Kain is back to rob peasants of their blood and gameplayers of their sleep.
Update: Feb. 26, 2002
Tasty new screens appear out of the darkness showcasing the might and fury of a vampire scorned. Beware!
The original Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen was driven by a sophisticated, engaging gameplay ethic. It was called, "Kill innocent people to stay alive."
As you might imagine, it was a rare instance in which a good idea played even better than it sounded. Soccer moms would have an aneurysm if they knew their kids played a game that condoned - no, encouraged - the slaying of innocent farmers, but that was part of the appeal.
Naturally, big things are expected for the sequel to the macabre hit. Blood Omen 2 picks up 400 years after the original, which means it takes an even more divergent turn away (and cementing the seperation) from the Soul Reaver series.
As the story goes, Kain, a vampire of unparalleled power, locks horns with the Seraphim Knights (noble protectors of the human race) in an attempt to seize control of Nosgoth. Kain is defeated by the leader of the knights, presumed dead, and relieved of his soul reaver. Humans 1, Vampires 0.
Despite being at the wrong end of a merciless drubbing, Kain doesn't completely sell the farm. Rather, the power-mongering vampire slips into a deep coma, only to awaken (the aforementioned) 400 years later with a monumental chip on his shoulder. This is where your adventures in Blood Omen 2 begin.
When Kain regains consciousness, he quickly realizes that he's not in Kansas anymore. The Seraphim Knights, now rulers of Nosgoth, are running a rather successful campaign to rid the land of vampires. Aiding their cause is "glyph technology," which allows the Knights to create impenetrable barriers that are used to corral and eliminate renegade vampires.
Despite the long odds, Kain is hell-bent on regaining his infamous weapon, repairing his wounded pride, and finally ruling the land of Nosgoth. Kain is in a weakened state as the game begins, so he must exercise caution as he gradually reacquires his former powers.
Blood Omen 2 plays similarly to its forefather, but distinctly different from the puzzle-oriented Soul Reaver. The game is what Zelda might be like if its creators underwent a traumatic childhood experience and never saw the cup half full again. Your character can travel from town to town and talk to the locals, but he also might pay them a later visit and drain their blood while they sleep.
As such, Blood Omen 2 is not for the faint of heart. In the original game, Kain could stun his victims and then, from several feet away, siphon a stream of blood from their bodies. The blood-letting in the sequel is more of the same, only this time the gore is presented in exquisite next-generation detail. It's appallingly nasty and fully consistent with the game's lovingly rendered atmosphere.
Of course, Blood Omen 2 is not all fun and games. Kain will have to crack plenty of skulls and solve a fair share of "puzzles" to become the ruler of Nosgoth. The vampire is a veritable maestro when it comes to obliterating his enemies. For example, Kain can punch right through an enemy's chest and rip out his still-beating heart. He also can cleave foes in two with a battle axe, or strangle them to death with his bare hands.
Altogether, the combat system is pretty well-refined. Kain can use the weapons of his deposed foes, amounting to 12 in all, and he can perform such favored combat maneuvers as combos, unblockables, and finishes. He'll need each and every technique, because the road to world domination is littered with fearless knights and hordes of demons.
Blood Omen 2 also will require some ingenuity. Through the course of the game, Kain will regain six different special powers known as "Dark Gifts." Among them is the ability to charm and control other characters in the game. Occasionally, Kain will need to mind-control someone to complete an otherwise impossible task, such as when Kain himself can't reach a switch and must have a townsman do it for him. Blood Omen 2 doesn't meddle in puzzle-solving to the extent of Soul Reaver, but players will appreciate the change of pace its "thought tasks" provide.
Visually, the game is solid but unspectacular. The nicely-detailed 3D environments succeed in establishing a dark, unsettling atmosphere, and the character models benefit from creative design, but the game needs a fine coat of polish before it can join the ranks of other visually-splendid Xbox titles. We fully expect this to happen between now and the game's scheduled February 2002 release.
Rounding out the package is an involving storyline and impeccable voice-acting, as detailed in our interview with the game's producer Sam Newman. The original Blood Omen never received the acclaim or attention of Soul Reaver, but it was a fantastic game that in some ways surpassed its more popular successor. If the true sequel to Blood Omen follows the same path, Xbox gamers are in for a delectable treat.
Doesn't possess vampire-like strength, but the ladies love him and he can pound a nail through a 2 x 4 with his forehead.