Kain is back and he has over 200 years of beauty sleep under his belt, but believe me, he ain't any prettier. He's still that blood-sucking, crate pushing, Nosgoth-dwelling, bleeding-heart romantic that we all know and love. And with the consistent supply of Blood Omen/Soul Reaver titles making their way to store shelves, it makes you ask the question 'do you want to suck my blood or are you just happy to see me?' And after witnessing hours of deliberation on the PS2's part, I think I can honestly say that, yes, Blood Omen 2 does in fact want to suck your blood.
This installment of the popular Legacy of Kain series delivers on its promise to tie up a pile of loose ends left by its predecessors, and it does a good job of telling the story on the way. The thing is, telling the story requires a lot of dialogue and results in spending too much time watching cinemas, and not enough time actually playing the game – for some people this may be a problem. Simon Templeman revives his role as the game’s protagonist Kain, and sounds realistically vampire-esque throughout the experience.
Graphically, Blood Omen 2 looks great. Kain is rendered in full form and attention to detail on the game’s huge levels is apparent. Animation is fluid for the most part, and a full arsenal of attacks blend in seamlessly with the action. There are a few clipping problems however, particularly with battling enemies when close to the side of a wall. Once you defeat the enemy, his weapon will sometimes be stuck in the wall, which in turn does not allow you to pick it up. You’ll also notice a lot of slow down and at times even unrendered portions of the surroundings while the PS2 chugs away at digesting data from its optical-media.
Blood Omen’s tunes consist mainly of underplayed, ambient tracks that do a good job of giving the town of Nosgoth a dark and eerie feel. The sound of crunching bones, pierced flesh, and gushing blood are all done very well, although enemy grunts can be a bit tedious. Voice acting is also unusually good thanks primarily to Simon Templeman. The supporting cast is also peppered with notable talent. Aside from the game’s many cut-scenes, you’ll also be treated to varied dialogue from local townspeople when your near them, giving unique personalities to characters that serve little purpose outside of snacking on. It gives the game an added sense of brutality, which can be good or bad – depending on if you’re a girl.
Basic gameplay is not unlike that of Soul Reaver’s, though more focused on exploration and combat. You can target a victim by holding the R1 button, and attack by hitting either square or triangle; each button performs a different attack. L1 blocks, left-analog moves you around and right-analog changes the camera perspective. Controls are a little awkward at first but it doesn’t take long to get used to. You’ll also have the option to perform a special move out of your list of ‘Dark Gifts’. Dark Gifts are cool, they allow you to do anything from charming a weak-minded human and making him do your bidding, to casting a spell on the enemy causing his body to spontaneously be engulfed in flames. There is also a fair share of melee weaponry at your disposal, really sinister, nasty looking stuff. Among the more notable weapons is the Great Axe which allows you to lob off a foe’s heads with a single swing.
While not as puzzle-oriented as Soul Reaver 2, you’ll still be required to do your fair share of lever pulling and crate pushing. Most of the game’s puzzles are simple pull-the-lever-in-room-to-open-door-in-other-room type malarkey, you should be able to blast right through the majority of the game’s kindergarten-based logic puzzles with time to spare. There are a couple instances where you’ll spend longer then usual figuring out how to proceed but this is usually due to an out-of-the-way lever or looked-over crate.
Boss fights are fun and usually consist of 2-3 separate phases. After defeating a boss-vampire you’ll be given his unique ability and it will be added to your Dark Gift collection, kinda like in Mega Man – but instead of a lousy air-blaster you get powers that allow you to cloak yourself in mist and decapitate an enemy from behind.
Unlike in the Soul Reaver series, there is actually reason to engage the enemy in combat. You'll regain health through drinking the blood of mortals, and you'll find yourself killing many a by-standard, since as a vampire your thirst for blood is consistently growing. In other words your health gradually decreases every moment you are not feeding. And Kain, not being one to pass up on a meal, will want to feed every chance he gets. Your Lore Meter will also rise with each bloody meal. Once your lore meter is filled, your maximum health capacity will be given a little more slack. It’s a nice integration of RPG dynamics, and it gives you yet another reason to rip someone’s still-beating-heart out of their chest.
Blood Omen 2 is pretty lengthy for a third person adventure game, thanks mainly to the obligatory puzzles and long-winded cutscenes. The tedious dynamics of the game can get a little old after awhile but since every other stage allows you to utilize a new power, progressing is worthwhile. If you’re a fan of the LOK series you’ll also find reason to play through this game since a lot of unanswered questions are finally put to rest. Beating the game doesn’t open up any notable extras and there is little reason to revisit Nosgoth after your first time through.
Crystal Dynamics created a game that strikes an interesting balance between exploration, combat and puzzle solving. The dingy, antiquated atmosphere of Nosgoth has never looked so good, and some of the stages look absolutely stunning. Aside from the few nagging issues like intolerable collision-detection, choppy frame-rates and thoughtless puzzle-design, Blood Omen 2 is a memorable and entertaining addition to the Legacy of Kain series. Getting to the end credits of this game is going to cost you around 20 hours so take my advice and reserve a weekend or two to playing all the way through because when Blood Omen 2 is done with you, you’re gonna need a lot more then a box of ouch-less Band-Aids.