At a recent Eidos Interactive press event held at the offices of Crystal Dynamix, we got a look at Legacy of Kain: Defiance. Defiance is the fifth installment in the Blood Omen/Soul Reaver legacy, and it is the first game to bring the two franchises together and make the protagonists of both series playable in the same game. Defiance also aims to be a much more action-oriented game when compared with its predecessors, while still maintaining a balance with the puzzle-solving mechanics that have been so popular in the previous entries in the series.
Though little was revealed about the official plotline of Defiance, it was stated that the game will be designed in such a way as to allow newcomers to the franchise to pick up the plot without having to research the story's history in any capacity. What we were able to ascertain from the demo was that in Defiance, Kain and Raziel are still at odds with one another. The game features a chapter-based progression, switching back and forth between Kain and Raziel in each chapter. The first level had Raziel attempting to escape the spectral realm, as he is trapped there with the elder god he fell out of favor with in the previous game. As Kain's story picks up, we find him 500 years apart from where Raziel begins, fighting off droves of soldiers in a large castle. Eventually the two will meet, but where the story goes from there is anyone's guess.
As mentioned, Defiance's gameplay is much more action-oriented than that of any of the previous games in the series. For starters, whereas in the earlier games the combat was almost turn-based in nature, with enemies coming at you one at a time, in Defiance enemies will come at you in groups, and you'll have to fend off several at a time. The actual combat system in this latest game is notably more responsive, with more-elaborate combos that allow you to perform moves both in the air and on the ground. In fact, any move you can perform on the ground, you can eventually perform in the air. Both Kain and Raziel will also have a number of unique special attacks relating to their respective swords and telekinetic abilities. These special attacks can be chained together with basic attacks in any number of ways, allowing for a practically endless number of combinations.
Just like in their previous appearances, Kain requires blood to survive and Raziel feeds on souls. As always, Kain will be able to draw blood from downed opponents by sucking it out using his telekinesis ability, but he'll also be able to dive in straight for the jugular, sucking blood the old-fashioned vampire way. Raziel appears to absorb souls in much the same way as before, and both characters have the option of feeding their swords with the soul and blood energy they acquire. Aside from fallen enemies, blood and souls can also be gained from chained humans and trapped souls found throughout each level in the game.
Beyond the scope of combat, Defiance's gameplay will also include some puzzle solving. As in the previous Soul Reaver games, Raziel will be able to switch between the spectral realm and the normal world, and some puzzles will require him to jump back and forth between the two in a progressive fashion. Kain will also have his own special brand of puzzles to solve.
In terms of its presentation, Legacy of Kain: Defiance is a vast improvement on anything else in the series' history. The game's environments alone are quite stunning to look at, with huge areas to run around in and explore and tons of elaborate architecture. You'll find numerous interactive elements in each level as well, such as spikes on the wall you can impale enemies on. One of the highlights in Raziel's first level is the body of the elder god, which occupies much of the level and moves around slightly from time to time to give you the feeling that the entire environment is alive. Kain and Raziel look fairly similar to their most recent incarnations, but they both sport more detail and have lots of new animations. The game's camera system features a much more cinematic camera that was designed to help point you in the proper direction. It felt nicely intuitive when compared with other available cinematic cameras, and it rarely ever gave us any problems. You'll also be able to access a first-person camera via the right analog stick.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance is looking fantastic all around. The game's new method of storytelling and larger emphasis on combat are a refreshing change of pace for the franchise, and the stunning visuals we were treated to have us very excited to see more of what Defiance will have to offer when it hits store shelves this November. The game will be released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and you can expect more coverage of Legacy of Kain: Defiance in the near future.