|Legacy of Kain - Defiance|
|Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: Out Now
Upon loading LOK:D (that's: Legacy of Kain: Defiance), you are treated to a short prelude of the ongoing story. Among other flashbacks, it shows the waterfall death scene at the start of Soul Reaver (PlayStation / Dreamcast) where Raziel is having his wings clipped, and then thrown into a vast waterfall/vortex thing to his death. Well as dead as vampires can be anyway. I really loved this FMV back on Soul Reaver on Dreamcast, and it was great to see it again.
This game differs from the previous Blood Omen/Soul Reaver titles in that you play both Kain and Raziel. The game starts by having you play as Kain, and with him you must get through the castle grounds to find Moebius, the Time Streamer. Having never played the Blood Omen series, I can't comment, but the play here is very similar to Soul Reaver. Jumping across gaps, climbing ledges, basic puzzle solving, and of course, the combat is all present here. This is handled in a similar way to SR; attack, and almost kill enemies, then suck them for blood to finish them off - nice. The combat is very smooth; you can string combos together, and take multiple enemies out at the same time. The camera system works well here, and has almost never put itself into a position that blocks your view (like behind a pillar or tree). It plays similar to Prince of Persia here, but with the added bonus of you actually feeling that you are in control of the character, and that pressing buttons does equate to an action on screen.
As the game and story progresses, you will finish a chapter with Kain, and then move onto the new section, which is all about Raziel, and him escaping the world he is stuck in. After a very nice loading screen with concept art as the splash, you are taken to a cut-scene where Raziel is talking to the master of the Underworld.
You first have to feed on souls to gain strength, and then perform tasks to escape the cave you are stuck in. In one section, this involves jumping from rock to rock, climbing the cavern and evading the climbing fog. When you have done this you then continue in the level, which is traditional SR style. Finding your way through rooms and areas, attacking enemies and consuming their souls. Again basic puzzle solving is occasionally required. Basically, if you have played either of the Soul Reaver games previously, you wont have any trouble getting to grips with 'Defiance.
At this point in the review, I should mention the incredible graphics in the game. This is especially apparent when playing as Raziel in the spiritual plane. The entire screen and all the characters in it have various blur and lighting effects on them, giving you bizarre double and triple vision of everything going on. The colour palette is almost entirely made up of blues and white, and looks fantastic. It's all very smooth too, and even with multiple enemies and massive effects going on, the game very rarely stutters below the magical 60 frames per second mark. Both the main characters and the enemies look great and have nice animation, and the black ghost enemies look simply stunning - These are made purely of particles, and look even more impressive than the enemies in the excellent Ico.
The audio deserves special mention too, with the 5.1 Dolby Digital track producing fantastic atmosphere. Dialogue, just like a movie, comes through the centre speaker, and is really clear (and very well acted too). When playing as Raziel in the spiritual plane, you get eerie voices and crying slowly spinning around the 5.1 setup, which is really quite disturbing! The music during action sequences is very cinematic, and works well with the fast-paced combat. Crystal Dynamics have always been good with graphics and audio in their games, and Defiance is no different.
All in all, I really liked Defiance; it plays well and although the story won't set the world alight or tread any new territory, but it does pull a surprise or two, and it is enjoyable to follow to see what happens next. Switching between planes as Raziel is still cool, and the added feature of two characters to play with mixes things up nicely. The game mechanics haven't really changed much since the first Soul Reaver game; so take that into consideration if you weren't really a fan of them previously. Obviously if you're a fan of the series, you'll lap this up, and I seriously doubt you will be disappointed. I certainly wasn't.
- Nice levels, good combat and non-stressful game-play.
- Good use of Xbox's graphical and audio ability.
- Erm.... the series hasn't really changed much over the years?