The Legacy of Kain games have had a focus on narrative since Blood Omen hit shelves back in the early PlayStation days. Even then its strong writing and voice acting were widely praised, and that theme continued for every other entry into the franchise, the last of which was released on the Gamecube, to give you some idea how long this franchise has been resting. Since then, however, the franchise has changed hands, from Crystal Dynamics to Eidos Interactive and from Eidos Interactive to Square Enix. Now, with the comforting flow of cash from the publishers, Psyonix take on the mantle of producing the latest Legacy of Kain game with the vision of using the setting as fertile ground for multiplayer hi-jinxes.
It’s still Legacy of Kain, alright, but Nosgoth strays from the path laid out by its predecessors to appeal to a whole new crowd. The traditional story-heavy style of previous outings has been ripped out and replaced with asynchronous multiplayer that pits man against vampire in a bloody fight to the death. A jarring departure from the series’ story-focussed roots, to be sure.
Even more grim and worryingly satisfying is the mechanic for the Vampires that lets you take a bite out of your victims to refill your health bar.
As the phrase ‘asynchronous multiplayer’ would suggest matches consist of two teams with different, and varying, skill sets trying their best to kill each other dead through the cunning use of team work. As you’d likely have guessed what we have here is close-range vampires, who rely primarily on their own bodies being weapons; versus long-range humans, who revolve around being Johnny on-the-spot with all sorts of gadgets thus making them, by default, a whole lot less interesting than their blood sucking foes.
In many ways it’s reminiscent of the MOBA set up, right down to the free to play side of its nature that lets you buy outfits, abilities and boosts for real, live money. Thankfully you can also buy the majority of this with the gold you’ll earn through playing, and if you can’t quite afford to purchase that new skill you want to try out you can rent it out instead and give it a whirl.
Both sides of the conflict have three different classes and occupying each of these classes requires an entirely different style of play. On the Human side you’ve got the Hunter, your standard issue shooty-man/tank; the Scout, for those who prefer their killing distant and impersonal; and the Alchemist, whose main job is to cause so many explosions that nary a vampiric limb can remain intact. On the side of the Vampires you’ll sneak around as the Reaver, brawl it up with the Tyrant or fly around making a nuisance of yourself with the Sentinel and it’s these three classes I’d wager you’ll find the most fun playing as.
There’s a feeling very much reminiscent of Versus mode in Left 4 Dead where the poor sods playing as the survivors are just biding their time, patiently waiting to get their hands around the controls of a shiny new special infected. The Vampires are a joy to play, although that could be the troll in me rearing its ugly head. Firing crossbow bolts and bombs into hulking Tyrants just never comes with the same feeling of mischievous reward as snatching a plucky human soldier from the ground and whisking him off to admire the view, before allowing gravity to do your job for you.
Even more grim and worryingly satisfying is the mechanic for the Vampires that lets you take a bite out of your victims to refill your health bar. Humans, on the other hand, can refuel their bodies and weapons at specific points throughout the game’s maps, which is decidedly less exotic than sucking out a fresh kill’s lifeblood.
But while the Vampiric gameplay feels much more satisfying than legging it around as a sentient blood bag, the game very rarely feels unfair. It can feel incredibly frustrating to find yourself whisked off into the sky by a Sentinel, but once they’ve set you down you can quite easily bury a dagger in your captor’s face and escape.
On the other hand it can be damn frustrating to be foiled by the Alchemist’s explosives or the Scout’s arrow volleys, but there’s always a way to get around it with a little teamwork. It’s fairly easy to make the mistake of crafting a very poorly balanced multiplayer experience, especially in asynchronous multiplayer, but Nosgoth doesn’t do that.
What Nosgoth does do is put an end to the decade long drought in the Legacy of Kain series and give fans something to look forward to while offering a completely new experience to appeal to a potential new audience.