Originally created by Silicon Knights in association with Crystal Dynamics, Legacy of Kain is an action-adventure series known for its outstanding narrative and involving puzzle-based gameplay. The series broke new ground with its high quality of voice-acting and engaging storyline featuring complex and often dark characters. Crystal Dynamics took over development after the release of the first game and went on to add four sequels.
The series is set in the mythical realm of Nosgoth where the land's two dominant races, the Ancient Vampires and the Hylden, are locked in an ageless war for its control. Much of the story revolves around the vampire Kain and his destiny as Nosgoth's savior. The franchise was unique at the time for its choice of an anti-hero as a protagonist. The other main protagonist introduced later in Soul Reaver is Raziel, Kain's former first lieutenant and now his mortal enemy. The storyline features a variety of dark, manipulative characters with betrayal and deception as common themes throughout the series. The game's story is non-linear with Kain and Raziel frequently traveling back in history to change Nosgoth's fate.
The first game in the franchise, Blood Omen, was the brain child of Denis Dyack. He wanted to create an action adventure game for a more mature audience which would require good puzzle solving skills and test a players mental and physical dexterity. Silicon Knights filed a lawsuit over the Legacy of Kain IP in 1998 after they discovered that a Blood Omen game was in development exclusively by Crystal Dynamics. After a private settlement, Crystal Dynamics continued with the development. The remaining games in the series were directed by Amy Hennig and continued with Dyack's vision of videos game set in a morbid world.
There have been five games in the series so far.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain - Released in 1996 on the PC and the Playstation, this Silicon Knights action adventure game laid down the groundwork for the rest of the series to build on. Blood Omen introduces us to Kain, once a nobleman but now a bitter and vengeful vampire, as he struggles to come to terms with his "dark gift". We follow his story as he is manipulated and betrayed at every turn and used as a pawn for much of the game. The storyline is dark,complex and tells a tragic tale about the dying world of Nosgoth. Played from an isometric perspective, the gameplay involved traditional action adventure elements with a good amount of puzzle solving. The game received good reviews and was generally praised for its great voice work and story.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver - After a legal battle with Silicon Knights, Crystal Dynamics took over development of the franchise and their first addition was 1999's Soul Reaver on the PC and the Playstation. The gameplay switched to a third person action adventure and added a great deal to the puzzle solving element of the first game. It also let players explore the world freely, thus leading to a non-linear experience. The biggest change however was that players now took control of Kain's first lieutenant, Raziel as he is banished at the very start of the game. The game tells his story as he seeks vengeance by killing his former brothers. Kain, the hero from the first game is portrayed as an antagonist here. Soul Reaver is known for its infamous cliffhanger ending, leaving the players wanting more. The game earned some great reviews, with an average rating of 88% on gamerankings.com. The game was also significant for its data streaming engine which took away the need for constant loading screens, something prevalent in all PS games until that point.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 - Crystal Dynamics continued Raziel's tale with 2001's Soul Reaver 2. The game was released on the PC and the Playstation 2. The story picks up right where Soul Reaver left. Players take up the role of the anti-hero, Raziel as he continues to pursue Kain across different timelines and discovers his true destiny. The game also explores the history of Nosgoth and in particular, the blade Soul Reaver . The combat was more involved than the previous game and the enemy AI was also revamped. Players can also use the wraith blade, Soul Reaver, at any time and much of the gameplay revolves around its different forms. The graphics got a significant boost, having switched from the PS to PS2. The puzzle structure also moved away from the block-puzzles used in the previous game. Soul Reaver answered many questions raised in previous games but also left some mysteries of its own.
Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2 - Blood Omen 2 was released in 2002 by Crystal Dynamics. The game was released on the PC and all three consoles available at the time – PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. It was developed in parallel to Soul Reaver 2 by another team and actually takes place as a result of events in that game. Blood Omen 2 follows the story of a young and ambitious Kain in his quest to establish his empire in Nosgoth. The world has a weird sort of industrial feel to it as technology mixed with magic. We find out early on that Kain failed in his earlier crusade and was basically out cold for 200 years. Players spend much of the game trying to gain back Kain's powers and gather a big enough army to lead another assault. The gameplay involves straightforward combat and simple puzzles. It continued the tradition of great voice acting and storytelling in the series.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance - The final game in the series so far, Defiance was developed and released by Crystal Dynamics in 2003. For the first time, the player takes control of both Kain and Raziel in the same game as the story is told from their different perspectives. Released on the Xbox, PS2 and PC, the game used a new camera setting to give it a more cinematic look. The gameplay builds up on the more action oriented Soul Reaver 2 with simple puzzle solving sections. The plot picks up where Soul Reaver 2 left as Kain and Raziel seek to defy their destinies and save themselves and Nosgoth. The game resolved all the questions created by the previous games and ended on a somewhat hopeful and open ended note, leaving the possibility of a future sequel.
Legacy of Kain: The Dark Prophecy (Canceled) - A string of leaked screenshots indicated that Crystal Dynamics were working on a sixth game in the series. But , according to rumors, the game was canceled sixth months into production by Eidos.
All the games in the series are story driven, with the emphasis always on the characters and narrative. Fatalism and predestined futures are major themes in all the games with Kain and Raziel continuously seeking to defy their fate and write their own futures. The existence (or lack ) of free will is another important component in all the games. Raziel and Kain present the opposite sides on this debate, with Raziel being the champion of free will and Kain being a fatalistic character.
Betrayal is another common theme in all the games, with almost every character seeking to manipulate the two main protagonists in the series. Moebius and the Elder God can be seen as examples of unreliable narrators as they try to influence Raziel. Time travel is also used quite often in the series, as Kain goes back in time to change history in an attempt to repair the future.
Characters & Voice Credits
A run down of the voice actors behind the major characters in the series:
The three main speices featured in the games are Humans, Vampires and Hylden. The Vampires are further divided into separate clans.
The Ancients were once the dominant species in Nosgoth's past and are responsible for many of its architectures.They are blue skinned,human like in form and had angelic wings which give them the power of flight. They believed in the teachings of the Elder God and fatalism, that every being is bound to the "Wheel of Fate" - a purifying cycle of death, birth and rebirth. They were cursed by the Hylden which turned them into Vampires and made them immortal, thus releasing their souls from the "Wheel of Fate". The most prominent ancient is Janos Audron , the Reaver Guardian and the last surviving Ancient.
The vampires are an immortal race who suffer from a predatory bloodthirst. These vampires are very similar to the the vampires in other mythos and have similar strengths and weaknesses like exposure to sunlight, impalement, fire and water.These vampires have the ability to evolve over time and sometimes go into a stage of accelerated metamorphosis where they develop new features. For example, Raziel was the first vampire to develop wings. Due to this rapid evolution, they are different from the humans in characteristics. Sadly, one of the side effects of vampirism is sterility, so they had to resort to necromancy to create new members of their race.
Vampires are divided into separate clans and their characteristics depend on their leaders. Two of the most prominent vampire clans are:
Humans and the Sarafan
The humans are the newest race in the Legacy of Kain series and have slowly taken over as the most dominant species in the land. The humans created a clan of zealot warrior priests, The Sarafan, to fight the "vampire plague". Their crusade lead to the demise of Janos Audron and nearly wiped out the vampires. They succeded in capturing the "Heart of Darkness" and the famed blade " Soul Reaver". All of Kain's six lieutenants were once Sarafan priests until their crusade was stopped by a mysterious wraith who killed them in their own stronghold.
About 500 years later (during the events of Blood Omen), Moebius The Timestreamer lead another genocidal crusade against the vampires in the name of the Sarafan. Kain was the only survivor of Moebius's crusade. Another 200 years after the original crusade, the clan was reformed by a self-proclaimed "Sarafan Lord". Only this time, their aim was the total conquest of all Nosgoth. With a hint of irony, it was the Vampire Kain who ended their rule and freed Nosgoth.
The Hylden are an ancient race in the world of Nosgoth and play an antagonistic role in the series. The Hylden looked demonic in nature and had bat-like wings. They have the ability to posses other creatures and bend them to their will.They waged war against the Ancients for centuries before being banished. But in a final act of vengeance, they cursed their enemies with sterility, bloodthirst and immortality thus turning them into Vampires. Trapped for eternity in the demon realm, they plotted their comeback by infiltrating the Circle of Nine thus leading to the events of Blood Omen and Kain's fateful choice. During the events of Blood Omen 2, a Hylden under the name of " Sarafan Lord" tried to conquer Nosgoth. They continue to play an important role in the series, by manipulating and controlling key characters.
The Elder God
A mysterious being worshiped by the Ancients, believing it to be the master of the 'Wheel of Fate' and the architect of destiny. Its titanic form is a mass eyes with hour-glass pupils set amidst a thicket of octopus-like tentacles. While occupying both the material and astral planes, it is invisible to everyone save for Raziel, though its disembodied voice could be heard over great distances by both Raziel, Kain, and Moebius. After the Hylden's curse turned the Ancients into vampires, the Elder God turned from them rather than attempting to help it's stricken followers. It helped to manipulate events by resurrecting Raziel and making him into it's own personal Soul Reaver. Aside from cajoling Raziel to take vengeance upon Kain, it also demands its defiant servant to 'liberate' the stagnating souls in vampires and the creatures of the astral plane in order to return them to 'the Wheel'.
The soundtrack throughout the series maintains a moody feel and constantly changes with the ingame context. The Blood Omen soundtrack was composed by Steve Henifin, the lead music composer at Silicon Knights. After Crystal Dynamics took over development, Amy Hennig hired Kurt Harland to work with their lead audio engineer, Jim Hedges, for the soundtrack on Soul Reaver. According to Kurt, the producers were impressed with his track "Ozar Midrashim" from the Information Society album "Don't be Afraid" (this very track was used the as Opening theme in Soul Reaver). In an interview with IAsig, the team explains the adaptive soundtrack which fades in/out depending on the combat state of the player. The music incorporates many environmental sounds and foley techniques.
Later on the series, Jim Hedges took over composition as well and provided the music for Blood Omen 2 and Defiance.
Legacy of Kain Timeline
The games feature an extensive amount of time traveling, making it hard to follow some of the events. Here is a timeline to make things a little bit simpler. The events in italics were altered later on and the events in bold text indicate major points of deviation from an established or intended history.
TIMELINE CREATED BY BLOOD OMEN
TIMELINE CREATED BY SOUL REAVER 2 AND DEFIANCE
Before Nosgoth's Recorded History
The Ancients worship the Elder God, believing in his Wheel of Fate (the purifying cycle of birth, death & rebirth). This process feeds the Elder God's hunger for souls
Ancients declare war on the Hylden for defying the Wheel of Fate
Ancients banish Hylden to the demon dimension and create the Pillars of Nosgoth to keep them imprisoned.
Formation of the Circle of Nine, sorcerer- guardians sworn to protect and serve the Pillars.
As revenge for their imprisonment, the Hylden curse the Ancients and turn them into immortal and sterile Vampires.
Because of their immortality, the Elder God turns his back on the vampires/ancients. Their souls are now free from the Wheel of Fate. Some of them commit suicide to reunite with their God.
Janos Audron uses necromancy to sire the first created vampire, Vorador
Vorador forges the Blood Reaver and Janos becomes its secret Guardian.
Due to their sterility, vampires chose humans as their replacements for the Circle. Once the humans come of age they are made into vampires.
The Elder God contacts Mortanius and Moebius and influences them to revolt against the Vampires. The Human-Vampire war starts.
NOSGOTH'S EARLY HISTORY – OVER 500 YEARS BEFORE THE EVENTS OF BLOOD OMEN
The Sarafan Crusades ( Soul Reaver 2)
Nosgoth's Vampire population increases
The order of the Sarafan is formed to counter the vampire menace
The human Raziel is born and becomes a Sarafan Warrior Priest
The Wraith Raziel travels into Nosgoth's past and meets Janos Audron
Wraith Raziel is informed about his destiny as the vampire champion
Human Raziel assassinates Janos Audron and steals the Blood Reaver
Wraith Raziel loses all faith in humanity and vows to avenge Janos' death
Vorador slaughters six of the Circle for their sponsorship of the Sarafan crusades and the murder of Janos. He humiliates Malek but leaves him alive.
Wraith Raziel recovers the Blood Reaver and becomes invincible.
Human Raziel is killed by Wraith Raziel and is entombed with the Sarafan martyrs
The Reaver turns on Wraith Raziel and tries to consume him
- Wraith Raziel is consumed by the Reaver to form the Soul Reaver
Events of Defiance
Kain invades the Sarafan Stronghold and interrogates Moebius for Raziel's whereabouts
Kain explores the Vampire Citadel for clues. He finds various murals depicting a fatal battle between the Vampire Messiah and Hylden Champion
Kain comes across an Oracle inside the Vampire Citadel. The Oracle is secretly noneother than The Elder God
The Oracle propels Kain 500 years into the future into the Blood Omen Era, where he can find Raziel
HISTORY IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING BLOOD OMEN
Corruption of the Pillars ( Soul Reaver 2 and pre- Blood Omen era)
Moebius hands William the Just the Soul Reaver to help him conquer Nosgoth and set off the chain of events in Blood Omen
A young vampire Kain travels nearly 50 years into Nosgoth's past. He is armed with the Soul Reaver as well.
- Kain assassinates young William before he becomes the Nemesis and as a result, changes history forever.
- William's Reaver is shattered in the process and the broken blade is used to decorate his tomb.
A few years later:
Mortanius, the Guardian of Death, is possessed by a Hylden
Ariel, the Guardian of Balance, is murdered; the human Kain is born, destined to take her place
Ariel murder triggers a chain of events, resulting in the corruption of the circle, and the decay of the Pillars
Around the same time:
(This is where the first Soul Reaver ends and Soul Reaver 2 begins) Wraith Raziel arrives in this era after following future Kain through the Chronoplast chamber
Raziel finds the broken Blood Reaver on the tomb of William the Just and inexplicably repairs the shattered blade
Raziel meets the future Kain at the Pillars, right as they are corrupted (this is the moment Ariel was assassinated and Kain was born).
Kain convinces Raziel to let him go and seeks out Vorador for answers ( YouTube Link)
- Vorador tells Raziel about the prophecy of the Vampire Messiah and Janos Audron.
- Raziel goes back to the Sarafan Stronghold, looking to time travel again.
- Raziel confronts Kain within William the Just's tomb. Raziel is now armed with the physical Soul Reaver.
- Unable to control the Soul Reaver, Raziel kills future Kain
Raziel controls the Reaver and spares Kain's life, altering history in the process. (YouTube Link)
Raziel uncovers another Time Streaming Device
Moebius refuses to help him configure the device and Raziel ends up going 100 years into Nosgoth's future (post-Blood Omen era)
EVENTS OF BLOOD OMEN & DEFIANCE
The corruption of the Pillars ( Blood Omen era)
The nobleman Kain is assassinated
In the underworld, the necromancer Mortanius offers Kain the chance to avenge his murder.
Kain accepts the offer and is reborn as a vampire
Kain hunts down and destroys the corrupt Circle Guardians, restoring each of the Pillars in turn
Kain meets the ancient vampire Vorador
Kain discovers the Soul Reaver within Avernus Cathedral, and claims it for his own
Kain joins forces with King Ottmar's Army of Hope, to confront the Legions of the tyrant Nemesis
The Armies of Hope are decimated; Kain activates the Time Streaming Device and is propelled nearly 50 years back in time.
The Vampire Purge ( Blood Omen Era). Most of Defiance takes place here.
The events in Defiance take place parallel to Blood Omen and set a new timeline
Raziel defies The Elder God and escapes from the Spectral Realm after 500 years
Raziel arrives at Vorador's mansion, looking for a way to resurrect Janos
Following Vorador's advice, he makes his way to Avernus Cathedral
Raziel finds Turel at Avernus, where he is being worshipped as a God name Hask'ak'Gik (who in reality is a Hylden)
Raziel kills Turel and confronts Mortanius regarding the “Heart of Darkness”
Mortanius tells him that he used the Heart to resurrect Kain as a vampire
Mortanius destroys himself after succumbing to the Hylden
With the Oracle (Elder God)'s help, Future Kain arrives at Avernus to face Raziel
Raziel rips out Kain's heart and throws him through an open portal (to the demon dimension where the Hylden are trapped)
Raziel uses the “Heart of Darkness” to resurrect Janos and retells the events of the past five centuries
Janos takes Raziel to the vampire citadel to figure what went wrong with the prophecy of the “Vampire Messiah”
Raziel explores the citadel and discovers the Spirit Forge.He purifies his Wraith Blade with the help of Ariel and all the Balance Guardians
Right before letting go, Ariel's ghost gives Raziel a cryptic message, indicating that Kain is the key to Nosgoth's survival
The following events occurred in Blood Omen but Mortanius' destruction in Defiance changed the timeline for a young Kain
- Kain confronts Mortanius, the final Guardian, at the Pillars
- Mortanius is destroyed as the Hylden possessing his body emerges
- Kain destroys the Hylden in combat
- With Mortanius' death, all but the Balance Pillar are restored
The following events take place regardless of any timeline -
Kain finally realizes that he is the Balance Guardian, and therefore the last of the Nine
Kain must choose between sacrificing himself to heal the world...or preserving his life and ruling Nosgoth in its damnation. Either choice denies him his true destiny of the Scion of Balance and alters history forever.
A young Kain's refusal to sacrifice himself destroys the Pillars and sets the Hylden free who immediately possess Janos Audron
The possessed Janos defeats Raziel and flys away. Raziel slips into the spectral realm
Future Kain makes his way out of the demon dimension and goes back to the Vampire Citadel
Elder God resurrects Moebius and summons him to the Citadel as well
Kain finds Moebius at the Citadel and kills him
Raziel finishes the job for good by devouring Moebius' soul – who is now dead for all time
Raziel realizes his true destiny is to become part of the Soul Reaver blade and he reanimates into the material world using Moebius' body
Kain impales him on reaction, only to realize a second later that it is Raziel
Raziel refuses to break free and gets absorbed into the Reaver blade to form the purified Soul Reaver.
The purified Reaver frees Kain of the corruption blocking his vision since birth. He finally sees the Elder God
Kain defeats the Elder God and leaves the citadel, armed with the Soul Reaver containing Raziel's soul.
ROUGLY 100 YEARS AFTER BLOOD OMEN
Events in Soul Reaver 2
Raziel arrives in a decaying Nosgoth and finds Moebius' ghost
After finding out that Janos is inaccessible in this time period, he uses the time chamber again and goes more than 600 years into Nosgoth's Past (to the time of the Sarafan Crusades)
200 YEARS AFTER BLOOD OMEN
Blood Omen 2 Prologue
Kain continues his conquest of the land and resurrects Vorador
He leads an army of vampires against the new Sarafan order
The Sarafan Lord (a Hylden in disguise) defeats Kain, putting him into a coma for 200 years, and steals the Soul Reaver
400 YEARS AFTER BLOOD OMEN
Events of Blood Omen 2
An understrength Kain wakes up in Meridian with significant memory loss
Kain is helped by Umah, a vampire of the Cabal clan, who helps him recover his lost strength and his memories
Kain meets Vorador, the new leader of the vampires
Kain picks off his his former lieutenants who left him for dead
He destroys the Sarafan infrastructure and rescues Janos Audron in the process
Janos informs him about the history between the Ancients and the Hylden
Kain confronts the Hylden Lord with Janos
Janos gets thrown into the Demon Realm by the Hylden Lord
Kain kills the Hylden Lord, closes the gate to the Demon Realm, and recovers the Soul Reaver
ROUGLY 500 YEARTS AFTER BLOOD OMEN
Kain sets the ruined Pillars as the seat for his new empire, and the unrestored Balance Pillar as the base of his throne
Kain raises his six vampire lieutenants from the corpses of the Sarafan martyrs; Raziel is reborn as a vampire
In the following centuries, Kain and his clan establish their rule over Nosgoth
The land of Nosgoth starts to fall apart
The vampires build huge furnaces to cover the world in black smoke, shielding them from the sun
1000 YEARS AFTER BLOOD OMEN
Soul Reaver Prologue
A FEW CENTURIES LATER
Events of Soul Reaver
Wraith Raziel is revived by the Elder God at the bottom of the Abyss and is reborn as a reaver of souls
Raziel returns to reap the vampires apostate souls and take his revenge on his vampire brethren and his creator, Kain
Turel is possessed by a Hylden and transported 2000 years into the past
Raziel kills Melchiah
Raziel confronts Kain within the ruins of the Pillar Sanctuary; Kain attacks Raziel with the Soul Reaver, his ancient sword – the blade is destroyed on impact. Now a wraith blade, the Soul Reaver intertwines with Razial and becomes his symbiotic weapon
Raziel kills all his brothers (except Turel) and absorbs their unique abilities
Raziel pursues Kain through Moebius' ancient Chronoplast time portal, and is plunged into Nosgoth's past (this is where Soul Reaver 2 begins)