Bring it Back | Legacy of Kain
Welcome back to another Bring it Back retrospective, as we do every Sunday! Last week was a bit of a last minute change in schedule with a focus on Mother 3 for Mother’s Day. This week, we’re back on track with a classic action adventure franchise that Square Enix currently owns the rights to. What started as a Crystal Dynamics franchise soon went to Eidos Interactive, and now Square Enix in its current state. Of course, we’re talking about the Legacy of Kain series. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a new Legacy of Kain, practically 20 years. We think it’s about time we gave it the Bring it Back treatment.
The Legacy of Kain series has a storied history, involving a lot of key figures of the industry and multiple companies. Starting in 1993, Silicon Knights founder Denis Dyack started a project known as The Pillars of Nosgoth. Working with art director and writer Ken McCulloch, the two formed the basis for what would eventually become the Legacy of Kain series. Taking the project to various publishers, Crystal Dynamics recognized the ambition of the team and picked up the concept. Making a Legend of Zelda-style action adventure game with vampires, the team would settle on releasing on the original PlayStation for their project. In 1996, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was released for the world to see.
Taking a top-down perspective, Blood Omen involves hack ‘n slash combat, puzzles, and exploration. It takes a lot of inspiration from The Legend of Zelda, but it has its own identity as well. Playing as the titular Kain, there would be wildlife to kill or maim, giving sustenance for Kain’s vampiric affliction. This would maintain his health, which would drain over time. As Kain explores the world, he searches for the members of the Circle of Nine, needing their tokens to present at the Pillars of Nosgoth. He does this in an attempt to reset the guardians of the land of Nosgoth. The game has two endings: one where Kain sacrifices himself for peace, and another where he takes his seat of power to rule the land. Of course, being the Legacy of Kain, the latter is the only obvious choice for continuing the series.
Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics started to have a falling out, leading to Silicon Knights no longer having involvement in the franchise. Around the same time, Crystal Dynamics hired Amy Hennig, who would later contribute to Jak and Daxter and the Uncharted series. Hennig and Seth Carus were working on a game called Shifter, which had a strong biblical theme. Given the themes, Crystal Dynamics decided to incorporate the project into the Legacy of Kain franchise. This was how Soul Reaver was born. Taking the franchise to a 3D space, if Blood Omen was A Link to the Past, Soul Reaver was Ocarina of Time.
Taking place 1,500 years after the ending of Blood Omen, Soul Reaver, this game stars Raziel, a new vampire protagonist. Kain is now set as an antagonist in this game, attempting to kill Raziel in a jealous rage, only for The Elder God to favor Raziel and turn the tables. Over the course of the game, Raziel absorbs the souls of other vampires while “shifting” between the material and spectral planes. This mechanic allowed players to progress through areas by interacting with objects or passing through obstacles. Combat was still a hack n’ slash, but Raziel will go up against mortal foes as well as vampires. To kill vampires, players would have to stun them to either impale them or throw them into an environmental hazard. The game was a little repetitive, but it offered an engaging story.
That story would actually end on a cliffhanger, leading right into Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2. Raziel pursues Kain into the past with intent to kill him, but things don’t go according to plan. This game makes the jump to the PlayStation 2, using the engine from Gex: Enter the Gecko to deliver improvements to the visuals. The gameplay introduces more RPG elements like the previous Blood Omen entry, but still maintains the foundation of the original Soul Reaver. It’s with Soul Reaver 2 that the franchise found a foothold, and production continued at an accelerated rate. When Soul Reaver 2 released in 2001, it even came with a sneak peek for Blood Omen 2.
Blood Omen 2 would begin development in 1999 with a different team at the reigns. Taking place in an alternate timeline started from Soul Reaver, players would again take control of Kain. It became clear that the franchise would continue with Raziel and Kain as the main attractions, which would come into play a bit later. This game would take the gameplay of the original Blood Omen into the 3D space. Releasing in 2002 for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and PC, this was a huge push to keep Kain in the spotlight. While not as well remembered as the Soul Reaver games, this would lead to the next game in the series.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance would release the following year, again with the Soul Reaver team at the helm. This would mark the first time both Raziel and Kain would be playable in the same game. Kain would have a physical rendition of the Soul Reaver weapon while Raziel would have a spectral one. The story creates yet another time paradox, endangering Nosgoth and putting Kain and Raziel on a path to fix it. The story works its way to a climactic conclusion, giving an appropriate sendoff for both protagonists. This would be the final game in the franchise to release, though a sixth game, Dead Sun, was in development at one point in time. Featuring an all new protagonist and taking place long after Defiance, this would’ve been a Legacy of Kain game for a new generation before getting cancelled.
While 2003 would be the last time a game would officially release in the series, the legacy would live on. In 2010’s Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, a character pack including Kain and Raziel was released. This allowed players to take the two characters into yet another adventure, albeit a non-canon one. Raziel himself would make for an iconic protagonist, having a look that fans remember years later. He would become somewhat of a PlayStation icon, which is why Asobi would put him in Astro’s Playroom. Despite this, it’s been far too long since the games were able to be enjoyed by gamers. All the games except for the original Blood Omen are at least available on Steam. Even so, console gamers would be out of luck.
While The Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun didn’t see the light of day, Psyonix was developing a multiplayer portion of the game. It was salvaged long enough to enter an open beta under the name of Nosgoth in 2015. While it took place in the world of the series, there wasn’t much to bring in classic fans of the series. It would pit melee focused vampires against range focused humans in a multiplayer death matches. There was also a control point focused mode, but one of the biggest criticisms for the game was a lack of content. Nosgoth would remain in open beta until the project’s cancellation in 2016. I still remember receiving a lanyard for it from my very first E3.
It’s clear the series isn’t forgotten, but the question about Legacy of Kain remains: how do we Bring it Back? The biggest opportunity would be to release all the games in a collection for fans of the series. Perhaps put a little effort into supporting higher resolutions and make some small quality of life adjustments. After that, it might be worth remaking the original Soul Reaver. While this series focuses on Kain, Raziel is the one that steals the show. A remake of his debut game could potentially reignite interest in the series. Of course, while Defiance gave our heroes a definitive ending, there is potential to deviate from the story. With time paradoxes, there’s always a way to utilize the fan favorite characters.
Square Enix could also revive the project of Dead Sun, or at least reimagine it. It might be worth salvaging the concept to put into a new game to continue the story. There’s also the option of rebooting the series entirely. With it being over 20 years old, a fresh developer could retell the story in a new and exciting way. Perhaps a brand new version of the original Blood Omen would revitalize the character. The series may not have been a huge seller, but there is so much potential with reviving it today. Crystal Dynamics may want to revisit this series after they move away from Marvel’s Avengers. It would be worth giving Tomb Raider a bit of a break for a little while longer to bring back Kain, Raziel, or even a new protagonist.
What do you think? Would you like to see the Legacy of Kain series return? What about a collection of the original games? Let us know in the comments below! Also feel free to stay tuned to next week as we have another surprise franchise to give a retrospective to.