Ah, reinvigorating a franchise. That's not an unusual thing to see these days when studios look toward their existing IP to see what might be fit to bring to a new audience. The Legacy of Kain series, with its two anti-heroes, Kain himself and Raziel, has been dormant since 2003. Psyonix takes the reins this time from central franchise developer Crystal Dynamics, in order to make a spinoff, albeit one that takes place within the series' land of Nosgoth. The game itself, called Nosgoth, is an upcoming free to play third-person competitive PvP game. Square-Enix will be handling publishing duties on this one. We had the chance to get behind closed doors for a peek at the game's alpha. Fans looking for a true followup to the action-adventure series won't find it here in Nosgoth, however.
Taking place chronologically in between Raziel's execution and later resurrection in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, the lore connection is a superficial one. After all, this is a strictly online multiplayer game, with no singleplayer content planned. Using the backdrop of the decaying lands under the absence of leader Kain, there's a war going on for control over the territory and supremacy. So, with that as the jumping off point, how does it fare? It's brutal, fast-paced, and probably more fun than one might expect.
There's currently only one mode available in the game, and that is Team Deathmatch, both regular and an intro lobby for those under level 5. Splitting things is an excellent start, because things will get brutal. Deathmatch will soon be joined by newly-announced Siege mode in the near future (where Humans must capture points and Vampires must stop them), but was not in for our test.
In 4v4 team rounds, you'll be assigned to either Humans or Vampires for the first of two rounds. After the first round is over, you'll automatically switch over to the other team. Humans and Vampires play pretty differently, so being made to switch around also lets you get a feel for each side. Making players play both sides is a good idea, as it helps prevent stagnation and might make some players also play the side they're less skilled in for half the match, leading to more all-around rounded play.
The Humans will feel plenty natural to players of third-person shooters, MMOs, and action games. They fight at range, with the ability to send projectiles and debuffs flying at the more agile Vampires. Hunters are armed with crossbows and can even shoot a bola to temporarily stop a Vampire. The archer Scouts can shoot far. Wrapping up the Human lineup is the Alchemist, who can debuff and keep enemies at bay. Humans can even press a button to initiate healing if in a safe enough spot. They're not as flashy or brutal, but they get the job done.
Vampires, are strong, fast, melee-based, and have a few neat tricks up their sleeves, such as being able to climb buildings. And, you know, fly (if you're playing the Sentinel class). Speaking of Sentinels, their special ability consists of the ability to swoop in, pick up a hapless Human, and then fly off, dropping him or her for great damage. It's very cool if you're doing the damage, and very fast if you're the one being dropped.
Given the differences in combat styles, matches will vary a bit depending on how daring you and your teammates want to be. Vampires need to generally get in close to pummel the Humans, while Humans can hide in the small, crumbling cavern that you spawn in. Vampires also can't heal on their own (as they need to feed to do that, so while you have greater mobility, you pay for it if you take a risk. During some matches, my Humans decided to mostly stay put, so it was up to some of us, often me, to climb buildings, then sneak over to the roof over where they were camping out. It was a noble sacrifice a few times to bait them all toward me in order to distract them enough for my teammates to swoop in and feast upon a few mortals.
As Humans, you need to keep your eye out for anything that moves, looking high and low for your enemies. Keeping grouped up might help, but Vampires also have an ability that creates a shroud of darkness over a certain area that can be very hard to escape in time before you're shredded. Luckily, Humans can run out of range, or counter before being pounced upon.
Should you wish to add some variety, you can choose your class and loadouts before the match and after you respawn. If something isn't quite working for you or your team needs balancing, go ahead and change it up. New abilities and perks can be obtained by using the game's cash shop. This can lead to more effective strategies should your team learn to work together effectively. That level of strategy is definitely important when the Humans don't have as many flashy abilities and the Vampires possess gap closers and can leap to cover more ground quickly.
Right now, it's early, but the game does run smoothly. Since it's alpha, the limited server times and population have caused some long waits or even made it impossible to find a match on a couple of occasions. That's usually an issue that will sort itself out as more join and later on release.
Nosgoth is designed to introduce and ultimately broaden the audience of the Legacy of Kain series, so if things go well when the game is released, fans seeking a conclusion to the main thread might have more hope of getting one. But for now, we'll keep an eye on Nosgoth's progress. It is, even in its current alpha state, a pretty fun third-person competitive PvP game. It takes some getting used to, especially since the game puts you in the roles of both sides, but once you start to get the hang of it, it's showing some promise; less as a spinoff and more as its own thing.
Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez