Sunday, March 11, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Our darkest hours

Kain journal entry 1 : My journey started where most end : by death. I was brutally slain by robbers in the darkness of the night. My soul couldn't find peace, though, and when the Necromancer Mortanius came to me to offer me my revenge, I didn't think it through and grabbed my chance. Now I'm cursed. Cursed with the gift of a sub-life, constantly relying on drinking blood to survive. The robbers didn't stand a chance against me and it was pretty quick till I killed them all, however it didn't end here. I've met a ghost, Ariel, keeper of the balance at the Nine Pillars of Nosgoth. She told me the Circle of the Nine, guardians of the Pillars, had become corrupted and that their lives must be ended. It will be a long road until the sun rises and I finally find peace.

After my first two hours through the world of Nosgoth, I confess I'm a bit at loss at what to think of the game for now. It obviously has a lot going for it. The setting is interesting, the voice acting is quite good (especially Kain's voice, that comment on a lot of things. I especially like how happy he looks when he discover another way to dismember or make exploding his enemies), and I'm pretty sure the quest's gonna be a long one. However, there is a few little things that really pull me out of the game sometimes.

First of all, the camera-handling is quite weird. The game is viewed from a top-down perspective, similar to A Link to the Past (in the way it shows different levels of elevation, opposite to The Legend of Zelda, which is all on one level), and you can choose between two zoom levels. The first one is really close, and the camera readjust itself each time you turn around, to show a bit more in the direction your character is facing. It makes sense because you couldn't see anything is Kain was centered all the time, but it's not handled well and takes a while to get used to. The other one is just too far away to see anything correctly, even on a large TV set...

Next thing : the game is DARK. And I mean it. Playing the game with your curtains opened while it's only mildly grey outside is really difficult, and while there exists a spell to procure some more light, it can be too much at times. I juggled with the Gamma controls of my TV to see if I could make it clearer (especially when trying to catch screenshots) but it jumps immediately from too dark to too bright. Well, it adds to the overall ambiance so I'll go with it.

Broad daylight. Yes. Makes sense for a vampire game, though...
The biggest of my concerns, though, is that gameplay for now doesn't seem that interesting. Nosgoth seems to be a really huge place, considering the size of the world map, but my experience so far resumed to walking a long path, with very little room for exploration. Sometimes, I stumble on a cave where I can get a new power, or on a village where I can slaughter everybody, and... that's about it, I'm back on my path to the next point of interest. There is very little interaction with the world except pushing switches to open door and killing people.

However, I've just stumbled on a power to disguise me as a human in the last town I went through, and I can now finally talk to people (before sucking their blood). I'm not sure if it's gonna change a lot of things (there is no dialogue options and people just ramble on the same random subjects) but it's a nice touch, especially considering you couldn't do it for the first two hours of playing.

Nothing spells "Dark Gothic" like ominous german-sounding town names...
I think the game is only bound to get more interesting, though. I find new powers often, which give me nice options to move (I can now change into a wolf and jump on places I couldn't reach before) or to kill people (which is great because a lot of basic enemies can take a while to kill with your weapon). I'm just a bit disappointed there is no real interaction with the world, quests per say (except the main "kill the nine bad guys" quest) or puzzles other than finding the right switch.

Well, I'm only two hours in, though, so I'll definitely keep playing to see if it becomes more fulfilling. I think it's a long game, so I just hope I'm not in for a forty-hour ride on the same path (Final Fantasy XIII already made me do that, and it was nicer-looking).

Granted, there is not a lot of games that have a "Mutilations" counter and call you a whelp at the same time.
Finally, before moving on, a word on the setting. I think the developers were trying too hard to get an adult world. It works well with Kain himself, which is a properly tortured anti-hero, and it's always nice to simply slaughter an entire village just because you can. On the other side, including brothels just for the sake of it might have been shocking in 1996, but doesn't really hold well today, especially when there are not so many places you can enter (and considering you can't do a lot of things in these places, slaughtering people in a brothel is not that different than doing it in a tavern or a house, except for the red carpets...)

I'll just settle in this nice-looking inn and... wait... what?
On the same note, having 90% of the female villagers telling you "Nights can be pretty cold around here, stranger, maybe I can do something to help you through it" lacks a bit of finesse... Well, it's not that video games have always been oriented toward female gamers anyway. And 1996 was the year we were all exposed to Lara's polygonal boobs, so maybe this game is not the worst example of video games finesse either...

About my progress in the game, I've found a few powers, including the one to shapeshift into a wolf or a human (the most interesting feature so far), I can throw fireballs, which is great because long-range enemies are becoming more and more common, and I've stocked on a few special weapons for difficult battles. I hope I haven't missed anything to upgrade my weapon because I'm not doing too much damage right now and the more basic enemy can take as much as 10 hits to kill (which is sometimes cumbersome because the hit recognition is not top-notch either). I'm making my way towards the lair of the first Guardian, which is a giant skull on the top of a mountain (discreet castle for a bad guy if I dare say so). I'll keep you posted on my progress!


  1. I would love it if you could respond affirmatively to those 90% of female villagers... and then they just throw you some firewood and a book of matches. "That should help with this cold night tonight, stranger!"

    I've never even heard of this line of games, but it's been fun reading your posts about it. :)

    1. Yeah it would be fun, too bad this kind of witty answers is quite rare in video games...

      Glad you enjoy reading my posts :) I love reading about games I'm not familiar with too, so I'll try to keep this interesting :)

  2. Is the first guardian called Skeletor? That could very well be Castle Grayskull!

    This actually sounds like an interesting game to me. Hopefully it's not too repetitive though!

  3. Believe it or not, he is called Nupraptor... close enough.

    As you could have guessed from the screenshots, the skull is a recurring symbol all throughout the game. In fact, there is skulls everywhere : doors, walls, places, menus... I think the developers are huge Masters of the Universe fans...