Blood Omen follows after Kain’s bid to dominate Nosgoth. Kain, armed with his trusty Soul Reaver and an army of vampires set out to wipe out all opposition. He was nearly successful when a Sarafin Lord rose up and defeated Kain in combat, shattering his body and taken control of the Soul Reaver.
Kain awakens many years after that defeat, and finds out that the Sarafin has established themselves as rulers of Nosgoth. Rescued by the sultry vampire Uma, Kain learns that all vampires live in terror, as the Sarafin has employed powerful glyph magic to creat shields that repel vampires, and powerful weapons that are fatal to them. Working for a resistance movement called the Cabal, Uma proceeds to persuade Kain to join in the fight to free Nosgoth from the Sarafin’s oppressive rule, and take back what is rightly his.
The game is divided into chapters, with the first chapter setting the plot and serves as a tutorial for Kain to regain his strength and explore the features of the game. Kain as a basic claw attack, which does a decent amount of damage on normal folks, but will be useless on more powerful enemies. The Square button is used to attack, pull levers and pick up objects. You hold the R1 trigger to lock on a target, and Square to unleash your attacks. If you’re feeling more adventerous, you can grab your victim by his throat, and slam him to inflict more damage.
Kain’s strength is indicated by his blood meter, which fills up as he drinks the blood from his enemies. Defeating vampires and driking their blood however has a more profound effect, by which this fills up Kain’s Lore meter, which signifies the his fallen foes’ powers and experience. When the Lore meter is full, the blood gauge will increase, resulting in a healthier and more powerful Kain. You can also increase the Lore meter by assimilating the power left by the ancient vampires in the form of Lore chests.
Kain also has supernatural powers, called dark gifts. After his defeat in the hands of the Sarafin Lord, his powers have been stripped form him, leaving him with only 2 dark gifts. The first one is the Mist. This enables Kain to morph into mist form in certain areas on the level, and sneak by enemies, or better yet stealth kill them. The second is Fury, which enables you to unleash poweful attacks when your rage meter fills up. Other dark gifts you’ll get back from other vampires that have joined with the Sarafin Lord and betrayed their own kind.
It all sounds good on paper, but the combat in Blood Omen is often frustrating, mainly because of the limited moves that Kain has. Vampires are supposed to be agile and fast, but Kain, who was the ruler of Nosgoth and the baddest vampire there is, moves like a blobbering ape. You can block attacks, or dodge them, but the latter is just a 2 feet sideways jump, which is often not enough to avoid being hit by long-wielded weapons. Sure he can jump, but not even close to the agility possesed by Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. I personally would have likes to see them implement the control scheme of Tenchu (the original, not the attrocious sequel), particularly the sidestep/strafe feature.
The enemy AI is also disappointing. Most of the time, they come in pairs, but only one will attack you while the other just waits for his turn. Even when surrounded by enemies, they don’t rush to attack from multiple angles, like they should have done, but circles around until one by one are dead, just like in the old Hong Kong kung-fu movies. While this may be to balance out the fact that Kain cannot engage in combat with multiple enemies simultaneously, you just wish that they’ve done a better job with combat and enemy encounters.
An action/adventure game wouldn’t be complete without puzzles. Block puzzles to be a little more precise. You get to move blocks to reveal hidden doors, levels or to block part of the gate to let you get through. Other puzzles include levers, either opening the doorway, or to power up glyph manchinery. The puzzles aren’t that challenging, and you’d wish for more variety in puzzle solving, if that’s your forte.
My first impression is that the graphics are quite good, though not quite up to the standards set by the Soul Reaver. Nosgoth is features as a dark and foreboding city, where medievil crafts and industrial technology co-exist. While being the perfect setting for the game, Nosgoth seems empty and dull. There’s not enough details in the background that would hold your attention. The occasional water drips, cat chases and hisses from the broken pipes are nice touches, but hardly count as stunning.
The character model is quite good, with a high polygon count being assigned to Kain and other characters. The animation and choppy frame-rate is very disappointing, turning an agile and bloodthirsty vampire like Kain into a lumbering zombie from Resident Evil. At time, particularly when approaching a checkpoint, the game slows to a crawl, which is slightly puzzling since there’s nothing happening on screen. Perhaps the developers should have ironed out the bugs before sending this one to the shelves.
A major plus point with Blood Omen 2 is the voiceovers. Simon Templeman, who did the voiceovers for Kain in the Soul Reaver series, reprises his role, and delivers his lines perfectly. The voiceovers for other characters are also good, and if you stop to hear what the townpeople are saying, you’re in for quite a treat. However, the background music is primarily non-existant, as you’re only treated to the ambience noise and nothing much else.
This game could be fun, primarily this is the chance to play as Kain, the baddest of all vampires. One other gripe that we have is that we you reload your saved game, you’ll forfeit your weapon, and your rage meter returns to zero too. Maybe not a bad thing, but I sure wish that they won’t penalise gamers who can’t play continously like this. The game also offers no extra features that will keep you playing it beyond the first time.
A potentially great game marred by unspectacular graphics, choppy frame rate, sloppy controls and boring puzzles. Blood Omen plays more like a beta title - it has that unfinished look all over it. If you love the series, get the vastly superior Soul Reaver 2 instead. If you must play this game, we suggest that you rent it first. Otherwise move on and keep your figers crossed for a better sequel.
Former owner and editor in chief of Darkstation.com