A classic, starting an epic series.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, released on 1996 and developed by Crystal Dynamics, was a fairly good game that passed by rather unnoticed. To most of you that have indeed played the Legacy of Kain series, you've likely started with Soul Reaver , which is not by any means a bad game, much by the contrary, yet Blood Omen tends to be overlooked, or even forgotten.
But to you folks who have never even heard of this before, what is this game? Well it's an early PS1 gem, and being avaliable on the PSN, it'd be a travesty not to pick up this classic. It's pure fun.
The plot starts off as your typical vengeance quest, the protagonist is a low nobleman named Kain, whose resting up at a local Inn, refusing his plea to rest there for the night. As he walks out, he ends up being killed by a band of thieves. Afterwards he is raised as a vampire to avenge himself against his assailants, except like every good story, things aren't that simple. But along the way you'll find lots of dark humor, places to explore, necks to be.. well sapped, and powers to unlock .
The game uses a 2D top-down perspective, bearing many similarities to the Zelda games, albeit with a much darker and mature tone, like Castlevania. You'll be able to use various items, such as the healing potion/resurrect item Heart of Darkness, or the slashing blades Flay, to spells such as Mind Control or a barrier named Repel, and the dark powers, ranging from turning into a wolf, dissolving into mist, or turning into a bat for fast travelling. Day/night cycles occur, with nighttime being preferable to Kain, due to the sunlight's hazardous effects on vampires.
For a game made in '96, the graphics are a bit dated, but have aged quite well. The world of Nosgoth and their inhabitants are quite detailed and easily recognizable, from their shape, what weapons they used, up to their blood, "vacuumed" unto Kain as he feeds. It does employ many early FMVs, giving away its age, but telling the story quite well. Being the first of the series, ironically, I've found Blood Omen to have the best gameplay out of the Legacy of Kain series. You'll notice Kain at first is a quite fragile vampire, and as you play through and explore the game, you'll be amazed just how much stronger he becomes. There's a cold and yet satisfying feeling as you torture through helpless prisoners, shouting "Vae Victus!" as you slash them, and then proceeding to suck their blood as they're stunned, although in a rather bizarre manner.
The real gem of this game however, other than the story, is the voice acting. The world of Nosgoth is fleshed out quite well thanks to the quality voice actors, all playing their parts perfectly, with Kain, (voiced by Simon Templeman) really bringing out the "classic" vampire to life. Yeah, "that" kind of vampire which used to be bloodthirsty, unforgiving, emotionless cold killer, back when the very name "vampire" was pure and uncorrupted.
He's not in the slightest a "good guy", as Kain serves his and only his needs first, but that is just what made him brilliant. Just listening to his sarcastic monologues while laughing as he chops up his victims is never dull, you'll never grow sick of it while playing the game.
Remember it was '96, the surprise of playing this anti-hero, togheter with its many plot twists, was not common back then. The game is not even 100% linear, though most of it definitely is.
The soundtrack also deserves mention and praise. Togheter with its stellar voice acting, the soundtrack helps setting the dark atmosphere of Nosgoth, which with its dated graphics, looks very much alive.
However, this game does come with its flaws. It tends to have long loading times, especially in the menu. There's none of them fancy quickselect buttons either, to switch weapons or spells you have to go all the way to the menu and select them. However sometimes the game needs you to use a lot of different spells or weapons, many times in the same zone so this can be quite a hassle.
The game doesn't pick you by the hand either, you have to listen quite closely to the dialog otherwise you could be lost wondering what to do next. That, is storywise. Because sometimes you could not realize that you're missing a power that you can already get, yet like I've already stated, the game is never clear about it, so it can be quite frustrating to just go around the map clueless.
This adds up to the enemies spawning, assume you've cleared a room of enemies, changed area, then for some reason have to go right back again. All of the enemies respawned. Sometimes it only takes one single area change for this to happen. Add that to the possibility that you might be looking for where to go next, the fact that you may have to change your equipment to fight certain enemies with the long loading times, and your health slowly but surely diminishing as time goes by, just to find out it might have been just a waste of all your time. It might go to the point where you're just looking for human enemies to fight just so you can feed.
Last but not least, if you happen to find the PC version, good luck getting that to work. It's unplayable on most modern rigs, because they're too powerful. That's right, either you happen to still have an old PC somewhere, or really, just make the logical choice and get it from the PSN.
Overall, Blood Omen may suffer from a few issues such as poor menu management and long loading times but it is truly a classic, and one of the best entries of the Legacy of Kain series, known for its superb voice acting and dark brooding story.