It's been almost a decade since we last heard of Legacy of Kain, yet here we are, having a discussion over the series' latest entry: Nosgoth. This free-to-play, team based, PvP action game has already made some big waves, but not the kind publisher Square Enix might have hoped for. With many gamers inside and outside of the Legacy of Kain fandom left scratching their heads, it begs the question: Will Nosgoth act as the final nail in the series' coffin?
If there's one thing the Legacy of Kain series is remembered for, it's its magnificently rich and engrossing storyline. It deals with the concepts of destiny, free will, time travel and paradoxes from the viewpoints of both the ruthless vampire emperor Kain and his vengeful, vampire-turned-wraith lieutenant Raziel; culminating in a series of profound and unexpected narrative twists that are fondly remembered by the series' devoted fanbase.
This being said, one can hardly be surprised at the vast number of raised eyebrows that were caused by Square Enix's bold announcement Nosgoth; a free-to-play, multiplayer, PvP game with minimal relation to Legacy of Kain.
Now there's nothing empirically wrong with Square Enix wanting to break into the Western free-to-play market. There's also nothing wrong with Square Enix utilising a popular gaming series to help push the title through the gate. But with so many different licenses and franchises at their disposal, the decision to give the Legacy of Kain series the F2P, PvP treatment is somewhat mind boggling.
Developer Psyonix attempted to highlight Nosgoth's links to the Legacy of Kain series in the game's announcement video. But – at least for me – Psyonix's message was drowned out by images of generic battlefields, uninspired warriors and... Grenade launchers...?
On second watch of the trailer and following a read of the Psyonix blog, it becomes clear that the British developer is quietly confident that Nosgoth will indeed constitute a legitimate chunk of Legacy of Kain lore. After all, it features vampire cities, members of Raziel's clan and is even set during the great war between humans and vampires – a war that hasn't been shown in any Legacy of Kain game thus far. It all sounds very interesting, but the pedantic Legacy of Kain fan in me can't help but poke holes in Nosgoth's proposed “storyline”.
For example, how could the winged, vampiric Sentinel class be descendants of Raziel considering that his clan was wiped out by Kain and his lieutenants shortly after Raziel was cast into the abyss during Soul Reaver? How can it be that a race of helpless, domesticated humans rise against their vampiric overlords and create anti-vampire weapons that haven't existed for centuries? Furthermore, the timeline in which Nosgoth sits was altered numerous times throughout the series and was essentially erased in the series' climax; Legacy of Kain: Defiance.
These may seem like minor quibbles, but compared to the relatively water-tight, time travel and paradox filled storyline told across five Legacy of Kain games, Nosgoth's so called “narrative” is highly questionable. So questionable in fact that bemused NeoGAF member Mama Robotnik used his detective skills to search for answers.
After trawling through developer portfolios and resumes, Mama Robotnik discovered that sometime between 2009-2010, Square Enix had commissioned the UK based Climax Games to work on a new Legacy of Kain title. Mama Robotnik then began to contact numerous Climax Games employees, a selection of which divulged some juicy information on the project.
Named Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun, the project was originally intended for release on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. According to Mama Robotnik's sources, Square Enix demanded that the game be set long after the events of the previous Legacy of Kain games, in the corruption-free version of Nosgoth created in Legacy of Kain: Defiance. Square Enix also asked for a single player component, which was being developed by Climax Games, and a separate multiplayer component being developed by none other than Psyonix. Yet after approximately three years in development, Square Enix cancelled the Dead Sun project sometime in 2012.
Fortunately for Mama Robotnik, the validity of his claims was bolstered by NeoGAF posts made by Square Enix Community Manager George Kelion. Not only did Kelion confirm the existence of Dead Sun, he explicitly stated that Nosgoth originated as Dead Sun's multiplayer component.
The rise and fall of Dead Sun may not have been such a heartbreaking story for Legacy of Kain fans if not for the vast amount of work that had gone into the title. A storyline involving soul eating, realm shifting vampires had been completed, voice acting had been recorded and motion capture work had been carried out. Several cutscenes had been rendered, game menus had been made, gameplay mechanics had been specified and an awful lot of artwork and other assets had been created.
But even if Square Enix were to try once more to release a single-player Legacy of Kain game, it'd never be the “Soul Reaver 3” or “Blood Omen 3” that the fans truly yearn for. Imagine the poor creative team assigned with the task of designing a game world that leads on from an intricate, five game long Legacy of Kain storyline. Imagine that team also being instructed to make the game accessible to those unfamiliar with the series and those who simply cannot remember the plot of a decade old game.
The result of such an undertaking would be, well, Dead Sun – a game that would have only been tangibly related to the Legacy of Kain storyline. It could be argued then that Dead Sun's distance from the original Legacy of Kain series may have been the very reason it was cancelled in the first place. As Kelion said himself via NeoGAF “ LoK: Dead Sun just wasn’t the right game, at the right time...”
Nevertheless, it's still a crying shame that Dead Sun never saw the light of day. But Dead Sun was only one of several Legacy of Kain projects that were cancelled long before Square Enix entered the scene. The games in question, which were also researched extensively by Mama Robotnik, include two Blood Omen sequels, an unreleased version of Soul Reaver 2 using the original Soul Reaver engine and a direct sequel to Defiance titled Legacy of Kain: The Dark Prophesy.
Of even greater interest to Nosgoth nay-sayers is the amount of cancelled games that were originally unrelated to Legacy of Kain, but were later incorporated into the series. For example, Blood Omen 2, released in 2002, was essentially cobbled together from completed work on two separate games: Sirens (cancelled in 1997) and Chakan 2: The Forever Man (cancelled in 2000). Fan favourite Soul Reaver was also born from a completely separate game titled Shifter, which was repurposed into a Legacy of Kain title due to fears from developer Crystal Dynamics that a new IP would not meet sales expectations.
Most of the aforementioned games were cancelled for reasons unknown, but reasons nonetheless. It would seem that cancellation has been a running theme in the real-life Legacy of Kain saga for as long as the series has been around – Nosgoth is simply joining the ranks.
So, after a decade of silence we have Nosgoth – the Legacy of Kain game nobody asked for. But even though it's a hand-me-down, free-to-play multiplayer game that has even less relation to Legacy of Kain than the cancelled Dead Sun project it was lifted from, Nosgoth is clearly our best and only chance to revisit the grim, decadent world that defined 3D action games all those years ago.
Image a two-sided coin. On one side we have Nosgoth; yet another addition to the myriad free-to-play, PvP games that all beg so very desperately for our attention, but the Legacy of Kain series' only chance of survival. On the other side, we have Square Enix's premature abandonment of Nosgoth; adding it to the depressing collection of cancelled Legacy of Kain games and very possibly ending the series once and for all.
To most Legacy of Kain fans, the scenario is set to disappoint either way. But suppose Nosgoth succeeds. Suppose it isn't the god-awful, wretched excuse for a Legacy of Kain game most fans have already labelled it as. As Kain himself once said, “suppose you throw a coin enough times... suppose one day, it lands on its edge.”
Written by Michael Westgarth