RELEASED: August 1999
AVAILABLE ON: DC, PC, PS1
DEVELOPER(S): Crystal Dynamics
PUBLISHER(S): Eidos Interactive
Long before Amy Hennig broke the bank with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune on Naughty Dog's payroll, she helped create Legacy of Kain, a cult franchise which chronicled the afterlife of nobleman Kain, who was murdered by a group of assassins in the beginning of the series and later became the enigmatic, vampiric tyrant of the world of Nosgoth. The 2D, Zelda-like adventure game Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was the first title in the series, but it was the 3D action adventure Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver which defined the remainder of it and brought the franchise to mainstream attention. To this day, this unpredictable cult classic stands as one of the original PlayStation's most gratifying gameplay experiences, and one that paved way for many more followers than many critics are willing to admit.
From vampire to vampire hunter
Michael Bell : Raziel / Melchiah
Tony Jay : Elder God / Zephon
Simon Templeman : Kain / Dumah
Neil Ross : Rahab
Anna Gunn : Ariel
Richard Doyle : Moebius the Timestreamer / Morlock the Guardian
When the vampire Kain murdered the Circle of Nine, he was given a choice: he could either sacrifice himself for the salvation of Nosgoth, or take control of the realm and continue his legacy. He chose to appoint himself as Nosgoth's new ruler. Not too long after that, Kain surrounded himself with vampiric lieutenants, to whom he also refers to as his children. Raziel was the first to turn - therefore he is the oldest of Kain's children, and his right-hand man. However, Kain's arrogance drives a wedge between his and Raziel's alliance, as Raziel surpasses his master in terms of vampiric evolution by growing wings. As punishment, Kain orders Raziel to be cast into the bottomless Lake of the Dead. Raziel's body is utterly destroyed by the abyss, but what's left of it is reanimated a few centuries later by the Elder God, who encourages Raziel to begin anew as a devourer of souls, find Kain and exact revenge upon his former master, who has now led both his brethren and the whole world of Nosgoth into complete ruin.
|You shouldn't fuck with a guy who broke the|
world record in the Track & Field javelin throw
event three times in a row.
Soul Reaver sports a great story, and it actually has the same common theme as the first game. The main character is killed and resurrected in the beginning of the game, and the main goal is to get back at whoever's responsible. The vampire cliches were used up in Blood Omen, so there's none on show here. This game actually makes very slight notions to vampires, even though the cast is comprised of them. It ain't a typical "tale of revenge" either, though it plays out like one for the longest time. You'll just know there's more to it than that, eventually... unfortunately, you'd have to play the rest of the trilogy to find out what it is. The thing that has pissed off a lot of people about this game and its story, to this day, is that it ends by hitting a brick wall - we're not even talking about a simple cliffhanger, we're talking about bringing the game to an abrupt halt, with not even a final boss battle or closing cutscene impressive enough to tell your friends about. The facts are obvious: Crystal Dynamics was in a world of hurry to finish this game. It's sad, but true: the game is equal to hours of some of the best third-person action available on the PlayStation, but the crappy ending will inevitably evoke a serious fit of nerd rage in anyone who appreciates a great story. I'd like to add that to this day, I've never played the sequels, which makes the ending that much more enfuriating. I'm planning to fix that mistake soon enough, and that mistake does not affect the joy I get from playing Soul Reaver at all.
General graphics were never this game's focus, and perhaps that is exactly why Soul Reaver is one of the least dated PlayStation games when it comes to its visuals. Almost every game that was initially promoted as "the greatest looking game on the PlayStation", had carefully rendered backgrounds, a lot of colours and a million cutscenes, looks butt-ugly by today's standards. Soul Reaver is in full 3D, it's very dark, and it only has a couple of those classic lagging FMV's, and it looks quite OK; the clean, round blood effects typical to console games of the generation are quick to catch an evil eye, though.
|The reaver of souls equipped with the Soul |
Reaver. I see what you did there.
If some kid who first got into video games during the last, say, nine years - the time that's passed since Defiance, the final installment in the series thus far - and asked me what Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver's all about, my initial answer would be very simple. "Ever played Batman: Arkham Asylum?" If he's a smart kid, he has, and Soul Reaver is very easy to explain to him. There's a relatively small hub world with several smaller levels, a lot of different abilities to learn and use to gain access to most upgrades, as well as to unlock new areas. Nosgoth ain't that big in the long run, but it has a lot of small corners to explore, and you can only explore those corners by having certain abilities in your arsenal. It even has a couple of bonafide sidequests, which you do not need to conquer to beat the game, but doing that does help your general progress a little. That's not all, though. A lot of puzzles in Soul Reaver are based on being able to take full advantage of your ghost-like being, and entering the spectral realm.
|A mere sealed gate won't hold a true badass - he'll |
simply phase through it.
Although Raziel's no longer a vampire, instead he feasts on the souls of fallen enemies, in the beginning of the game he suffers from many vampiric weaknesses that prevent him from accessing certain areas, or just otherwise screw with his progress to find Kain and slap his former master silly. Roaming through any area with any natural light will slowly drain his health. Water scorches the poor bastard like acid, and even though his physical power is increased upon his resurrection, his former agility and ability to glide are toned down "just a bit" due to his badly injured body, limbs and wings. Raziel's very weak in the beginning of the game, but as in every great game of fetch, he will very much be the "angel of death" the Elder God's constantly selling him as by the end of it. You can count on it.
There are much more ways to kill a vampire than one could spontaneously surmise; fighting enemies in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is awesome. The game was THE most entertaining third-person melee game of its time. The bosses are all different from each other and most require additional strategies beyond Raziel's standard arsenal to stay down, including general environmental awareness and taking advantage of the whole battlefield, from small limited areas to whole levels. "Standard" is an incorrect term to describe regular enemies, as well. You see, beating them to half-death (or "half-undeath"?) with ANYTHING you can find (decorative staves, spears, poles, vases, torches etc.) is not enough. Every vampire flick ever made should make you know better: vampires don't go down easily. Either destroy the whole body, or its heart. These are exactly the things you need to do in this game.
|A typical puzzle.|
Making progress in the game's a constant puzzle. Not a hard one, but it does require constant awareness of your surroundings, moderate navigational skills and some sense of logic. The individual puzzles start repeating themselves towards the end, as most are either related to realm-switching or filling gaps in walls with conveniently placed tiles or boxes, so that their patterns match the walls'. Anyway, Soul Reaver has them - puzzles, I mean - which I think is the most important thing. It wouldn't be the same game without them to balance all the vampire-killing out. Since you can't really die, Soul Reaver's not a hard game in general. It's just an entertaining action adventure to be had. Extremely so.
In news that are probably old by now, the Legacy of Kain franchise - at least Soul Reaver - is up for a reboot or a remake. I just heard about this a couple of days ago, and I'm kinda ecstatic, but also a little curious about the point of it all. After all, after 13 years, the original game still manages to deliver high-quality passtime. Of course I'm going to try the remake as soon as it comes out, no question about it - Soul Reaver is that great. Now if I could only get my hands on the sequels.
+ Great story and characters
+ The enemy design
+ Innovative combat, and wide variety of both tactics and weapons
+ The graphics are still quite good
+ The music's good and thick in atmosphere
+ There are lots of puzzles...
- ...Sadly, they start repeating themselves more than necessary towards the end
- The ending sucks - unlike Mass Effect 3's, this one REALLY does suck!
- The camera is a bitch, and a bitch to control (the old L2/R2 system instead of analog control)
- The controls are oversensitive enough to piss you off real good on narrow walkways
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