Heel-turn: Kain's Legacy


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[I remember playing the hell out of those old PS1 demo discs back in the day, and I must have gone through that one section ofSoul Reaver over thirty damn times. I miss those things so much. It’s just not the same when you can download it so easily.

I remember buying whole magazines, immediately throwing away the paper bullshit, and staring giddily at the little cardboard sleeve that showed me all the awesome games I’d finally get to try.

Kerrik52 took me right down memory lane and threw his hat in the ring for this month’s Bloggers Wanted prompt. Now his words are right here on the Front Page! If you think you’ve got what it takes, head over to the cblogs and slap some thoughts together. – Kevin]

Let me tell you of a man who escaped death’s door. Let me tell you of a king who brought the world to its knees. Let me tell you of a god who shaped Nosgoth’s history. Let me tell you of Kain.

The Legacy of Kain series, with itsmajestic plot, has achieved much. But the character of its namesake stands above all else.

It’s never really a question whether Kain is evil or not. The man is a bastard. You could make a case for him acting out of necessity at the start of Blood Omen when he gets assassinated, but such a claim soon loses strength. After he accepts Mortanius’ offer and revives as a vampire, he does hold a certain amount of contempt for his new form, but over time, he grows to enjoy it more and more.

After speaking with the elder vampire Vorador and procuring a frankly ridiculous arsenal of spells and weapons, Kain stops seeing much value in human lives beyond snacking. And throughout all this slaughter, he doesn’t stop being an enjoyable protagonist. A big part of this is thanks to the performance by Simon Templeman.

He conveys confidence and pride with every word, as one would expect out of someone playing a vampire of noble descent. He has so many lines that I wonder just how much disc-space is dedicated to them.

I wouldn’t say that Kain is a lesser evil, merely the more open and dignified one. He values honesty and cuts down everyone standing in the way of his goal to slay the mad Circle of Nine to heal the land. But once the plot is done and he is expected to kill himself to save the world, the player is presented with the choice to do so.

Having Kain kill himself is of course the good ending, while having him live on is the bad one. But once the series changed hands, Crystal Dynamics realised that Kain thinks too highly of himself to let the good ending come to pass. So the foundation of the rest of the series is built upon Kain’s arrogance and his insistence to not let vampirekind die out. That’s the titular legacy.

He resurrects the warrior priests of the Sarafan (an old clan of vampire hunters) and makes them his unknowing vampire sons for the lols. Together, they subjugate all of Nosgoth and cover it with smoke to lessen the effect of sunlight. Perfect setup for a plucky human to rise up against the evil empire and save the day, no?

Thankfully, a different story was told. Kain breaks into a chamber once owned by the Timestreamer Moebius and manages to learn of his fate. He is destined to die, thus saving Nosgoth from corruption. His selfishness drives him to change his fate, even though it should be impossible.

He plays along with history’s tale and feigns jealousy at the sight of his lieutenant Raziel’s new wings. With that petty justification on display, he throws Raziel into an abyss of water and waits about a millennium for Raziel’s vengeful return.

For a while, Kain preys on Raziel’s sense of righteousness in order to drive him further on his quest for revenge, while still betting everything on Raziel’s curiosity being the stronger force in the end.

After a climactic clash, Kain reveals part of his plans to change their fate, but runs away before giving a satisfying explanation, going back in time through a gate. It’s at this point that Raziel’s hatred starts to wane a little bit.

In the past, they meet to discuss things, but it soon gives in to violence, and Kain bets his life on Raziel and his ability to change fate. This is the first time in the series where he displays fear. It’s refreshing to see someone like Kain not be an unflappable badass at all times. As the series goes on, he displays a good deal of affection and trust for Raziel, in spite of their shared fate. You get the sense that Kain is only mostly ruthless and is willing to see Raziel eye-to-eye.

Kain escaping death here changes time, and the pair soon split. Raziel gives into curiosity, and learns more about his fate, while Kain prepares his big move so that he can save Raziel as well.

Entrenched in his fate, Raziel is close to killing himself when Kain suddenly appears. In the one moment, he has to change history and save them both. Kain wrests the blade from Raziel’s chest and everything goes wrong.

The effect of the newly created timeline fills Kain with dread, as this change was exactly what his unknown enemies wanted. It is here we understand that Kain was right to try and change fate, as his enemies will most certainly have Nosgoth ruined, something he wants to stop after doing so himself. Still, the fact that he is standing after experiencing all of Blood Omen 2 in three seconds is mighty impressive.

They split up again and don’t meet up until a murder-happy Raziel tries to kill Kain. Kain advocates peace and is struck down. He somehow manages to escape oblivion in a demonic dimension just in time to achieve maximal smugness in front of Moebius reporting on his death. It’s such a delightful scene.

It really presents Kain as the magnificent bastard he is. I can’t get enough of that smugness! No idea why. By all accounts I should perceive him as a selfish asshole. That either says something about me or the quality of the writing.

Then comes the finale, where Raziel tricks Kain into striking him down in a heartfelt scene between lord and subject. Empowered by Raziel’s sacrifice, and with a heavy heart, Kain beats the boss and is left with a small but distinct sense of hope.