Developers from Climax Studios break non-disclosure agreements to discuss Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun‘s cancellation after spending three years in production.
Despite critical acclaim and general sales success, the Legacy of Kain franchise has been dormant for 13 years now, with the last entry in the series, Legacy of Kain: Defiance, releasing in 2003. Square Enix holds the rights to the series, but has yet to give it a reboot like it has done with other western IP it has acquired, such as Tomb Raider and the episodic Hitman. Even so, there was once a new game in the series entitled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun that was in development for three years at Climax Studios, and now developers from that project have revealed all the gory details.
Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun was pitched to Square Enix as “if HBO made Zelda.” This idea reportedly had Square Enix executives excited about the project, and as a result, the Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun team at Climax Studios grew from 30 developers to around 100. The team then set to work using Unreal Engine 3 to create an even darker, grittier take on the Legacy of Kain franchise, which would have been set hundreds of years after the events of the previous games.
Although Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun was supposed to be set in more modern times, it wasn’t meant to be a full reboot of the series. On the contrary, it would have featured the return of The Elder God from previous games. However, it would star a new protagonist named Asher, who would wind up in control of the body of a vampire named Gein. Climax Studios was aiming for the story of Asher and Gein to take about 20 hours to complete, so the developer wrote more dialogue for the game than any other title the studio previously worked on.
As for gameplay, Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun would have embraced the tenets of The Legend of Zelda. There would be a hub world, with various dungeons attached to it. Players would delve into the dungeons, fight enemies, solve puzzles, defeat a boss, and then gain a new ability which would help them explore the world more thoroughly. Besides Zelda, there would also be elements to the game not unlike some of the gameplay seen in BioShock Infinite‘s E3 2011 gameplay presentation, though Climax had implemented these features before ever seeing Infinite in action.
The game was also set to have a multiplayer component, which actually did see the light of day, in some capacity. According to some sources, the free-to-play Nosgoth was originally intended to be the multiplayer for Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun. Of course, that has since been canned as well, but at least some Legacy of Kain fans were able to get their hands on the game before that came to pass.
Ultimately, Square Enix’s vision for the game and Climax’s vision for the game were at odds. Square Enix allegedly wanted Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun to be as simplistic as possible, with some of the developers describing sections of the game as “insultingly easy.” These issues combined with a worry that the game wouldn’t sell led to Square Enix pulling the plug on the project.
In an attempt to salvage some of its work, Climax reworked assets of Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun into a Prince of Persia reboot pitch, but nothing ever came of it. This must have been a frustrating time for the developers at Climax Studios, as the leaked footage from last year for Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun shows that the game was fairly far along in development, and yet all the work went to waste. Perhaps Square Enix will revive the franchise again at some point, but for now, fans will just have to dream about what could have been.
Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun was in development for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.