It has been a decade since we last had a Legacy of Kain game to sink our teeth into (no pun intended). Fans of the series were left bereft when the game finished without resolution only for the series to be put on hold by developers Crystal Dynamics and Eidos. Amy Hennig, the series director, left the team in favour of Naughty Dog and Legacy of Kain: Defiance did not meet the sales expectations. Even when the upper echelons of Eidos management expressed their interest in completing the series Crystal Dynamics said, ‘naaaaaaaah, you’re alright mate,’ and it looked as though the series had been shelved forever.
Earlier this year, those of us a little too desperate for a solid conclusion, started to read far too much into the rumours that there might be a new Legacy of Kain installment. After ten years could it be true? Well, no, not really. Although there is indeed a new game, it is not the continuation of the series that we were hoping for.
Nosgoth apparently began life as the multiplayer mode of cancelled PS4 project Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun. The mode which had been created by Psyonix Games was allegedly developed into what will be Nosgoth. In a departure from the usual action/adventure console platformer, Nosgoth will be free to a download multiplayer online battle game. The game has no narrative and takes place during the time between Raziel’s execution and resurrection in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Players can choose between playing as vampires or humans who are at war with each other vying for control of Nosgoth.
Before the details of Nosgoth had been announced however, there had long been fan speculation that the next installment in the series would be a reboot. Indeed, there is hope that a positive enough reception of Nosgoth will provide the demand for a reboot. But why then have we seemingly given up on a follow on to Defiance? Why are we thinking in terms of starting again instead of finishing off what already exists?
The fact is Defiance was not that great a game, especially when compared to the earlier Legacy of Kain series (except Blood Omen 2. We don’t talk about that). There was a definitive shift in the characterisation of Kain, the series protagonist, between the making of Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2 which meant that by the time Defiance came along there is very little the game could actually do with him.
Kain first appeared in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain as a morally complex, but ultimately dickish, human turned vampire. And that’s his thing! Kain is an absolute bastard! His bastard level increases massively after he is assassinated and offered the chance at resurrection and revenge. After killing his murderers Kain goes on a further killing spree murdering Nosgoth’s guardians and hoping that along the way he will cure himself of his cursed vampirism. After over fifty hours of gameplay during which time you semi-embrace your existence it is revealed that in order for Kain to truly save the world he has to kill himself, but as the last remaining vampire in Nosgoth he will destroy their race. Although the player has the choice which of the options to choose, it is revealed in the sequel, Soul Reaver, that canonically Kain chose to rule Nosgoth by raising an army of vampires and ravaging the land.
Soul Reaver features his firstborn vampire lieutenant Raziel, who mirroring the events of the previous game is executed at Kain’s hand and resurrected in order to exact his revenge against his former master. Once again Kain displays his usual form of antagonism and goads Raziel, disappearing on both occasions after the two come to blows. So infuriated is Raziel that he opts to follow Kain through time in order to bring him to justice.
It was between the end of Soul Reaver and the development of Soul Reaver 2 that Crystal Dynamics took a new interest in Kain and decided to develop him as a character, so much so that he was not to be “the devil he once seemed.” Instead of the, “yes I killed you, I’m glad I killed you and I’d do it again,” Kain that we had followed thus far he was replaced by a, “yes I killed you, but let’s discuss this reasonably and you’ll see that actually I had a master plan.” A subtle but telling change is that Raziel goes from being his firstborn lieutenant to firstborn son. Suddenly Kain is not such a bastard anymore, in fact he is positively heroic. His early decisions in Blood Omen to damn the world to oblivion just so he could rule over it and the execution of Raziel are retroactively attributed to his master plan to save the world.
By the time Defiance came Kain was being hailed as the saviour of Nosgoth; the vampire champion and the Scion of Balance (a title which just sort of appeared for this game, though apparently Kain had always known this of himself). But of course in the meantime Raziel is still a little miffed that Kain had him executed and eventually fuelled by revenge and a little bit of temporary insanity Raziel kills him. While this is a temporary measure as Kain doesn’t actually die, we are still left condemning Raziel who redeems himself by reconciling with Kain by the end of the game and sacrificing himself to assist him in his saving the world venture.
And this is where Defiance leaves us and while there is little in the way of resolution in terms of saving Nosgoth, a sequel could only really address the semantics of how Kain saves the world. Whether he can or will are at this point questions that don’t need to be asked. Raziel’s sacrifice has granted him the ability to save the world and Kain has moved from the realms of anti-hero to slightly dubious but ultimately good, therefore will save the world, if able to. With this in mind all a further installment could offer is the details of how Kain will save the world, any question we might have had regarding Kain’s motivation has been firmly answered. If another game is unnecessary then a reboot for the series is all we can hope for.
But whether interest in a multiplayer battle arena, despite its apparent adherence to canon, will be enough to inspire this reboot is probably wishful thinking on our part. I think we have had all the resolution we can hope to have, we have after all been waiting for ten years (I know, it can’t have been that long, right?) and this, a battle game without any of the major characters or any kind of storyline is what we’ll have to make do with.
Now where’s my invite to the Beta?