I don’t vant to suck any more blood.
Many moons have passed since Kain, the great anti-hero of the original Blood Omen, has walked the Earth. Once he commanded great armies, but now he lies weak and bedridden, a sad reminder of the power of the Sarafan, a militant organization possessing great technological powers. The Sarafan are out to rid the world of pestilent night creatures, and I don’t mean owls.
I mean vampires, people. Bloodsucking, evil undead lords who speak with very deep voices and always dress snazzy. Villainous denizens of the dark that scour the land searching for new victims, such as the dreaded Count Chocula, who shall surely smite us of our mortal coil with his chocorific part of our daily breakfast. Or the Count simply known as "The" Count…who will count us all to death. Blah ha ha! I wonder who would win in a fight?
Not that Kain cares a lick about his vampiric brethren. He’d sooner push Eddy Munster into a passing train or tip off Blade about the whereabouts of Lestat in his never-ending pursuit to be number one. Kain’s rise back to the top of the gothic food chain is detailed in Blood Omen 2. Unfortunately, this is a disappointing follow up.
The top down viewpoint of the original has been replaced with a third-person rear view, making the game more reminiscent of Soul Reaver than the original Blood Omen. The controls are character-centric; left and right rotates Kain ala Tomb Raider. Without the ability to strafe, the pivoting method of control in a 3D environment proves to be limiting and a touch dizzying.
Combat feels unwieldy and imprecise, with a stiff and slow combo system of three strikes and a grab move. Kain can also steal weapons from his deceased foes, but the lock-on for fighting that allows you to auto-face your nearest opponent doesn’t always work smoothly, leading to moments of frustration.
Dodging attacks to the side usually proves useless, and most importantly, there’s no way to jump out of the way. In order to use a jump, you must awkwardly switch out of fight mode and then jump. The timing is difficult and the system doesn’t flow.
Allow me to christen the official…Blood Omen 2 Drinking Game! Pour yourself a nice big glass of red wine (cranberry juice for all you underage kiddies). Now, every time Kain takes a swig of human blood, guzzle a gulp of red yourself! Big fun! But be sure to have a LOT of wine handy, because that Kain’s one helluva drinker!
The point is: you have to drink everyone’s blood in the game, be it an innocent townsperson or a Sarafan Knight. If you don’t drink everyone’s blood, your health will never increase, and you shall surely meet a quick end at the hand of some piddling foe. This turns what was supposed to be a fun, uber-violent act into a repetitive, uber-irritating act that you must repeat ad nauseum.
To add further insult, you have to watch the same bloody drinking animation of Kain wiping his mouth like a dainty gentleman vampire. Maybe if there was a reason to kill some people and not others or some sort of moral conflict, then there would be some point to it all. Instead, you are constantly making Bloody Marys (or rather, making Mary bloody). What a chore.
Kain once again has access to the dark arts, a set of abilities that are gained throughout the course of the game. You start with the ability to turn into mist…but only in those areas where there’s already mist on the ground. Still, it comes in handy by letting you sneak up behind enemies for some surprise attacks. Another nice power is a super jump, which also can lead to some nice diving kills.
You can also pull off some Jedi mind tricks, though it’s really nothing more than convincing some fool humans to open gates. These powers feel more like puzzle solving devices than almighty gifts. It’s all too direct – there’s little joy in being able to figure things out.
The level design is straightforward and strictly linear, minimizing a sprawling city into a straight-line path. Sporadic block and switch puzzles seem rather out of place and are pretty easy.
Look, enough already with the blocks and switches. It worked in Tomb Raider because you were exploring ancient tombs in which blocks and puzzles seemed like a plausible, Indiana Jones trap concept. But yanking blocks and pulling switches doesn’t work in every environment…particularly those in Blood Omen 2.
At the very least, the story and skillful voice talents drive the game forward. Kain’s voice burns with a deep, guttural arrogance while the supporting cast put in sufficient performances, from a vampire that cackles and coos like The Joker to the seductive whispers of the lady vampress, Umah. Likewise, the music is appropriately Gothic and the sound effects match the mood.
The graphics, while dark and creepy, are also a bit drab. Object collision is a problem, such as when a fallen opponent finds a final resting spot halfway through a wall. Frame rates can quickly snap from decent to stuttering when several enemies are on screen at once, which only hampers the pivot-style controls even further. The animations are stiff and unrealistic.
So what can you "count" on from Blood Omen 2? Not much more than a heaping bowl of mediocrity that quickly turns soggy in drenched pints of blood. While fans of third-person adventures will find enough ubiquitous, familiar gameplay to keep playing, I’d recommend most of you to skip this breakfast.