There’s no better time to bring Legacy of Kain back


That inheritance from Cain Series was unlucky. Sure to fail. Several attempts to revive the devastated corpse failed. The Curse of Cain has reportedly taken studios and careers with it. But then maybe that makes sense; The series’ two protagonists – Kain and Raziel – were never known for their luck, were they? Destined to dance through life and death as Nosgoth blossoms and fades around them, their bond with the world of the living was tenuous at best.

So it’s fitting that we could consider a resurgence of the brand. That’s this week’s news Square Enix has summarily ditched all of its less desirable IPs (that’s how I understand it) means that Raziel and Cain now have a new god; the faceless, over-corporate suits at Embracer. At first glance, you’d think the investment company would be content with simply pumping out a LoK-flavored battle royal (hey, remember that nosgot?) But upon closer inspection, it actually looks like there’s still hope for all of us who want to know what happens after the final chapter of the 2003-present saga, Defiance.

“[Embracer has] was particularly impressed with the studio’s rich portfolio of original IP, case brands with proven global potential such as Tomb Raider and Deus Ex, and the demonstration of the ability to create AAA games with large and growing fan bases,” the company said in a press release. “Embracer sees an opportunity to invest in these franchises as well as the additionally acquired IPs such as Legacy of Kain, Thief and other original franchises.”

Can you name a design from the 90’s?

The mere fact that the company checked the name of the cherished dark-fantasy action-adventure series is a heck of a lot more than we’ve seen from Square Enix at this point in the last two decades. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it feels like a sleeping deity’s eyes open and a booming voice calls out from beneath, saying, “Raziel… the wheel of destiny turns again.”

For a series that famously got us thinking about fatalism and man’s struggle for free will, I find it funny that Legacy of Kain’s original creators (Silicon Knights), most celebrated author (Amy Hennig), and caretaker developer (Eidos ) has absolutely no say in what happens to the game. It’s funny, just like Milton is funny; imbued with irony and tinged with a slight bitterness. The most critically acclaimed title in the series, Soul Reaver sits at an impressive 91 on Metacritic – for context, that’s a higher rating than PSOne stablemates Final Fantasy VIII, Resident Evil 2 and Wipeout 3. There’s a lot of love for this series out there, even today… so why has it stayed in the dust for so long?

Maybe Square Enix was terrified years ago when those were doomed Legacy of Cain: Dead Sun – made by Climax Studios for Square Enix Europe – disappeared without a trace, with the company later reluctantly admitting that the title “just wasn’t the right game at the right time”. You’d think a game that focuses on both a vampire and a human – shrouded in an endless quest for revenge – developed by the folks behind Silent Hill: Shattered Memories would have been perfect around 2010, right? A dark, edgy open world would have been the perfect chaser for all the gritty shooters that were spreading at the time.

Dead Sun was just never meant to be.

But Square Enix threw the near-completed project into the abyss like Kain threw Raziel into the Lake of the Dead at the start of Soul Reaver. Since then, apart from a cynical, unpopular multiplayer-only game cobbled together from Dead Sun assets, the series has lain dormant. Dead. Whether the series will emerge disoriented and blinking from the depths of development hell and adapt its vision to a world where NFTs and microtransactions are the norm remains to be seen. But I prefer to read Embracer’s acknowledgment of his forgotten goth son as a declaration of intent — not just a declaration of ownership.

The achievements of Star Wars: Fallen Order, God of War, The Last of Us, and even the immersive Arkane-flavored Sims like Prey and Dishonored prove there is an appetite for dark, brooding games packed with atmosphere and over-the-top writing. The path we all walk together fat mouthfuls of goth-tinged lore from FromSoft’s brimming goblet proves we’re hungry for action-adventure games with well-crafted worlds whose identity is as important as each main character. We are ready, Embracer, to return to Nosgoth. In fact, there has probably never been a better time.

Starting with Soul Reaver, the series was known for its central trick of making Raziel switch between realms – it was a mechanic that took the story’s obsession with breadth and depth and translated it into gameplay. The story spans eras, and Raziel has the “gift” of being able to switch between corporeal and physical forms. On the PS1, this was handled in a technically impressive way, even with more rudimentary technology. Think how that would work, no… check out Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for example.

In the hands of a competent developer, contemporary technology would allow players to traverse a semi-open world that not only has scope but depth. The stories you could tell – about Nosgoth and his ongoing struggles – with SSDs powering your world… it’s enough to make you salivate. The industry is crying out for a game that redefines our relationship with open-world titles, much like Breath of the Wild did on the Switch, and Nosgoth’s unique setting – and the deep veins of Legacy of Kain’s lore – is perfect ship for such an experiment.

Will we ever see the Pillars of Nosgoth again?

Desiring to see the Pillars take center stage again in this cyclical world is probably wishful thinking on my part – I’m just hungry for that gothic-industrial-Shakespearean vibe the games have always worn like a well-fitting leather jacket. If I had my way, the team that worked so hard on Marvel’s Guardans of the Galaxy would focus on Nosgoth, examining the legacy Cain’s selfishness and Raziel’s single-mindedness left on the world — and the poor bastards who come with it would have to live consequences, years later. Given the circumstances, it would all feel pretty fitting.

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