Legacy of Kain: Defiance
System: multiple :: Rating: Mature :: Players: 1
Genre: Action :: Released: November 11, 2003 (PS2), 18 November 2003 (Xbox), 15 December 2003 (PC)
By Anthony Logan
The games in the The Legacy of Kain series are without a doubt the deepest bunch of platformers I have ever encountered. (Because of the endless jumping from one platform to another, I refuse to refer to this series as straight out action/adventure.) The saving grace of this game comes from its story, and, to a lesser extent, the gameplay. Legacy of Kain comes in two flavors: Blood Omen and Soul Reaver, both of which have had two titles. Defiance is the fifth game in the series, and follows the path of both of the main characters, Kain (the tyrant almost single handedly responsible for the fall of the game's world, Nosgoth) and Raziel (formerly of Kain's order, but was punished for out-evolving Kain by being thrown into the Pit of Despair, where he was rescued by the Elder God and turned into his soul reaver).
I'll admit, I was quite unbelieving when I heard that this game followed both Kain and Raziel. After Soul Reaver, the logical good guy had to be Raziel. In this entry, however, there is a great deal of character development. As you follow Kain, you feel his struggle to change fate and avoid his destiny. His sections of the game are quite action oriented, lots of battle sequences, which is one of this game's true strong points. For the first time, the action and battle portions are treated as if they're meant to be there, instead of an addition to the platforming element. Kain handles differently from Raziel, and his sections of the game have a different theme and feel to them. You feel almost all-powerful, and it's sad really because Kain has the Soul Reaver to dispatch enemies with. Raziel, on the other hand, has his own distinct feel and theme, most notably the ability to glide a large distance — making most platforming much easier. The separation of these two characters is a great move, as it's almost like playing two different games.
Despite all that, Kain and Raziel often appear in the same locations but never actually meet. The levels are largely unchanged for both, but, and this is a huge plus for the game, it's easy to see where each character can access different parts of the level. For example, Raziel has the Soul Reaver, just like Kain, except his is a blade in spirit — it being an extension of his being. On one level, where you begin using Kain, you can see a temple devoted to the Reaver, but you'll find that Kain's gliding ability falls just short of the door, whereas Raziel can use his tattered wings to get right over to the door. Kain isn't out of luck, however, because the section below has a large pit of water. He can use his Long Jump ability to get across the pit, giving him access to a whole new part of the same area. Little touches like that show the thought put into having both main characters in the same game, without taking from either of them.
Another strong point comes in the way of its voice acting. Kain sounds every bit of the nervous, power mad, cocky tyrant he is, and Raziel sounds just like the rebellious git that he can be. Both characters are superbly voiced, as are the other characters you encounter — be it the Elder God, who is superb in his authority, or Moebius, who possesses a perfectly slimy, love to hate voice. Non-player characters are also fun to hear, whether it's the battle cry of vampire hunters, the shrieks of demons from the Spectral realm or the creepy whisper of those demons that manifest themselves in the spiritual world. And then there's the wonderful range of sounds: Swords split the air with ferocious wrath, heads are cracked, souls are devoured, all with the necessary Legacy of Kain flair.
Despite having a few flaws, namely a cheap camera at times and a tendency to reverse controls for different camera angles, this game is a solid entry in the Legacy of Kain canon, and a must-play for fans of this series.
— Solid gameplay; a good mix of both action and platforming.
— The score is quite nice, and the sounds in general are above average.
— The camera angles are annoying; they change too often, setting up cheap hits.
— Kane is ugly. So is Raziel. So is Moebius. And so are all the humans. No one is beautiful in that world. It's so sad.
Overall: 8.5 out of 10