- This article is about the video game series. For the work of literature, see Legacy of Cain.
Legacy of Kain is a series of fantasy action-adventure video games developed initially by Silicon Knights in association with Crystal Dynamics. After a legal battle, Crystal Dynamics continued the series without Silicon Knights and Eidos Interactive became the publisher. Each game in the series incorporates elements of action and puzzle-solving in its gameplay and all are set in the fictional setting of Nosgoth, united by the character of Kain, the series' amoral vampire antihero. Although technically a pentalogy, the series is effectively made up of two trilogies telling the separate stories of Kain and Raziel, both culminating in Defiance.
To date five games comprise the Legacy of Kain series, each one developed for video game consoles and later ported to Microsoft Windows. The series has enjoyed critical success, and has been widely praised for high-quality voice acting, storytelling, and visuals.
The idea behind Legacy of Kain was first conceived by Denis Dyack, the founder of Silicon Knights, as "a game which adults would want to play", featuring a strong narrative with cinematic elements and gameplay that demanded thought as well as reflexes. Crystal Dynamics agreed to publish the game in 1993, and it was in development for three years, undergoing a substantial expansion mid-process which required Silicon Knights to increase its staff level. Crystal Dynamics sent several staff to assist Silicon Knights. After "herculean efforts", Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain released in late 1996 to success and acclaim.
In 1998 Silicon Knights filed a suit against Crystal Dynamics for rights to the Legacy of Kain IP, requesting an injunction to prevent Crystal Dynamics from marketing a sequel to Blood Omen which they were developing without Silicon Knights involvement. Silicon Knights settled its legal dispute with Crystal Dynamics privately, and Crystal Dynamics retained rights to the Legacy of Kain franchise provided that future games credit Silicon Knights as the original creator. Silicon Knights walked away from their own planned sequel, which would have been far different. Meanwhile, Crystal Dynamics' sequel, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was highly anticipated despite several delays, and it featured on the covers of over ten game industry magazines. Upon its release in 1999 Soul Reaver was hailed as a technical achievement for its data-streaming game engine, which eliminated the loading pauses that were so prevalent in PlayStation-era games. A commercial and critical success, it sold 1.5 million units worldwide, and the strong reactions of players to the game's cliffhanger ending impelled the developers to come forward and allay concerns that it was released unfinished.
While Soul Reaver was still in development, Crystal Dynamics assembled another team to create a game that would succeed to the Blood Omen title, and when the Soul Reaver team started work on their follow-up in late 1999, two Legacy of Kain games were in simultaneous development. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 had an accelerated development cycle and was released after two years, despite switching from PlayStation to sixth generation consoles early in the project. At first, it was a PlayStation 2 exclusive in conjunction with Sony, but eventually, a port by Nixxess Software was released for PC. Soul Reaver 2 was a sales success, though it did not eclipse that of its prequel. Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain had a longer development period, and released six months after Soul Reaver 2. A key point of focus for the Blood Omen 2 team was the main character, Kain; Crystal Dynamics had "a huge investment in Kain as a character". Despite middling critical reception it was released on four platforms and sold well.
The fifth and most recent game in the series "started life as Soul Reaver 3", but the developers decided to take the game in a new direction, uniting elements of the two sub-series into one game with re-vamped game systems. They picked the title Legacy of Kain: Defiance to reflect the new focus. However, Defiance did not meet Eidos' sales expectations, and this, combined with the exit of two key Crystal Dynamics staff members (director/writer Amy Hennig and game designer Richard Lemarchand) shortly after the release of Defiance sparked fan speculation that it would become the last Legacy of Kain game. The deaths of voice actor Tony Jay and Crystal Dynamics employee Kyle Mannerberg were regarded as further setbacks. Nonetheless, there are signs that Crystal Dynamics has not forgotten Legacy of Kain in the form of easter eggs in Tomb Raider: Legend, and statements from Eidos US CEO Bill Gardner expressing interest in reviving the Legacy of Kain series.
|Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain|| 1996 (NA)|
|A 2D action-adventure game in the same vein as Diablo. The game's selling points included its 50+ hour length and the wide array of items and abilities the player character commands. Blood Omen introduces Nosgoth, a fictional world designed with fantasy novel-like complexity, and gives the player control of Kain, a newly resurrected vampire seeking revenge against his murderers and a cure for his vampiric curse.|
|Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver|| 1999 (NA)|
|Based on a Crystal Dynamics game concept dubbed Shifter, which was integrated into the Legacy of Kain universe at an early point in development. The game's staff likened the technological advance from Blood Omen to Soul Reaver to the evolution of The Legend of Zelda series from the Super Nintendo to the Nintendo 64 - bringing the franchise into 3D while maintaining a similar style. The game introduces a new protagonist, Raziel, one of Kain's six 'sons' and lieutenants.|
|Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2|| 2001 (NA)|
| PlayStation 2|
|A direct sequel to Soul Reaver which picks up the story where the previous game left off. The developers' overall goal was to retain the elements that made the prequel successful, but they decided to eschew the 'complete a level, fight a boss' game flow of the prequel in favor of a more story-driven approach. Raziel is still in pursuit of Kain, but now he must uncover the mysteries surrounding his own destiny.|
|Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain|| 2002 (NA)|
| PlayStation 2|
|Developed by a different team at Crystal Dynamics, this sequel to Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain has many of the qualities that make the series popular, but shifts the focus more on gore and combat, while the puzzles were criticised as simplistic. The setting, an enormous industrial city, is a departure for the series. In this game, players again control Kain in his campaign to conquer Nosgoth. The events of Blood Omen 2 did not occur in the original history, and only took place in Nosgoth's timeline due to a paradoxical event which took place in the final act of Soul Reaver 2.|
|Legacy of Kain: Defiance|| 2003 (NA)|
| PlayStation 2|
|The fifth Legacy of Kain game represents an effort to consolidate and re-balance the storytelling, puzzle-solving and combat aspects of the series, taking cues from Devil May Cry in gameplay. The player takes control of both Kain and Raziel to discover how their destinies are intertwined, concluding on a hopeful note, but without full resolution.|
The series features an extensive storyline that is expanded during each game. Most of the individual games deal with a subset of the storyline; since the general timeline is non-linear, later games include pieces of the story from the past, present and future. The uniting element of the series is the unlife of the vampire Kain, but the story introduces the player to many other characters and sub-plots. Every game in the series is narrated in past tense by either Kain, Raziel, or both.
Nosgoth is an ancient battleground for which two species have been at war since before history - the Ancient Vampires and the Hylden. The Hylden in earlier times waged an all out war, but in modern times, fight through surrogates and pawns. The level of sophistication their warfare has developed is staggering, and much more realistic for such a protracted battle than the wasteful, exhaustive and ultimately short-term warfare style originally endorsed by both species. Each species moves in some way from behind the scenes, manipulating events slowly and deliberately, molding and preparing the lesser peoples of the world (humanity) to act eventually in their favor, with individual moves often taking centuries or millennia to completely unfold.
In ancient times, the Hylden had attempted to put a decisive end to the war by developing a super-weapon which would extinguish the life of the world. This weapon violated a number of the fundamental laws governing the nature of the world and reality, severely upsetting the balance of life and death, which the Ancient Vampires held to be sacred. The Pillars of Nosgoth were erected in order to restore balance to the land and ensure that these governing dynamics, which the Ancients divided into nine spheres, held firm. Furthermore, the Vampires enacted a massive exile, banishing the Hylden race from Nosgoth. Each of the nine pillars represents one of the governing forces of the world, and each pillar had a Guardian. The nine spheres of law are Death, Conflict, States, Energy, Time, Dimension, Nature, Mind, and Balance.
However, by the time of the games, their power is waning and some (most notably the Hylden) seek to destroy the pillars entirely. It is unknown whether there was ever a time of peace in Nosgoth or whether one will ever come to pass. It is also revealed later on that the Pillars served a dual purpose: along with preserving the balance of the land, the Pillars acted as a gateway, banishing the Hylden into a desolate dimension, inhabited by numerous monsters which are known as "Demons" in the games. The Pillars also act as the lock to this gate, and as long as they stand the Hylden are trapped; this is the reason behind the Hylden's use of numerous pawns and surrogates during the games (for as long as the Pillars continue to weaken the Hylden are able to manifest themselves physically especially by possessing the bodies of the dead).
Another interesting game mechanic in this series is that the player takes the role of two different characters during the course of the games. For example in the Blood Omen games the player controls Kain, but during the Soul Reaver games Raziel is controllable and the story is resumed from his point of view. Finally in Legacy of Kain: Defiance the player assumes the roles of both Kain and Raziel at regular intervals.
One of the true innovations of the Legacy of Kain series is the greatly involved storyline, with believable characters, and shifting alliances and betrayals. Nosgoth is a dark fantasy land with an elaborate and involved history, and that history is often revealed in reverse; new information often shows that what is believed to be true is a lie. Furthermore, nearly every major character, or groups of characters, has both aspects of heroism and villainy.
Destiny and fate
An underlying element of the story is heavily concerned with destiny and throughout the series fatalism is a strong theme. The idea that a person's destiny can be foreseen and thus altered is presented to the player. Much of the final game, Legacy of Kain: Defiance, is devoted to discovering whether this hypothesis is true or not. Some characters try to use this facet to their advantage by attempting to manipulate other characters' (notably Raziel's) destinies. Free will is also challenged during the story and a great number of the in-game characters believe that no one truly possesses free will, except Raziel. Therefore these characters believe that Raziel is the key to altering destiny. Manipulation also plays a major point in the progression of the story since nearly every character, at some point in the story, is manipulated by another.
Much of the story behind Legacy of Kain contains time travel. It is used as a method for creating a diverse and very non-linear timeline. This time traveling ability is obtained through time streaming chambers and the Chronoplast, all of which are credited to Moebius the Timestreamer, who is the Guardian of Time (one of the nine guardians of the Pillars).
Although much of the story involves time travel, it does not initially make sense, usually it requires background reading and additional playthroughs of earlier games before a full understanding of the story is acquired. Many paradoxes are introduced during the story, as is commonly the case among stories containing time travel. These paradoxes further add to the confusion, as each paradox that comes up throughout the games tends to actively re-write history and the course of past, present, and future events (the most notable and consistently mentioned of these time changing paradoxes is the one in the original Blood Omen, where Kain travels back in time and kills a past king (and future tyrant). In the series, the only consistent cause of these paradoxes is the meeting of a past version of the Soul Reaver weapon with a future one.
It is interesting to note that the events of Blood Omen 2 (see below) are actually the product of a paradox created in Soul Reaver 2, a fact which initially confused many long-time fans before enough time had passed for notes to be compared between games.
The music of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was composed by Steve Henifin, the composer for the Silicon Knights sound team. For Soul Reaver the director, Amy Hennig, selected Kurt Harland of synthpop band Information Society, then employed by Crystal Dynamics, to compose the music. According to Harland, a colleague introduced the Soul Reaver team to his work through "Ozar Midrashim", a track from Information Society's 1997 album Don't Be Afraid. This track went on to feature in Soul Reaver as the opening theme. Harland worked with audio engineer Jim Hedges in the creation of an adaptive audio system for Soul Reaver which allowed the music to change based on in-game context. This approach became a mainstay of subsequent games in the series. Harland and Hedges resumed the same respective tasks in Soul Reaver 2, though Hedges also contributed compositions. The composition and audio programming for Blood Omen 2 were both handled by Jim Hedges. According to another staff member, Hedges did the majority of composition work for Defiance while Kurt Harland was busy with other projects.