Monday, March 12, 2012

Game C1 : Blood Omen - Vampiric gameplay

Kain journal entry 2 : The first of my enemies has fallen. The Mentalist Nupraptor, former lover of the ghost Ariel, was well hidden in his skull-shaped retreat far above the city of Vasserbunde. I bested his traps and took his head after a fierce battle. Seeing the severed head of her beloved, Ariel acknowledged that my first mission was a success. In order to proceed, however, I had to take down Malek, ghost paladin and defender of the Nine. Probably a more fearsome foe than the crippled old man I had faced to restore the first pillar...

This game is weird. I'm still not sure if it's a great game or if the recurring glitches just ruin the experience. My major fear about it being a 40-hours long corridors has proven to be unfounded. There is still room for exploration and you have a bit of backtracking to do when you gain access to a weapon or a power in order to find hidden places and secrets.

The human disguise has proven itself useful and I'm now able to cross villages unharmed and talk to people instead of murdering them. Granted, they seldom have something interesting to say, but it's a relief not to have to fight my way through every screen numerous times (a lot of slain enemies just respawn when you leave the screen, which is always a great thing for immersion...)

The huge game world is slowly revealing itself.
The writing is nice, there is a few cult lines (e.g : "In life, I would not have graced this place with my presence. In death, I was merely adding to the stench") and the voice acting, even if it's a bit on the over-acted side, is pleasant enough. The setting is great too, especially when you come back to Coorhagen, Kain's hometown, to see it ruined by plague.

I consider the "Bring out your dead!" dude a serious Monty Python reference.
The powers are interesting and you gain access to them in a timely manner. I now have some kind of force-field that can send magic back to their casters, which is great because most of the time it's really hard to avoid the seeking projectiles, and is mandatory to cross a lot of screens filled with spell-casting enemies. I have finally found another weapon, which is a mace, and a blessing when dealing with human enemies : I can now stun them and quietly drink their blood, renewing my own health bar. I have items that slow time, burst enemies or cure poison, it's an overall much more solid gameplay now than at the beginning of the game, and every reward makes your character more powerful.

So what's the problem then? Well the game is crippled with little glitches that stain the whole experience. First of all, the graphics are not really clear and more than once I just ended up running in circles because I hadn't seen a door or switch hidden is the complex wall textures. The voice acting is great but there is no subtitles and it happens to sometimes be a challenge, considering I'm not a natural-english speaker. The writing is verbose enough and I sometimes simply don't get what it's told, even if my english understanding is usually pretty good. Another example of these times where game developers were so proud of their full-voiced games they didn't thought of putting subtitles (Trick, I understand what you felt through Mortville Manor even if Blood Omen voice synthesis is far better...) The loading screens can be overwhelming, making you wait a few seconds for every screen change, or when you want to access the menu, or when you change shape, or when you switch weapon, or when you pick your nose.

Ow come on!!! I had this screen half a second ago!
And I wanted to insist on the fact that I'm playing the game on my PS3, which the game nicely stored on my hard drive, so I guess the loading times are a bit reduced compared to the original CD version. I think this game destroyed a few CD lenses with constant data access every time you do something...

But the worse glitch concerns the battles and overall action sequences. The hit-recognition has proven itself a real pain. You can easily be trapped between two enemies and a spiked floor and just bouncing stupidly between their hits, incapable of doing anything and going from a full health bar to near-death in a matter of seconds. Granted, it works both ways and you often can easily kill a stupid enemy who just stands there and wave his sword at the air, incapable of hitting you... The first boss battle was a good example of that : the pattern is interesting, you have to make your way through a lot of magical bullets before being able to get close enough to the dude to hit him, and you're supposed to be able to hit the bullets. It's a good idea and nice change of the hack and slash pattern, but it's ruined by hit-recognition making the bullets near impossible to hit and making it harder than it should be...

As I've mentioned before, you can switch shape to a wolf and be faster and more powerful for a period of time. However, the wolf sprite is much larger than your usual form and some narrow paths are just impossible to negotiate without getting hit a few times by traps or spiked floors... I'll stop rambling about it but you got the point that this game is kind of ruined by little things that could have been avoided with a bit more testing before releasing it...

The bar on the left shows the number of pillars I have to repair : I think I'm not done with this game yet.

But I want to keep playing it. The setting and writing more than makes up for these problems and I want to know how the story goes. I want to know what powers I'll gain afterwards and what's hidden is the depths of the world map. Kain is a great character and I want to know the next steps in his rise to power. I just wished the gameplay itself would be less of a mess.


  1. That werewolf disadvantage might have been by design. If the form is more powerful, there should be some disadvantages. Just sayin'.

    1. Yeah, I know. You're probably right, and I know I sound bitter in this post, but it's just that a lot of things FEEL like they've not been enough thought through... I'm still playing, though, so I guess it means this game is still captivating. I'll stop rambling about the glitches (on purpose or not) and focus on the story and quest from now on, I promise ;)

    2. Oh hey, the complaining isn't bothering me at all. It just made me think back to EverQuest. One of my characters was an Ogre, and size was an issue there too. Some dungeons were very small for an Ogre-sized character, and I found myself unable to get past others, and vice versa. It made it very interesting when there was a swarm of monsters killing everyone, and there was a traffic jam on the way to the dungeon's exit. :O

  2. I totally understand the feeling of hating the mechanics of a game yet still wanting to continue on. The combination of a great setting and decent story with bad mechanics and enjoyment threatening bugs is a deadly one indeed!

  3. By the way, I don't know if it's just me, but I find the CAPTCHA you have on your site pretty annoying. Every time I post I have to type in the words requested.

    Have you implemented it for a reason? Just wondering. :)

  4. Actually, no, I believe I have this kind of CAPTCHA when I post on your site as well. It's not every time, though, like one out of three times. On Zenic's blog as well. I'll look if there is a way to disable it.

    1. Settings -> Comments -> Show word verification for comments? Select "no."

      (In case you haven't found it yet. I guess I'll find out in a sec!)

    2. Got it! (well normally, I hope it works now ;)

  5. Really? It happens on my blog too? Hmmm... I better practice what I preach!

  6. I checked and mine is switched off. Let me know if it ever happens. :)