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For the first time Legacy of Kain gives us a game where both major protagonists are playable. That's right, both Kain and Raziel playable in one game, surely it doesn't get any better than this?!
Picking up the end of Soul Reaver 2 we rejoin Kain as he tries to figure out what happened to Raziel and Raziel as he tries to figure out what happened to...well himself. As the game switches you between Raziel and Kain after you complete tasks as each, the story naturally follows different directions. Kain is seen to confront Moebius over Raziel's wherabouts and goes in search of him while looking for clues as to how he could restore Nosgoth to its former glory. Raziel on the other hand is stuck, rather unhelpfully, in a different timeline and unaware that Kain is looking for him. So he proceeds to discard Kain's last words from SR2, "Raziel, Janos must STAY dead" (emphasis on the 'stay' there) and tries to find a way to revive him, whilst also finding clues as to his role in Nosgoth's restoration. Separately they discover new truths about themselves and their destinies but when they finally meet they have both come to very different conclusions about what's best for Nosgoth...
Naturally the game takes place in the world of Nosgoth but once again we are shown all new locations while familiar environments from previous games as old as Blood Omen, such as Vorador's mansion and Avernus, are given a massive touch up to bring them into the new generation of graphics in style. The locations are stunning but the annoying camera angles spoil it somewhat and you never get a good view of things you'd like to look at. In one particular moment I wanted to look around some of the finer rooms of Vorador's mansion and instead got a full screen of Raziel's backside. Charming as that is the blue skeletal look never has quite done it for me. That said, the game doesn't discriminate and you get a view full of Kain's fully formed buttocks numerous times throughout the journey.
=Gameplay & Combat=
The combat system is much improved upon although combat does focus somewhat on using the Soul Reavers to tear your enemies apart. As you progress you gain new combat abilities for both characters and they each sport Reaver spells, especially useful as packs of enemies now crowd you in a way they did not before.
As you play as two different characters in this game a challenge for the game makers lies in making the two very similar characters different enough combat wise to not get dull. A shame they didn't quite manage it. But although Raziel and Kain are almost identical in their move sets there are at least advantages to playing as both characters. Kain's spells and attacks are based on hitting things hard and dealing as much devastation as possible while Raziel's are more agility focused. In actual practice, though, Raziel moving a little faster isn't all that big of a difference between the two. Raziel's Reaver spells are also a tad more effective than Kain's probably due to their stronger elemental affinities. The Elemental Reavers remain with the added bonus of earth, water and air. Defiance also gets rid of the temporary forges and instead you can switch between the elements at will. No more losing your affinity every time a puzzle forces you to switch between the spectral and physical realms, huzzah!
In terms of general abilities Raziel has retained almost all of them from the previous games. He can swim, scale walls and phase through gates and barriers. Indeed he has retained all of the abilities he learns from his brothers in Soul Reaver save for Dumah's constrict, which has been omitted from this game. Similarly Kain retains a number of his abilities from Blood Omen. He can also scale walls, become mist to move through grates and transforms into his bat form to cover large distances. Unfortunately he retains his vampiric weaknesses and he cannot swim or touch water.
The long elemental puzzles are gone...only to be replaced by almost as tedious block puzzle type chambers. But on the plus boss fights have returned! Later puzzle chambers pit you against the ghosts of previous guardians which is quite fun as they each require their own strategy to be finally laid to rest. However there is quite a lot of difficult combat against stone statues of all things which just gets annoying after a while. It is also within these chambers that one of the only glitches to affect me appears. In some versions of this game you can slide across the floor, through the walls and into a white oblivion prompting a less than fun game over.
All in all the plot, graphics and setting are absolutely fantastic. The story answers many of the unanswered questions of the series and finally comes together in a brilliant (and suprisingly emotional) ending. The only issue I had with the story was the way in which (ultimately at least) everything sort of gets tied together quite neatly leaving us very nicely open for the next game, which we now know will never come. But this takes away something from the sense of fatality we are left with from Soul Reaver 2 'History abhors a paradox' and all that jazz. This is a minor issue at best though and does not detract from a thoroughly engrossing plot.
Looking at the bad points, the heavy reliance on puzzles is very annoying but the worst part of the game is without a doubt in the latter part when you have to backtrack through much of the map. The puzzle chambers all look the same to me, I cannot tell them apart, so having to literally trek back through every single one of them was the worst part of the game. At this point you have little direction to help you and as they all look the same it is very, very easy to get lost or turned around.
If you have played other games in this series before (Blood Omen 2 notwithstanding :P) and you are genuinely interested in what the story has to give you then you should play this game. If you are new to the Legacy of Kain series do not start here! While you can glean the storyline without prior knowledge the gameplay is quite poor in some regards and is likely to put you off what is otherwise a fine series of games.
3 stars for the sake of the plot!
The next chapter in the epic Legacy of Kain series is a cutting-edge action/adventure game featuring more action then ever before. Take control of two powerful and highly evolved vampires: Kain, an all-powerful demigod, and Raziel, a demonic angel of death. Each equipped with a legendary sword, Kain & Raziel must battle through a world loaded with conflict and intrigue as they attempt to unravel their destinies and defeat the dark forces that seek to condemn their world to eternal damnation.