The Gamer’s Conscience 11.10.03

2 days. 2 more sweet, antagonizing and anxious days.

Within these two days there will be schoolwork. Precisely one drill of Arabic to rummage through; possibly alongside some a new text. That, alongside a 5 page midterm which will account for 25% of my final grade whose material for composition had until recently slept snugly in a bright orange bag. Damn having to open that orange bag- it’s been such a good doorstop recently.

However, the pain that I will endure in anticipation of the 12th will not be in vain. Rather, it will be a slow and thorough catharsis. For on that day, the only modern series in video gaming to capture my imagination continues itself on either my Playstation 2 or X-Box. Upon that day, I’ll be able to enter a realm where old vampires frolic across a land bearing pristine symbolic pillars and monuments, while all the livelong day are chased by religious fanatics who misguidedly and single-mindedly seek their destruction. And no, I’m not typing about any pool of Democrats in Texas. It’s all about Nosgoth, baby. Nosgoth!

What more can I say about the 12th of November, this 2003 on the Western calendar, when I triumphantly march into Toys R US with a gift card in hand, and get my sweet, sweet copy of Legacy of Kain: Defiance? It’ll be f-ing sweet, I tells ya. Apart from the whole “Xeno-saga” (which includes Xenogears, which some cats seem to omit) and Armored Core series, there hasn’t been a contemporary series for this generation of game consoles I haven’t loved more than Legacy of Kain. Back in August of 1997, Activision and Silicon Nights gave birth to the legacy in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, for the PSX. What began as a wonderfully artful top-down action/adventure has spawned 3 more games to it’s credit, who under the helm of Eidos and Crystal Dynamics, has continued the story with an uncanny attention to detail across both Soul Reaver titles, as well as Blood Omen 2.

I know that there are many out there who will agree with me. In that case, you are part of a ferocious and equally eager segment of the gaming whole how have come to know and the exploits of Kain and Razial, and are as much foaming at the mouth for Defiance as much as Bebito has been for Sonic Heroes. For those who have either played any of the games, or for some misguided reason hate them with a passion, all I can say is that you’re missing out.

“Yeah, fanboy. Perhaps I am missing out. But ‘what’ exactly am I missing out on? I don’t see you trying to sway me over to your argument with anything conclusive!”

Well, in a half sense, you’ve got me there. You see, what pulled me and many other gamers into the LOK series was it’s amazingly compelling story. Without getting into too much time-consuming detail, the series initially followed the (mis)deeds about Kain; a fallen nobleman who got another crack at life in vampire form. When presented with a choice which would either redeem his sacred land of Nosgoth, or eternally damn it to decay, Kain chose the latter. Emanating from his choice in the first game, Blood Omen 1, the subsequent games have further followed his ascension to morbid grace, as well as introducing players to a new personality named Razial, whose story was followed through the Soul Reaver series.

It’s somewhat of a shame, but I feel that it would be an injustice to try to convey the entirety of the story thus far. Maybe some time down the line, I could pull a Lucard or Liquidcross and bust a History of segment. In the meantime, though, it is definitely worth discussing the merits of the series, as the criteria for those merits is something that the LOK series sports in droves.

First off, I’ve been hard pressed to find better voice acting in any game outside of the Kain lineage. There’s a sense of undying conviction that is so potent in the work of Simon Templeman or Michael Bell, who do the voices of Kain and Razial, respectively; and just to name a few. The character’s voices in the Kain series convey a sense of personality and presence in a way that has yet to be successfully emulated by any other game producer. By the end of the playing session, you’ll come to realize that the work of all these talented voice actors give an inseparable component to the progression of the game. So inseparable, in fact, that you’ll be repeating quotations and hearing them echo through your head long after you’ve set the controller down. Few games can instill that sense of permanency; the LOK series does it with a professional fluency.

An interesting aspect to note about the LOK series is the origin of it’s story. If you’re a bit confused about this point, ask yourself this question: “when was the last time I played a game with a compelling story that wasn’t written in Japan?” It seems that with few exceptions, the most memorable gaming stories have always come from Japan. In this regard, the LOK stands without equal. Exacting elements from the Middle Ages of Europe and folklore spanning from Spain to the Fertile Crescent (Arabic names can be found for Kain’s lieutenants in the Soul Reaver series), the creators of the LOK series have created a story that revolves around traditionally Western themes revolving around individualism and self-fulfillment, as opposed to the more Eastern themes of communal awareness and selfless-ness usually found in most prominent Japanese franchises. If for nothing else, the LOK series is pioneering the progression of Western-story writing in Western developed games, which is an aspect of gaming worthy of more attention and analysis as it grows.

As I have mentioned earlier, it is unfortunate that I cannot relay the entire LOK story to you, the deserving reader, as an attempt at this point in time would be a disservice to both the creators and fans of the story, as the story has yet to conclude. However, I will tell you all this: what will now be played across what will be 5 games come November 12th, the LOK series is one of the best gaming experiences that you will come to know in your gaming lifetime. While my emphasis in this piece has been on the story, know that Crystal Dynamics has also put a major emphasis on all other aspects of the game as well- from top notch graphics to intriguing puzzle-oriented gameplay. Defiance, albeit with more action, will undoubtedly continue this pristine legacy.

All of the games in the series can be found readily available across fine video game retailers everywhere, and with the exception of Defiance shouldn’t cost you more than around 20 dollars a piece- and that’s the NEW price. Hell- at that price, you OWE it to yourself to check out this series. Being short on hardware isn’t’ an excuse either, because LOK games have been released on the PSX, Dreamcast, PS2 and X-Box! At this point, there’s no excuse NOT to check it out!

So, on Thursday, when I finally get to look back on a History midterm and Comparative Literature readings, I’ll finally have a copy of Defiance in my hands. But moreover, I’ll have a piece of gaming excellence just ripe for enjoyment- and that’s all a gamer can really ask for.

Giving praise where it’s due- that’s the Gamer’s Conscience.

That’s it for this week. Stick around the rest of the week, as the rest of the best here at 411 Games are set to bring you the best in complete gaming coverage that an internet connection can feed ya! Feedback is always appreciated, as well as (for this week only) any information you can send me about the first two civil wars in the Islamic Empire. My gratitude will be yours!

Indeed, till next week!