Legacy of Kain: Defiance
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, Xbox
Publisher
Eidos
Developer
Crystal Dynamics
Genre
Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Gorgeous graphics
• Amazing voice work
• Excellent story

The Bad

• No manually adjustable camera
• Occasional bad camera angles

 
Grade
A

Fans of the series, rejoice! Legacy of Kain: Defiance finally answers (almost) all the questions the previous games have posed, and then some. Newcomers to the series, don't be intimidated; Defiance not only manages to sum up those games, but will provide you with one of the best video game stories in quite a while. As the fifth game in the Legacy of Kain series, Defiance has a lot to live up to, and fortunately it delivers.

Picking up directly after the events of Soul Reaver 2, Defiance tells the tale of two characters, Kain and Raziel. Kain is the last of the vampires, a race once noble but now regarded as evil by the citizens of Nosgoth, where the story takes place. Raziel was once a vampire as well, but was cast aside by Kain and became a spectral wraith, and he has sought vengeance ever since. While both characters have starred in their own games, the stories are intertwined throughout the series, and Defiance is the first to let you play as both characters. Because of this, we get to see the story from both sides, and consequently get a much better understanding of the events that have occurred. The story begins with Raziel searching for a way out of the spectral realm, and Kain searching for a way to hold back the forces that want to take over Nosgoth. The games plays out in chapters, alternating between the two characters. To say more about the story would be spoiling a huge surprise, but rest assured that there will be plenty of twists and turns before the final truth is revealed, and what a shock it is!

Moving away from the story, the next thing the series has been known for is it's gameplay, or occasional lack thereof. Many times, the previous games placed story first, and gameplay second. While this provided us with an amazing world and superb narrative, often players would run around avoiding combat as much as possible to get to the next story scene. Crystal Dynamics took this to heart, and have crafted a much deeper and more rewarding combat scheme for Defiance. Gone are the same plain, 2-3 hit combos of the previous games, replaced with a multitude of moves for both characters. Air juggles, multiple attack combos and unlockable moves make combat much more enjoyable this time around, and the inclusion of the telekinesis attacks is icing on the cake. Instead of simply hacking away at enemies, you now can pick them up and toss them about. This opens up some interesting options; you can toss enemies over a cliff, draw them to you to fight more easily, or hurl them at torches and spikes to inflict more damage. Both characters control almost exactly the same, so players aren't disoriented when switching chapters.

While Kain and Raziel control much the same, their chapters play quite differently. Raziel's chapters mainly focus on puzzle solving, with little combat aside from boss fights. Kain focuses more on combat, with occasional puzzles to solve. The puzzles for Raziel center around his reaver properties, he will gain the Dark, Light, Fire, Water, Air and Earth reavers throughout the course of the game. Kain's puzzles are mostly key fetch quests, but he also gains reaver upgrades during the game. Both reavers get powered up throughout the course of the game, and can unleash powerful effects depending on the element equipped. Fire sets all enemies on screen ablaze, water freezes them, time slows the game down to allow you to attack enemies at will, etc. Both Kain and Raziel must constantly feed, however, and since charging the reaver and filling their life bars are accomplished by the same thing (feeding on enemies), players must balance the two to stay alive throughout the long levels.

Speaking of levels, the Legacy of Kain series has always had level design and unique architecture. Defiance delivers here as well, not only surpassing other games in the series, but most games on the PS2 as well. Levels range from dark, dreary crypts to elaborately furnished mansions to gothic cathedrals; each environment is distinctly different from the last and all of them stunning to behold. Character models are very rich, with moving cloth and articulate fingers and faces for all the main characters and enemies. The lighting effects are superb, from torches on the walls to the glow of the reavers and the reflections in water. There are no traces of seams or glitches in the environments, the graphics are high quality throughout the game.

Finally, what has always been the hallmark of the series is the voice acting and sound. Defiance does not disappoint here either. All the main characters have returned from previous games (plus a couple of surprises), and the cast works well together. From the sneering arrogance of Simon Templeman's Kain to the resonating baritone of Tony Jay's Elder God, each voice actor is at the top of their game here. Sound effects are well done too; the different reavers produce different sounds when used and footsteps, splashes, weapon hits and ambient sounds are spot on. Music ranges from calm exploration themes to soaring orchestral battle themes, with the music rising and fading as appropriate.

Unfortunately, not everything is polished. Unlike previous games, the camera in Defiance cannot be manually adjusted. Instead, it stays fixed on your character, with a limited ability to pan it left or right. While it works most of the time, there are moments, usually in the heat of battle, where it can become stuck behind an object limiting visibility, or extremely close up making it impossible to see your enemies. Also, while combat is much improved you can still skip quite a bit of it and not miss much. Only occasionally does the game force you to fight, usually to progress the story or to fight a boss.

In the end though, Defiance's good qualities far outweigh the bad, and it delivers an amazing game experience. This is the best entry yet in the series, and if they choose to continue it I would hope they use this game as the template for future entries. Those looking for a great action/adventure game need look no further, whether you are a newcomer to the series or a long time fan, you can't go wrong with Defiance.

- - Darken Rahl

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