Faking it: Understanding the Legacy of Kain timeline


Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Giant Squid

[Kerrik52 embarked on a herculean effort to condense thirty-seven books’ and ninety-four video games’ worth of lore into an easy-to-read blog – all in an effort to give you, the plebeiansoul you are, a basic knowledge of the Legacy of Kainseries. Did it work? I read it, and the series can quite easily be summed up as, ‘Giant Squid is rarely pleased.’ Great work, Kerrik! This is part of our Bloggers Wanted series from August. Get your work featured by Destructoid by writing a kickass blog like this one! – Wes]

The Legacy of Kain series is widely regarded as one of the greatest stories ever told in video games – and for good reason. The writing and acting is outstanding. But that story is somewhat complicated, being centered around time-traveling vampires and all. The timelines that bind the story together are awfully complex and makes it really hard to understand the plot in full.

But fear not, for after extensive research, that may or may not have been fueled by the finest third-grade narcotics that $5.67 can buy, I have managed to compile and explain the whole thing. Enjoy.

The Origins

A thing about the series that people might find surprising is that it actually originates with a book series from the 1850s called Vampirium non Grata, written by Richard Olmar, his son, his grandson, and his estranged aunt over the course of 37 years.

The 37 books serve to introduce the land of Nosgoth and details the 300-year history of the Thergothon family. It’s chock full of political intrigue, sexual misadventures, and the odd vampire every now and then to make sure the title isn’t some sort of elaborate metaphor designed to draw eyes.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I only ever bothered to glance at the Cliff’s Notes, which was enough of an ordeal, I’ll have you know. It’s not really important to the overall plot anyway; the most important thing they do is give Nosgoth a name and imply that there might be vampires. But hey, gotta start somewhere.

40 years after the book series’ conclusion, some random asshole writer stole the rights to the property and tried to compile it into a screenplay. It was a fool’s errand, as the material is just too massive to make any semblance of a decent script out of. It was also the 1930s, so independent cinema wasn’t the biggest thing anyway. The writer threw it into the trash, where a desperate Broadway producer sat poised to get his fill.

Only 12% of the pages endured the contact with some arcane goop smelling distinctly of raspberries and tears, leaving very few details to make up the new stageplay. Nosgoth, vampires, and nobles being jackasses were the major points of focus in the new production. It was dubbed My Bloody Solstice Date and failed miserably to meet any sort of expectations. But it was taped shoddily and thus found its way onto late-night television. It’s the law of the universe.

That takes us closer to present day, as the lead writer of the first game, Denis Dyack, saw this recording while suffering through a killer cold whilst horribly inebriated. As you know, such a combination leads to either death or a killer script. He endured and was thus inspired to write the script for a game titled Pillars of Nosgoth. After securing cooperation with Silicon Knights, production began on the renamed game Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain

The game introduces us to a more interesting side of Nosgoth, far away from the setting’s pompous beginnings. The vampire Vorador is seen slaughtering the keepers of Nosgoth, the Circle of Nine. He slays a majority of them, including their protector, Malek. The only survivors are the Time, Mind, and Death guardians Moebius, Nupraptor, and Mortanius, respectively. Malek gets his soul fused to his armor as punishment for his failure. The rest are soon replaced to guard their individual pillar, as Nosgoth cannot survive without its guardians.

Some 500 years later, Nupraptor’s girlfriend, Ariel, the Balance guardian, is murdered, which corrupts the pillars. Some years even later, a nobleman named Kain is trying his damnedest to get hammered and failing miserably. He then gets stabbed by an army of assassins. We all have bad days. He then gets resurrected by Mortanius as a vampire for some reason and decides to kill his assassins. It’s done rather quickly and the game would be over if Mortanius hadn’t convinced him to go after whoever hired them.

Kain finds the ghost of Ariel at the pillars and she tells him that Nupraptor went mad when she died and infected the other guardians with his madness due to his Mind Guardian powers. She wants Kain to kill the guardians so that new ones can be born and Nosgoth can prosper.

Kain doesn’t care about any of that and instead convinces himself that killing the guardians will cure him of vampirism. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, you know? He then goes into a disc-long soliloquy where he contemplates what he has lost when Mortanius liberated him from his humanity. It’s good stuff, but a bit tedious after the first few times.

Kain goes and slays Nupraptor, growing more fond of his vampirism along the way. But it all goes to shit when Malek shows up. Driven to cowardice, Kain goes in search of the elder vampire Vorador for help. After trekking through Vorador’s bondage dungeon, he finds Vorador and is offered a ring to summon the old vampire.

With the means to defeat Malik in hand, Kain goes after more guardians, including Dejoule the Energist, Bane the Druid, and Cray the Ballonist, ending up with their belongings, which he uses to restore the pillars. This goes on for a while and he finally gets hold of the Soul Reaver, a soul-sucking bastard of a sword that holds great importance to the series. After gouging out Azimuth’s fourth eye with it, Kain finds a time streaming device. We in for some weird shit soon, I assure you.

But before that, some asshole named the Nemesis is trying to conquer Nosgoth and Kain needs to get the help of the puppet king of Willendorf in order to defeat him. After a good poetry slam, the king agrees to help fight the nemesis. That goes horribly, leaving Kain with no choice but to use the time streaming device.

And here is where the timeline shenanigans begin. Keep the timeline where Kain stays and gets captured by the Nemesis in mind for later. For now, Kain is stuck 50 years in the past. He decides to go and kill the Nemesis when he is young in order to stop his reign. Funnily enough, the young Nemesis, King William, also has the Soul Reaver. They fight and William’s blade shatters. Kain finds a convenient time streaming device and goes forward in time. The Nemesis is no more, but he accidentally incited a vampire crusade that led to the execution of Vorador. Oops.

It was all the work of the Time guardian Moebius, which is rather obvious in retrospect. Time streaming devices do not come cheap. He sends a bunch of stuff from across time to fight Kain, including himself. This is a future Kain from the “captured by the Nemesis” timeline. More on that later. He dies like a bitch anyway and so does Moebius.

Mortanius calls and says that Kain should return to the pillars to get his revenge.As they are about to begin to fight, Mortanius mutates into some sort of demon who takes responsibility for both Ariel’s and Kain’s murders. It’s some crap about using the weakened pillars to rule Nosgoth. Kain remains undeterred and stabs the fucker.

But the pillar of balance remains corrupted and Kain realizes that he is the new Guardian of Balance. This leaves him with the choice to kill himself to save Nosgoth, or rule it with an iron fist as the last remaining vampire. Option 1 goes into the Dead Sun timeline, while the other leads into Soul Reaver.

But before all that, there’s the matter of Kain getting captured by the Nemesis. The plan was for that to be explored in a TV series, but it was not to be. Only the pilot episode was produced and according to legend, the CGI was so bad that test audiences resorted to stabbing each other with soda straws in search of release from this mortal coil. No big loss really, it’s a pretty boring story to explore. But there are rumors that Kain would have teamed up with a talking monkey, which would have been amazing.

Dead Sun was never released, making a bit hard to get hold of. But have no fear, as it lies buried in the deepest reaches of the Dark Web, ready for any brave soul to claim. I may have lost a major partition of my immortal soul, but it was sort of worth it. The game jumps a few millennia into the future, just like Soul Reaver –the difference being that no one from Blood Omen is still alive and few aspects of it remain to set up the plot.

It concerns two clans of freshly-minted vampires born of Mortanius’ old spellbook. The pillar guardians from a few centuries back have been sealed in their pillars, ensuring Nosgoth’s prosperous future. This was mostly a move to pull focus away from them and instead let the Varmingnder and Uleath clans have central focus.

You play as a Varmingnder lord named Udon, having just accidentally slain their matriarch with a chandelier. We all have bad days, even in the future. He goes on the run from his clansmen whilst avoiding Uleath forces and searching for allies amongst them both in his quest for peace and a nice house. I would deluge more details, but I had an “incident” with some people who claimed the game files turned into child pornography if you dumped them in reverse onto a rare Minion-themed USB drive.

It was of course just pretense to keep Dead Sun from the public eye, but the experience did at least teach me how nice it is to have cougars with a taste for human flesh at your disposal. Not that I have such cougars, they’re just cats. Mutant, overgrown cats who love people very very much. But enough of that part of the franchise, on to Soul Reaver!

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

Many centuries have passed and Kain has conquered Nosgoth and revels in its decay. There are 18 audio dramas detailing the rise of his empire, as well as the McDonald’s tie-in game Nosgoth. He has raised six vampire lieutenants by infusing them with his own soul, thus sharing both his powers and his cursed existence. This let them take part in Kain’s powers after he gained them. But one of them, Raziel, managed to grow wings and surpass his master. This earned him a wing-clipping and a dunk the great dankness of the abyss. Vampires are weak to green-tinted water in this franchise, so he burns to death.

But not even the dead know peace in Nosgoth and Raziel is no different. A giant squid on a wall tells him that Nosgoth has decayed further and that Kain must be killed to save it. Raziel is stuck in the spectral realm, the realm of the dead, and so must sustain himself on souls in order to return to the material realm and kill his vampiric brethren.

He kills Melchiah with a chandelier trap and soon runs into Kain at the pillars. They fight and Kain’s Soul Reaver shatters in the battle and its vampiric essence binds itself to Raziel, granting him a wraith blade. Thus armed, Raziel goes to slap Zephon and claim his soul. After that, he continues into an ancient Sarafan crypt and finds his own name etched on the wall. Raziel and his brothers were vampire hunters in their past lives. A legacy Kain decided to twist for the lulz.

After killing two more of his brothers and leaving Turel behind, Raziel hunts down Kain in Moebius’ old abode. He finds the Chronoplast, which offers insight into other moments in time. These moments include Raziel perched on a cliff, Kain’s stint as troubadour, and something about a cult. There are also images foretelling the events of the game, meaning that Kain knew everything in advance.

This enrages Raziel and he attacks Kain soon after finding him. A few quick-time events later, Kain is almost dead and escapes into a time portal. Raziel is determined to follow him into the past, in spite of the squid’s warnings. And so ends Soul Reaver, with Raziel appearing before Moebius.

The original ending had Raziel kill Kain and use the intense sound of Zephon’s cathedral to vanquish local vampires. This ending was explored in the card game, which I haven’t played; I have an irrational fear of getting cut by booster pack packaging. It’s a devastating ailment, worthy of immeasurable amounts of poetry. But that can wait, on to Soul Reaver 2.

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2

Raziel arrives 30 years before Blood Omen and is welcomed by Moebius. He tries as much as he can to appear trustworthy but it’s a lost cause. The dude is shifty as fuck. Raziel walks outside and finds William the Just’s broken Soul Reaver and picks it up. His wraith blade gets aroused by the encounter (the game’s wording, not mine) and repairs it. This makes it stronger and it almost devours Raziel. Moebius then sneaks up behind him and tells Raziel to seek Kain at the pillars and murder him.

Raziel is rather discombobulated by the whole experience and strikes at Moebius. But then the giant squid gets mentioned and Raziel realizes that he is a swag dude. Raziel sods off outside and takes in the pretty view, engaging in a fishing mini-game for a while. He soon remembers that Kain hates being stood up at a date and decides to stay a while longer.

At the pillars, Raziel fails a stealth check and gets stuck in an extended dialogue with Kain. They talk about a lot of crap, including revenge, Kain’s refusal to kill himself like a hero, and their failed crépe boutique. Kain then teleports away, saving the player from yet another lame boss fight.

Inside of a cave, finds the squid again, who exists outside of linear time. Don’t think about it. The squid is not a fan of Raziel’s rebellious phase and demands he complete his chores by killing Kain.

After clearing a dungeon and dodging some giant frogs, Razilel arrives at Vorador’s summer home and speaks to the old vampire. He says that the ancient, Janus Cauldron, who died to the Sarafan 500 years prior, holds the answer to the weird graffiti Raziel has seen while dungeon crawling. In the next forge, it’s revealed that the ancients used the pillars to banish their enemies to the Shadow Realm. Raziel returns to Moebius’ crib and finds Kain there. Now it’s time for yet another timeline split, as this is where Raziel is destined to kill Kain.

In the timeline where he does, he is soon filled with regret and sets out to resurrect him in the confines of the Ancient Treasury in the DLC of Laura Croft & The Guardian of Light. Once Kain has been revived, they go on an amazing adventure together, buddy cop style.

But that’s not how Soul Reaver 2 continues, as Kain has a plan to avoid being killed. He gives Raziel the Soul Reaver and watches as the distortion that let him change history increases. Raziel strikes the blade into the crotch of King William’s tomb, sparing Kain, in spite of history wanting otherwise. This causes the future to shift in accordance with what has transpired. They part ways and Raziel goes back to the time streaming device.

Moebius is there and looks properly spooked. He is used to knowing what the future entails, so this event has him scared. Raziel forces him to set the device to before the Sarafan’s raid on Janus. It goes rather poorly, as Moebius sends him to 100 years after the end of Blood Omen. Moebius’ ghost meets him there and tries to scare him, to no avail. Ghosts pose little threat when you’re a soul-sucking demon.

After fighting someDemons and Wizards, Raziel makes his ways to the pillars and speaks to the giant squid situated beneath them. It bitches at Raziel for not killing Kain and they part ways. After trying his best to use the Soul Reaver as a lockpick to get to another time streaming device, Kain appears yet again. He must have been bored these last 130 years. They talk about who is really in control of their fates and whatever can be done to untangle this messy storyline.

Afterwards, Raziel goes through another dungeon and gets the thingie needed to get to the time streaming device. He realizes that he has no idea how to operate it and just prays that it will take him back in time to Janus. Not the brightest one, our protagonist. It works, conveniently enough, taking him to the age of the Sarafan. He stabs his way to Janus’ place, solving a plethora of puzzles along the way, including the mind-bender, “take tomato juice from one cup to the next.” Janus turns out to be a pretty nice guy, having waited for the Reaver messiah for thousands of years.

He explains that the ancients were the original keepers of the pillars, before mankind took over. The ancients died out and used humans as replacement guardians. Janus is the forger of the Reaver and intends to follow their prophecy by giving it to Raziel so that he can save Nosgoth with it. The ritual is cut short by the Sarafan and Janus then teleports Raziel into a filler dungeon.

When Raziel escapes Janus’ blood bath, he finds a familiar sight. He sees himself as a Sarafan slicing up Janus’ chest and laying claim to the Heart of Darkness within. The sheer force of the dramatic irony present in the scene is enough to leave Raziel stunned as the Sarafan run away from the collapsing retreat. Raziel is thoroughly miffed and intends to stop at nothing to kill himself, reclaim the Reaver and revive Janos. That’s quest if I ever saw one. On the way there, the squid wishes him good luck.

The Reaver has been left in the open for Raziel to claim and so he does. This activates the invincibility cheat and lets him stab his way through his Sarafan brothers on his way to himself. They “enjoy” a drawn-out 35 minute battle before Raziel manages to stab Raziel in the chest.

Finally alone, the wraith blade and the Reaver gang up on Raziel and start to suck him into the blade. For you see, he was the real Soul Reaver all along. Kain walks in on this debacle and decides to help the poor boy from harming himself. He pulls out the blade, thereby changing history yet again. And he recoils in horror as he experiences all of Blood Omen 2 in a single moment. I would not wish such a fate on my worst enemy.

Raziel fades away and the game ends. Next up is the mobile game that’s a prelude to Blood Omen 2, detailing young Kain’s rise to power in the new timeline resulting from the changes done in Soul Reaver 2. Since it’s a Clash of Clans clone, the room for storytelling is rather limited. But it does manage to give some character to Kain’s lieutenants from Blood Omen 2, which is more than the proper game managed to do.

Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2

Blood Omen 2 opens with Kain awakening with amnesia next to a female vampire dressed in somewhat lewd clothing named Umah 400 years after the end of the first game. It really sets the stage for what is to come. She tells him that he lost to the Sarafan lord some 200 years ago and that Nosgoth is now under his rule. She wants him to ally him self with the Cabal, a resistance movement consisting of vampires, ents, and dwarves.

Kain somewhat agrees and goes on a crusade against the Sarafan, slaying a bunch of his old lieutenants who have joined them. It’s a rather boring campaign, in spite of what is at stake. The only thing of interest in the first part of the game is Vorador showing up again, despite being killed centuries ago.

The true nature of his revival has been lost to time, as the comic book series meant to explain it got cancelled after two issues. Might be for the best, as I hear it was supposed to be a crossover with Tomb Raider where Lara becomes a half-vampire. Comics are stupid.

Umah gets kidnapped and Kain goes after more traitors. After rescuing Umah, she tells Kain that the Sarafan are using a plot device to open portals around Nosgoth. It’s known as the Nexus Stone and it somehow makes you immune to the Soul Reaver. Just accept it so we can move on.

The Sarafan lord is planning something with a thing known only as the Device. Great name there, guys. Kain goes to it and finds the Beast sealed within. Again, great name guys. The Beast powers the Device and can only be freed if Kain finds the Builder. No comment.

The Builder is kept in the Eternal Prison, a place outside of time and full of skeletons. It’s weird.

Kain finds the Builder and drinks his blood so that he can destroy the Device with it and free the Beast. The Beast warns him of the Hylden, who are the ones controlling nosgoth, with the Sarafan Lord as their leader. Kain must then go to the Mass to offer the blood of the Builder and destroy the Device. Enough, I beg you Blood Omen 2, no more lame names!

When Kain returns to the Beast, he has regained his true form, that of Janos Cauldron. He explains that the Hylden were the foes of the ancients who were banished by the pillars. But thanks to Kain, the pillars have weakened and a few managed to slip out. They teleport back to base and formulate a plan to strike at the Hylden city and take out the gate within that allows Hylden to roam the land.

The city is across the sea, so Kain and Umah go to the Wharves looking for a row boat. Umah knicks the Nexus Stone in order to keep Kain from getting the Soul Reaver, thinking he’ll eliminate the other vampires. She gets herself mortally wounded and tries to suck up to Kain so that he’ll save her life. It doesn’t work and he slits her throat. Romance subplot vanquished!

Following a hearty rowing minigame, Kain arrives at the Hylden city and goes to turn off the shield generator so that Vorador and Janos can teleport in. Vorador is miffed over Umah’s death but the Sarafan lord arrives before he can start anything.

Kain and the lord fight for a while and Kain throws the Nexus Stone into the Hylden gate in order to force it to collapse. As it does, Janos flies in and pile drives the lord so that Kain can get the Soul Reaver. Janos gets thrown into a hole and Kain stabs the lord, finally ending the game.

Kain vows to rebuild Nosgoth and rule it with an iron fist. Yaaaaaaay.

Legacy ofKain: Defiance

With that out of the way, it’s time for the last game in the series, Defiance. It begins where Soul Reaver 2 ended, with Kain in the Sarafan age and Raziel lost in the Spectral realm. Kain goes to find Moebius and finds nothing but vague hints. Raziel, on the other hand, is stuck with the giant squid.

He manages to escape during a cook-off and arrives in a cemetery before we swap back to Kain. He runs around the Sarafan stronghold looking to talk more with Moebius. He says that Raziel’s fate is to kill Kain and to be sealed in the Reaver. Kain doesn’t believe it, but it told that there’s proof west of the pillars.

Raziel is still stuck in the Spectral realm, but finds escape by stuffing his soul into the anuses of buried corpses, as you do. He deduces that he stayed in the Spectral realm for 500 years and now has to fight a few of Moebius’ vampire hunters. There’s also some demon bastards who possess corpses as well, cramping Raziel’s style. They must be destroyed.

Both Raziel and Kain engage in some puzzle-solving, taking Raziel to the pillars and Kain to a vampire citadel west of them. They are still 500 years apart however. At the pillars, Raziel asks Ariel for directions to Vorador. It’s a lovely trek through some temples, forests, and amusement parks.

Inside the citadel, Kain finds a mural depicting a prophecy. It involves the champions of the Ancients and the Hylden doing battle. The vampire hero armed with the Reaver and the Hylden hero using a flaming sword. According to the prophecy, the Hylden hero wins, impaling the vampire.

In Vorador’s crib, Raziel rummages around for a bunch of artifacts, keys, and filler content. He soon gets teleported to the Water temple too, which is about as fun as it sounds. But after a bit more exploring, he finally finds Vorador.

They discuss whatever the hell the purpose of the Reaver is. They get nowhere and Vorador thinks they should revive Janos by retrieving his heart. It’s in Avernus Cathedral, so Raziel packs his bags.

Kain is still stuck in the citadel and finds another mural. This one is the opposite of the last, saying the vampire hero impales the Hylden hero. It’s not a proper prophecy if you double dip, guys.

He stumbles upon the chamber of the Ancient Squid Oracle of the Vampires, who offers him a shortcut 500 years into the future. Since Kain can only sustain his sanity playing Twister for so long, he bets on the gate. He does indeed land exactly when he needs to and also packs his bags for Avernus.

Raziel does some dungeon-crawling in the cathedral and finds himself some mad loot. But beyond that, he finds some weird shit in the basement, as one does. There is a creepy, and surprisingly sex-less, ritual going on.

Mortanius the Death guardian praises the god he’s keeping in a pit down here and drops it a blood sacrifice. The god senses Raziel and pulls him down into the pit. Raziel recognizes the god as his brother Turel, who has come back from the future. He is host to a cubic fuckton of Hylden and none too happy about it.

Raziel beats him over the head with some novelty belfries and climbs up from the pit, where Mortanius awaits. He says that he used Janos’ heart to revive Kain and creates the vampire hero. The same heart Raziel needs to revive Janos. Quite the conundrum, one only solved by bloodshed.

Kain arrives at the cathedral and engages with Raziel in an epic two-hour dialogue. Once they have had a healthy discussion about life, death, fate, and chilidogs, they fight. Raziel pulls out the heart from Kain and dropkicks him into another dimension.

Heart in hand, Raziel returns to Vorador’s crib and finds Moebius there. The old coot is very happy that Kain is dead and is ready to accept his death at the hands of Kain. Raziel goes and manages to revive Janos, who realises that Raziel is both the Hylden and vampire hero, since he wields both a flaming sword and the Reaver.

They warp to the vampire citadel and talk about how if the pillars remain in human hands, the binding will fail, and the Hylden will escape the demon dimension. In search of answers, Raziel fights his way past the giant squid and activates the Spirit Forge, summoning all of the old Balance Guardians.

Raziel stabs them and gets the Spirit Reaver. Back topside, the pillars explode and the lord of the Hylden takes over Janos. He kills Raziel, returning him to the Spectral realm. This leaves him stuck with the squid and quite miffed.

Somehow, Kain wakes up in hell and fights his way out of it like a badass. He goes to the citadel as well and finds Moebius there. You can probably guess what happens next. Hint: It involves stabbing. And it goes even further than that, since Raziel is there to stab his soul and consume it.

Raziel undergoes some major revelations and realizes his destiny. He uses Moebius’ corpse to do a jig in order to trick Kain into impaling him. He gets turned into the Soul Reaver and manages to purify Kain from Nupraptor’s madness and reveal the squid to him. Kain fights off the squid and looks out into the distance, full of hope that he can fix this mess.

And that’s it! No more Legacy of Kain! You now know just about everything there is to know (until the inevitable reboot in 22 years, of course.) about the series. I mean, this is the bare minimum you need to know in order to have a conversation with a proper fan, but it’s a good start. You might even be able to understand this simplified illustration of all the timelines: