I love the Legacy of Kain series. I spent many a weekend playing these games – actually, exactly four weekends, since I never played the original Blood Omen and all the others could be cleared in a mere two days. Still, playing as a twisted, vampiric monster struggling with a world where there's no hope, even in death, made me not regret that time. Quite a few people desperately want another game, even though Defiance ended the series and the original team went their separate ways.
This was not quite what I was expecting. A player-versus-player deathmatch series, set in the 1000 years between Raziel being cast into a whirlpool of death, and his return in Soul Reaver, seems like a rather strange addition to the line, though it's not made by Crystal Dynamics. This Square Enix-published, Psyonix-developed free-to-play endeavour won't be the game LoK fans have dreamed of, but it might be an interesting PvPer.
Let's get the obvious out of the way – it's not going to be the next Legacy of Kain chapter. It borrows the universe, drawing on an established part of the continuity that we only see the far end of when everything has degenerated into savagery and despair. It's a smart idea to get attention, and if they play on the direction they seem to be going now, it might gather a strong following. It's not so different gameplay-wise from the original games, relying on action and platforming, albeit to kill other players doing the same thing, and I can see plenty that would benefit a Kain fan.
The game is still in closed beta, so only the basics are present; two teams of four, in two matches where they alternate between the human rebels and Kain's vampire army. Your arenas consist of destroyed villages and towns, including a harbour, all of which seem plenty detailed. Buildings provide cover, and the vampire team can climb and leap from them while the humans use them to defend against aerial attack, or set choke-points.
Only four classes are available right now, and they're pretty much what one can expect. The most interesting to me are the Sentinels, mutated offspring of the lost vampire Raziel (main character of Soul Reaver). Their ability to fly is possibly the most unique mechanic in the game, allowing you to soar across the battlefield, scoop up enemies and drop them elsewhere, dive-bomb them, or throw explosives at them. This is my favourite class, which I admittedly decided on before the game, but it's the most distinct to play.
The core premise of the game seems solid so far. Vampires and Humans play quite differently, with humans favouring defensive, group tactics, while vampires are more aggressive and tend to favour surround tactics. Even their method of healing is different, with vampires relying on enemy corpses to heal and humans clustering around fixed health stations. The vampire's goal is to divide and stymie the human defensive, while humans coordinate their moves to try and trap vampires out in the open, where they can be shot down by crossbows and pistols. Different characters synergize with other skills and this coordination is key to defeating your foes. So far, the concept seems to work pretty well, with fights being mobile due to humanity's reliance of herb racks. I found myself having fun swooping in, or firing grenades.
There are only four classes per faction in the game so far, with a starting loadout of three skills and a passive stat-booster per. New skills are available in an online store, for in-game currency or the real-money medium free-to-play games thrive on. So far, everything that's not just cosmetic seems to be available for earn-able in-game gold, but the costs are based around the ability to 'lease' a skill for three or seven days in order to try it out, for significantly less cost. I found that some of the starting skills were only marginally useful (the Alchemists blinding flash doesn't ever seem to last long enough to disorient enemies or lead to death), and being able to try out new skills on a trial basis is nice.
Is it going to be a good game? The potential is there; the match structure encourages trying multiple different play-styles and pursuing different skills/gear, the alternating matches means you always get a chance to play your favourite style, and the gameplay and level design seems to have a lot of potential. Is it going to be a good Legacy of Kain game? Well, it's not the same as Blood Omen or Soul Reaver – they were never multiplayer deathmatches, and were more driven by story. Nosgoth's background doesn't really matter to is gameplay, but what we get has the potential to be fun and engrossing.