I was primarily disappointed with Legacy of Kain: Defiance for reasons that Brad lights upon. For me, the game fatally stumbles where it fails to demonstrate any meaningful improvement over its prequels.
Despite our general agreement about gameplay however, Brad does gloss over what I felt was a notable triumph—the game's compelling gothic landscape.
Lush visuals have been a watermark of the series since Soul Reaver, but Defiance establishes a new pedigree, at least when viewed statically (the animation often stutters in open and populated areas).
At times I found myself genuinely captured in the structure and minute detail of Nosgoth. Archaic, crumbling buildings and unkempt organic growth coalesce in outdoor environments to produce imagery reminiscent of gothic film and literature. On a similar page, indoor areas range from the condensed and cryptic, to the grand and opulent, with the two often placed in immediate contention. For example, the first segment of Kain's adventure occurs within a winding stone fortress. Cramped and shadowy hallways connect illuminated outdoor courtyards along a path that eventually leads to an impressive baroque cathedral. In terms of both scope and architectural diversity, the games graphics develop the world of Nosgoth beyond its previous iterations, granting an alternate glimpse of landmarks and terrain familiar to fans of the series. In fact, Defiance's well-crafted environments mark its only significant offering to the series.
That such visual prowess is obscured by sloppy gameplay is almost tragic.
Prevailingly linear environments offer scant exploration and puzzle sequences, leaving a simplistic combat engine to pick up the slack. As a zealous follower of the series, I found the sudden dearth of compelling puzzles especially, well, puzzling. Why did the developers derail an element that not only worked well in the past, but has become a staple of the series? Given that previous Legacy of Kain games have positioned the environment as adversary rather than set piece, the world depicted in Defiance feels comparatively passive, emphasizing simplistic combat sequences to the exclusion of environmental challenges. Throughout my time with the game, I consistently felt as though it demanded less of me than its prequels had.
A sequel implicitly promises more than its progeny, and in this measure Defiance falls short. I'm with Brad on this one.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.