid-air; telekinesis can be used to fling enemies off ramparts and against walls; groups can be taken out together with a magical blast; Crystal Dynamics did a good job mixing it up with the opportunity for combo attacks. They also did away with the cutscene that accompanied every feeding. Instead, you can remain mobile, drawing blood/souls to you without having to watch a repetitive cutscene. You can’t fight while drawing blood (or feeding the Reaver with a finishing move) but because the action keeps moving you don’t notice it as much. The action is much faster and more intense, particularly when you’re facing off against five opponents at once, and two of them are magic users that are imbuing powers to the foot soldiers that make them attack faster while raining down flaming balls of brimstone. (Take out the magic users first!)

Because of the way the combat has been sped up, the control has been streamlined (even though most of the buttons are on the control are put to use – go figure) and it remains responsive. Raziel and Kain control very much the same. There are some small differences between the two, but once you’ve mastered the basics of one, you’ve pretty much mastered the other.


legacy of kain defiance xbox review          legacy of kain defiance xbox review

As much as I laud the improvements that keep the speed of the gameplay clicking, there are still problems that had me screaming in frustration.

First, the bloody, bloody camera needs work. For the most part, it does work – shifting cinematically to suite the action. You have a little control over the camera. It can be moved slightly, as if it were attached to an elastic band, to see what’s coming up on the path. It’s when the camera flips to a drastically different angle that most of the problems arise. At one point in the first half of the game I dropped Kain into a water-filled moat almost a dozen times. (Water is fatal to vampires.) It’s not that I got a kick out of watching Kain split into a few dozen bats as he hit the water, it’s because the camera would flip because he was moving to an indoor area. Once in that area, I’d push the wrong the direction, the camera would flip again to the outdoor angle just in time to see Kain drop like a rock! This camera flipping happens mostly in non-fatal situations but it’s still annoying when it happens, or you can’t see the off-screen enemies attacking you.

My other gripe is some of the aimless backtracking. As awesome as Defiance looks, I got a little tired of running all over the big levels trying to track down an item or just figure out where the hell I was. Maybe these stretches are more noticeable because the combat is good, but it just felt like a lot of directionless running.

Even with its spots of tarnish, Legacy of Kain: Defiance manages to prove itself as a solid action game. The action is fast and furious (although “punctuated” with periods of running around), the graphics are impressive and the voice acting is very good. For Kain/Raziel fans this one should be on their “To Play” list.

- Omni
(December 20, 2003)


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