As a gamer, I have a handful of games I hold in high regard; whether they be standalone experiences or entire franchises, like any videogame fan there are certain titles that have stuck with me ever since I pressed start. Any attentive reader knows by now my love for franchises like Metroid and The Elder Scrolls, and how much I enjoyed games like Red Dead Redemption, Symphony of the Night, or Fallout 2, among many others. Many of these franchises still have new entries being released, or the games themselves are recent enough or timeless enough that game design hasn’t passed them by. But there’s one series that defined my taste in games — and really most types of fictional storytelling in general — that is no longer around: The Legacy of Kain.
It’s been nearly 10 years since we last saw the vampire Kain or wraith Raziel or heard their macabre exposition, but it seems we may get to again. Crystal Dynamics announced they would be resurrecting a classic vampire franchise, and with a new art direction. Seeing as Crytal Dynamics were the studio behind the past games in The Legacy of Kain series, it’s only logical to assume this is the series being reworked.
In middle school and high school, games like Blood Omen and Soul Reaver were not only excellent to play, they captured my imagination in ways few games had up to that point. Featuring dual anti-heroes, Kain and Raziel, working with and against each other, bending and altering timelines and taking control of ancient weapons, all in a high-fantasy world where vampires were much more than just reclusive old counts or brooding teenagers. Instead, they were a noble, winged race who sought the control the land, and did battle with a race known as the Hylden. Yeah, it’s nerdy, but the exposition and story were so well written and compelling it was hard not to soak up every word that spilled from these characters. I would love to see the original voice actors (and main characters) return in the next game. To be frank, anyone else would just feel off; these characters have been defined by their personality, which is due entirely to the amazing voice acting.
Not only that, but the mature, dark setting was only heightened by the verbose and witty language used by Raziel, Kain, and the game’s other characters. To keep that tone, the same care that was given to the past games’ dialogue and exposition should be applied to the next installment
Now, I know I’ve made a fuss over games being too cinematic, and I certainly still feel that way, but the Legacy of Kain was something slightly different. Yes, the cutscene could be long, and they often broke up and interrupted the action, but the narrative and lore of the world of Nosgoth was far more literary in nature than most games ever are. Long, introspective diatribes from the main characters were insightful and complex, far removed from the brooding melancholy of stereotypical JRPG protagonists, of empty-headed exclamations of most FPS characters.
I’ll be the first to admit that the plot of the games themselves became convoluted and confusing, but the mythology and history behind it all was engrossing. Hearing about the deep history of this world, and experiencing first hand the rise and fall of kingdoms and rulers through the use of time travel and visiting different dimensions of the spirit realm made this universe feel alive and complex. This is something I hope the continue in the next installment of the series; whether it’s a sequel, prequel, or reboot, the next game should convey the age and lore of Nosgoth and its inhabitants. Don’t try to recapture such atmosphere with a different or diminished setting, but instead take us back to this world so rich with history.
On top of that, don’t abandon the gritty, gothic art direction either. It can be altered or expanded, but the scope and age of the series’ settings — be they ancient temples, labyrinths in the netherworld, lush forests, or ancient ruins — felt so authentic in this harsh and dark universe. The character design was also a perfect fit, and gave Raziel and Kain much a more demonic aesthetic than that of their Transylvanian cousins. This is probably my only other concern besides the story. I feel like so much hinges on the art style, that if it is too drastic a shift the series will lose something it once had. Bu, then again, if the setting and story go through changes, perhaps a new art direction will only benefit. But, I’ll admit, the fanboy in me wants to see little of the original atmosphere and aesthetic changed at all.While I certainly have plenty to say about this game’s story, art, and voice actors, something which I feel is more than open for change is the gameplay. I still would love a more non-linear approach to the level design — perhaps an even more open-worldly or Metroidvania-esque approach even — but the puzzle and combat mechanics are more than deserving of an overhaul.
I’m not saying the past games in the Legacy of Kain series were bad or not fun, but they also were by no means the greatest, and certainly show their age. They play almost like a level-based (and slightly more linear) version of The Legend of Zelda’s 3D entries, albeit with a much darker and complex story line; solving puzzles, unlocking doors, fighting groups of enemies, collecting new weapons and upgrades. Actually, it’s a lot like the God of War series as well, just with a stronger emphasis on puzzles and story than on combat.
There’s plenty of action game tropes to the fighting: button combos, upgradable weapons, unlockable moves, etc. and there are some RPG elements like experience points and stats (at least in the earlier LoK games).The problem is, none of it was ever all the great. Sometimes combat could be truly rewarding; platforming could be fluid and fun; many puzzles were challanging and satifsying. But all too often, things were poorly designed or strangely difficult. The games also had issues from the use of camera angles. Enemies could be just off screen, or a ledge was hidden behind an object. While some of the franchises titles could be listed among the greatest of their respective generations (The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2) others were simply average-to-above-average games (Blood Omen 2; Legacy of Kain: Defiance).
But I didn’t care. Sure, even the worst of the titles were still good games and a hell of a lot of fun to play, but that’s not what I enjoyed about The Legacy of Kain series. It was the story, the strangely likable anti-heroes, the dark fantasy world, drenched in lore and blood. This story is too intersting, too unique, and just too cool to be left by the way-side, and without a proper ending (the last game, Defiance, left the story on a slight cliffhanger). Besides, how can anyone not find the image of Kain telepathically sucking the blood out of an enemy’s juggular from across the room to be awesome? I can’t wait to do that again.
All in all, I’m not going to complain. My only hope is that, whatever direction they take it in, it is in some part faithful to the source material, and not matter what is a good game first and foremost. This series deserves it, and I’m ecstatic at the prospect of it’s return!
How do you feel about the possibility of revisiting the Legacy of Kain? Would you be comfortable with massive changes, or do you think a new direction is what the series needs? Is there another franchise you wish to see rebooted one day? Lets us know in the comments!
** Note: This posed is based solely off of rumors that Crystal Dynamic were rebooting a “classic vampire” franchise. One could safely assume this mean LoK, but nothing has officially been announced.