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A distant relative of the modern series, Blood Omen takes place in the land of Nemesis. You play the main character of Kain. When the game starts, you’re in a tavern asking to be served by the bartender. The bartender refuses, so you decide to leave this inhospitable place. Once outside, you are overwhelmed by soldiers and murdered. However, this is not the end of your story...
When you awake, you’re in an eerie crypt. But the location isn’t the only thing that’s changed. You are now a vampire, and you possess an intimidating appearance that’s sure to keep strangers at a safe distance.
This is where your quest begins. You look around, wondering how and why you’re in this place and why you are still alive – to a degree – as the ghastly realization begins to sink in that you’ve joined the ranks of the undead. After some moments of gory action, you discover a portal that leads to a strange series of pillars. These structures are named The Pillars of Nosgoth. A ghostly figure appears (Ariel) and informs you that each pillar represents a person. Each pillar’s physical state represents the linked person’s mental state. As each person drifts into dementia, so also does the corresponding pillar decay and crumble.
In order to break the curse keeping you in this wretched state between life and death, you must restore the pillars to their original condition. You do this by killing everyone linked to the pillars and returning their artifact. It is this artifact that links them to the pillar. There are eight characters you must go after, and the first is the mentalist Nupraptor.
In Blood Omen you have the opportunity to use spells (most commonly found in caverns). These range from offensive spells that cause your enemy to implode, to more harmless and practical spells that light up a room or transport you back to your crypt. There are also transformation spells that can morph you into a wolf or a bat, for example. So what does a wolf have to do with a vampire? I really don’t know, but the spell is very important as it gives you the ability to jump over obstacles. (Kain, unfortunately, can’t jump). You can even transform into a human being – very useful when you don’t want to attract attention. To cast spells, you need mana. Mana is replenished by acquiring little blue balls. These have no name, but they do the job of replenishing Kain’s energy.
The game does have some unusual features. For instance, rain or water hurts the vampire. Maybe it rains holy water, who knows? The combat mode is pretty buggy. Even if you play often, you will find it difficult to hit an enemy. This is because you can only thrust your sword in four directions: front, back, left and right. You can use the numpad keys for more control, but I found this hard and decided to stick to the normal arrow keys. Another weird fact is that any commoner can hit AND hurt you. (So it is a myth that vampires are invulnerable to physical hits). But these changes were needed, as the game wouldn’t have made sense if your character was invincible.
This game is not easy. In fact, it’s not easy at all! The enemies are strong, even though they have a hard time hitting you. (The same combat bug applies to them). If you are hurt, you can either use a spell or feast upon the blood of the prisoners you'll come across in almost every cavern. The feeding method has also changed here, and vampires don’t bite the neck; they use a handy stick to drain the blood from their victims. Further in the game, you’ll come across shrines that heal and even bestow blessings upon you – imagine that! The difficulty of the game derives from the fact that monsters respawn when you resurface from a cave, for example. It’s basically the same method that Diablo uses, but instead of respawning after you save, the monsters respawn every time you enter a house, a cavern, etc.
The game is full of secrets that can be discovered by turning on hidden switches. There are also mini puzzles that must be solved before you can advance. Unfortunately, there’s no pattern to follow; you just have to do it the classical way - through trial and error.
Another thing I find annoying, other than the combat, is the save mode. You can't hit Esc and save wherever and whenever you want. You must find a shrine that will allow you to save your place in the game.
Now if this had been the end of the review, I would have given the game a 3. But there’s more. The most outstanding feature of the game is the ambience. The music is exceptional and adds a great deal to the gothic atmosphere. The graphics in the caverns are detailed, realistic and have a dark, brooding feel. The powerful atmosphere evoked by the music and graphics really enables you to experience Kain’s strange, dark world. But the feature that contributes most to the game’s atmosphere is the dialogue. Every time you come across something new (a new spell or story twist), the character has something to say. And the language he uses is special. I can’t really explain this, but suffice it to say that the dialogue is the best I’ve heard in any game I’ve played.
Let’s see: anything I’ve forgotten? Oh yes, the game tracks your progress, and stores your number of slayings, mutilations, meals, secrets found - and judging by your progress - your rank.
The Omuletzu Curiosity Bit: The game took over 2 1/2 years to make and features 114 different enemies, five weapon/armor powerups, over 160,000 individual screens and more!
Game quotes: “Things come with the night that no sane man would welcome.”
“...for in the embrace of the sun I could find no comfort, only malice.”
“I will not be kind to the denizens that lurk here. They shall taste my steel, and I their blood.”