Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is a top-down action/adventure video game developed by Silicon Knights and published by Crystal Dynamics. The game was first released in November 1996 for the PlayStation, and eventually ported to Microsoft Windows in August 1997.
The game is focused on the brutal but charismatic protagonist Kain, and forms part of a saga - the Legacy of Kain series - with redemption as a central theme.
Blood Omen was praised for its high-quality voice acting, moody atmosphere, and compelling storyline.
Blood Omen is a two-dimensional action-adventure game. The game camera is fixed in a bird's eye view position and follows Kain as the character travels the world of Nosgoth. Gameplay is divided between outdoor exploration and visiting internal structures, including crypts, houses, castles, cathedrals and temples.
The game screen constantly displays three features, being the sun gauge, and health and magic meters respectively. The sun gauge monitors the passage of time via the use of icons (e.g. sun and moon), with the screen also becoming lighter or darker to accurately reflect the time. Certain doors, or "Moon Gates", possess a "time trigger" and only open when a full moon occurs. A full moon briefly occurs once every two hours of real time.
The health meter is a red blood vial that monitors Kain's current level of health. By finding small vials throughout the game it is possible to increase the size of the vial. The magic gauge is signified by a series of blue glyphs, and by finding additional glyphs the gauge increases in length.
During the course of the game, the character Kain acquires a variety of abilities, weapons, armor, magic and items.
Kain acquires four additional forms, being "werewolf" (enhanced strength and speed), "bat" (instant travel to other locations such as Bat Beacons) , "mist" (used to bypass solid objects and water) and "human peasant", later "nobleman" (to fool enemies and townspeople into talking to Kain).
Weapons include an iron sword, a mace, twin battle axes (called "Havoc" and "Malice"), the Flame Sword and the Soul Reaver, with each having benefits and drawbacks (e.g. the use of the battleaxes prevents the use of magic and items, while use of the Soul Reaver drains the magic gauge). During the course of the game certain weapons are required to enable progression to new areas. Five different types of armor can be found, being iron, bone, chaos, flesh and wraith respectively. Each suit of armor has its own distinctive advantages.
Magic can used as either a spell or an item, with several of each being hidden throughout the game. There are 13 spells in total, being practical (e.g. "Light"), offensive ("Lightning") and on occasion functional (e.g. "Mind Control"), being necessary to allow game progression. Throughout the game numerous colored orbs can found that will replenish the character's magic levels. There are also ten items in total, which can be found in hidden "Spirit Forges". Like spells, these vary in effect, and include both offensive (e.g. "Flay") and support (e.g. "Heart of Darkness") options.
There are 100 "secrets" hidden in the game, which can be found when the character performs actions such as activating hidden switches, pressing buttons, entering Moon Gates or finding items such as Spirit Forges, but finding all of them won't change the ending(s).
The story begins with a prologue, depicting the slaughter of several members of the Circle of Nine (eventually revealed to be the Guardians of the Pillars of Nosgoth) by the vampire Vorador. The Sarafan (an order devoted to the extinction of vampires) warrior-priest Malek fails to prevent the killings, and is punished by surviving Circle member Mortanius by having his body destroyed and soul bound to a suit of armor for eternity. Kain is introduced as a nobleman in the world of Nosgoth. Murdered by assassins, Kain is offered new life and an opportunity for revenge as a vampire by the necromancer Mortanius. Although Kain quickly kills the assassins, Mortanius convinces Kain that they were mere pawns and that the real perpetrators can be found at the nine Pillars of Nosgoth, which protect Nosgoth from destruction. At the Pillars Kain finds the ghost of Ariel, the former Guardian of the Pillar of Balance. Ariel states the human guardians of the Pillars have become corrupted- which in turn corrupts the Pillars- and only by killing the Guardians and ending the Circle of Nine can the Pillars be restored.
Thinking the restoration of the Pillars will also cure his vampiric condition, Kain embarks on his quest, acquiring several new weapons (including the Soul Reaver blade) and magics and killing a number of human and monstrous foes that now wander Nosgoth. After killing several members of the Circle and escaping a disastrous encounter with Malek, Kain is directed by Moebius the Timestreamer to find the powerful but reclusive vampire Vorador.
Kain eventually finds Vorador, who warns Kain not to interfere in the affairs of mankind. Kain, however, persists, killing several more members of the Circle and also summoning Vorador to vanquish Malek in a decisive battle. Kain then learns that a being called "Nemesis", once known as William the Just is quickly conquering Nosgoth. After rescuing the daughter of King Otmar, Kain is chosen to lead Otmar's army against the forces of the Nemesis. Otmar's forces, however, are slaughtered, and Kain escapes using a time streaming device to travel fifty years into the past. Kain finds and kills the young King William-thereby preventing him from ever becoming the Nemesis- but creates an altered future in which the murder of William creates the Sarafan order and sparks a genocidal crusade against all vampires. Kain returns to the present and witnesses the execution of Vorador, discovering that he has been manipulated into changing history by Moebius, who is actually one of the Circle. Kain battles and kills Moebius, but is now the last of his kind.
Kain returns to the Pillars, where the two remaining guardians, Mortanius, and Anacrothe the Alchemist argue over recent events and then battle to the death. Mortanius kills Anarcrothe and is then challenged by Kain. Mortanius transforms into a dark entity that reveals it was the mastermind behind the murder of Ariel and the ruin of the Pillars.
After defeating the entity, Kain learns that one final Pillar -Balance- remains and must be restored, and that as the Guardian of Balance only his sacrifice will make this possible. Kain chooses to save himself and the vampire race, allowing the Pillars to fall. Kain justifies his actions by claiming that vampires are gods that exist to rule mortals. (Players are also given the choice of restoring the pillar and sacrificing Kain)
Kain (voiced by Simon Templeman throughout series)
Mortanius the Necromancer (voiced by Tony Jay in Blood Omen)
Ariel of the Balance (voiced by Anna Gunn)
Oracle of Nosgoth (Moebius the Timestreamer)
Vorador (voiced by Paul Lukather throughout series)
Nemesis (voiced by Tony Jay)
The concept of Blood Omen was conceived by Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack, and was first considered for production under the working title The Pillars of Nosgoth in 1993. Silicon Knights attempted to create a strongly cerebral action role-playing game "where you had to use your head as well as your reflexes". The creative team focused on developing a cinematic and immersive storyline, narrative and atmosphere in an attempt to evolve the genre. Actual technical production was delayed in the absence of a suitable console; for approximately eight months, Silicon Knights worked on game design without a designated hardware platform.
In 1993, fellow game development studio Crystal Dynamics agreed to publish the game, with an extended development period requiring Silicon Knights to double staff levels and Crystal Dynamics contributing several employees. The game was released for the PlayStation in late 1996 "after herculean efforts", and ported to personal computers in 1997. Work on a Sega Saturn version was also commenced after the initial release, but was eventually terminated.
In developing the character of Kain, Silicon Knights deliberately veered away from following the monomyth despite being advised that a brooding anti-hero would not appeal to gamers. Silicon Knights adopted the vision of a character whom everyone believes is evil, partially inspired by William Munny, the protagonist of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, as opposed to a stereotypical "totally kick-ass" protagonist.
The world of Nosgoth was created by using a combination of high fantasy and vampire mythology as a template. Influenced by the Necroscope and The Wheel of Time series, the creative team attempted to ensure no character fell into a simple "good" or "evil" typecast. Cover art for The Pillars of the Earth served as inspiration for the Pillars of Nosgoth themselves. Content director Ken McCulloch, who co-wrote the storyline and the majority of in-game texts, was urged by marketers to use more accessible names late in the design process, with Mortanius and Hash'ak'gik considered "Names from Hell" that were difficult to get past the "marketing censor".
Simon Templeman provided the voice of Kain, and prior to recording Dyack expressed concern that the actors would be unable to convey McCulloch's complex dialog. Dyack, however, stated their performances "blew him away", and commented that "after five minutes with Simon Templeman we knew that there was no problem."