Blood Omen 2 is actually the fourth game in the ongoing series that brings a new meaning to the phrase, “bloody hell!” Starting off with Blood Omen, the series switched to a new protagonist, Raziel for Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2, and now we’re back with the original “hero”, Kain, vampire lord and all round camp bad guy for more blood-sucking action. Except that chronologically, Blood Omen 2 is set before the Soul Reaverseries, although Soul Reaver 2 did involve travelling back in time… or something.
Ah to hell with it, it’s really not that important anyway, since thankfully Blood Omen 2 is entirely playable and understandable if you don’t know your Raziel from your Kain. The story goes like this: at the height of his power, 200 years previously, Kain led an army of vampires to the stronghold of power of his enemies, the humans. Commanded by a mystical order known as the Sarafan, Kain was unexpectedly defeated by the Sarafan Lord, and was cast down for 200 years. The game starts as he awakens, hungry and in a weakened state after his bi-centurial catnap. A scantily clad, large-breasted vampire (is there any other sort?), named Uma, lets him know the status quo, and reluctantly he agrees to join the vampire resistance against the ruling Sarafan.
And so the stage is set. Kain is as good a protagonist as ever. Svelte, chiselled, and sporting a fetching pair of glowing eyes, he’s magnificently voiced and moves like the predator he is around the steaming piles of the decrepit city of his enemies. The best thing about this console to PC conversion is the graphical improvement thanks to the adjustable graphics options. In particular, the ability to enable anti-aliasing upgrades the game’s appearance significantly.
Sadly, the gameplay itself remains depressingly linear. There is only ever one path Kain can tread, despite his grumblings about compliance, eerily echoed by our own griping. When there’s a low-level roof that is clearly within reach, yet not on your path, the game simply presents an invisible wall around it – it’s really quite restricting, and doesn’t help the suspension of disbelief. Kain makes his way through the various areas of the city by pressing any number of levers, spinning wheels and pulling boxes around to solve fairly simplistic puzzles. They start off insultingly easy (the guards just happen to be standing under the pipe out of which acid spews when you turn a wheel on your side of a wall), and become progressively more challenging, although there’s nothing that’ll keep your wondering for more than a small amount of time.
Being a bloodsucker, Kain garners strength from the lives of others, sucking their blood telekinetically from their freshly-dead bodies. Sucking blood replenishes his health and increases his power bar, something that can also be increased by unlocking chests that are littered around the city. Once it’s full, he “levels up”, with increased health and power.
Combat is simple – Kain locks on to his enemies and draws his weapon with a keypress, at which point he can either block incoming attacks or make an attack himself in chains of three styles, either with his natural claws or with any of a bunch of weapons he can pick up on his way around the city. At various end-of-level points, Kain comes up against tougher foes, usually vampires that have betrayed their own kind to work with the Sarafan. These fights can be more interesting, but alas, usually entail finding the one trick that can hurt the foe, and executing it at the appropriate time.
Kain also has under his control a number of Dark Gifts. These range from the ability to hide himself in mist (and thus either sneak past foes or execute them from behind) to a long-range jump and extra-powerful melee attacks. Bizarrely, the combat abilities must be “charged” up by parrying opponents’ attacks before they can be used – a strange method. Each time Kain defeats another vampire, he gains an extra special ability, which is used at the obvious moments, usually where there’s a puzzle to be completed.
It’s a pity the game is so linear, because the game does look great, atmospherically set in the style of the Thief series, and the character is gloriously evil, thoroughly powerful and malefic. It’s somehow below him to be pressing about 2,000 levers and turning water sluices for 11 levels, with no real free will to indulge himself, other than slaughtering every hapless civilian he encounters.
The story, on the other hand, is actually pretty good, and nicely fitting for a continuation (of sorts) of the Kain and Raziel saga, and to be entirely fair, playing through the game is not an unpleasant experience – it’s actually pretty enjoyable in a mindless kind of way. If you’ve a reasonably strong stomach (because, let’s face it, there’s a LOT of blood), and fancy a dark stroll through a fun, yet simplistic vampirish experience, this may well be for you. But if you like a little complexity and challenge to your gaming, you might wish to steer clear.
This game is rated with a 66/100 score in Metacritic.