Review by Mister Sinister
Second in the series and wow, what a step-up !!
Having very much enjoyed Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain on the Playstation, I was elated to learn that a follow-up title would be released in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.
I actually read a magazine-review of this title before its release (which is a rarity for me), and then hurried out and bought it when it hit the shops ...
Was I disappointed or chuffed to bits ?? Read on ...
OVERVIEW AND OBJECTIVE OF THE GAME
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is the second title in the Legacy of Kain Series. The plot goes that, after Blood Omen, and the destruction of all the remaining Guardians of the Pillars of Nosgoth, Kain realised that he himself was the final Guardian - the Guardian of the Pillar of Balance, and that only he could therefore decide the future of Nosgoth.
If he had chosen to sacrifice himself, Nosgoth would have been restored to balance. Kain, however, rejected the sacrifice, and decided to claim the lands of Nosgoth as his own.
Over the years he sired a number of lieutenants (basically his sons), and what would normally happen would be that Kain would transform, developing some new power, and then pass that power on to one of his lieutenants, so each one had a different power.
Raziel, Kain's eldest lieutenant (equivalent to his firstborn), however, developed a set of wings gifting him the power of flight BEFORE KAIN, and when Kain learned of this, he regarded it as a transgression.
Kain and his other lieutenants turned on Raziel, rending his wings from his body, and then casting his screaming form into a vortex from which he was never to return.
... that is, until he was found and brought back to "life" by an octopus-like entity of great power.
Here begins the game !
You are Raziel, the Soul Reaver of the entity that has respawned you. It turns out that this entity HATES vampires as it represents the ever-turning wheel of life, death and rebirth. Vampires are basically clogging up the wheel, as they never fully die, so they are never returned to his wheel to be recycled (an over-simplification of the plot, but you only really need it for gist).
He bids you find and destroy each of Kain's Lieutenants, and thereafter Kain himself, to bring matters back into balance and harmony.
GRAPHICS - 8/10
It is a Playstation title, so the graphics do look, in part, slightly dated when compared to later titles in the series - however it is a fully three-dimensional (and two-planar) game, with some absolutely WONDERFUL graphical twists, such as when you shift from one plain to another, which you must do to overcome certain obstacles in your path), or where you shift through bars - it's kinda like watching the T1000 do the same in Terminator 2 - you just kinda phase through the bars - VERY cool stuff.
The scenes and sets themselves are MASSIVE, and gives you a real feel for what it's like on the ground in Nosgoth. Remember Kain could fly as a bat, and so was able to traverse Nosgoth comparatively quickly. Raziel must run, jump, climb, shift and glide his way around, which can take some time.
The puzzles are also generally graphically quite stunning, with often well-concealed things to be moved around rooms, statues to be turned, mirrors positioned, cages lifted, organs moved etc., etc.
Load-times are minimal, as the game loads up the next section of the game as you are moving through the current section, thus ensuring that you are able to traverse large sections of terrain with minimal downtime, which is a very welcome treat I must say !!
SOUND - 9/10
The voice-acting in this title is superb - there are some good quality voice-actors on-hand, including Tony Jay who is the voice of the entity that brings you back to life, and Simon Templeman, who voices Kain. There is a high level of arrogance to certain voices, but it is very much in keeping with the game's plot, and how the vampires see themselves in the pecking order.
The music is good, and the sound effects are absolutely fine. All in all a very well polished sound-score.
CONTROLS - 8/10
Whilst there are times when you will get a bit frustrated with Raziel - like when you are trying to ascend massive pillars by jumping from one level to the next to the next, and he keeps on overshooting and falling back down - in the vast majority of cases you will be forced to accept that it is merely because you are trying to do things too quickly that this is happening, which is easy enough to deal with.
You can get used to moving Raziel around very easily - he is a very slick and fluid character to play with, unlike say Lara Croft whom I have always found to be almost like an action-figure - she jumps, twists and so on, but she is very meticulous to control.
Consider Raziel to be much smoother than Lara - he slips and slides around, but you are still able to make him go wherever you choose, and he can glide down from ledges and things, so you have time to be able to decide where you would like him to land.
Attacking is easy enough, and the game is very helpful when it comes to helping you to direct enemies towards things that might kill them (pick somebody up and throw them in the direction of a sharp, pointy object and most times the game will say "Ok, I know what you want so let's give it to you", which is always nice.
PLOT - 9/10
The only criticism I can level at the plot to ANY of the Legacy of Kain titles, this one included, is that you really, REALLY need to be paying attention the whole time through, and you REALLY ought to play through all the games in the proper order to fully appreciate what is going on.
This is because the plot has more turns and twists than a pretzel dancing the twist - every time you THINK you know what's going on, WHAM ! Up comes another turn. It's FANTASTIC and really immersive if you're up to speed with the plot at that point, but if like me you sometimes get that little bit confused ? FORGET IT. You'll have to replay it in your head to get back to where you were.
It's a minor criticism though, because the plot of the game really drives the action on, the two going hand-in-hand. There are levels where you will absolutely PEG it through to try and get to the end, because you know the boss is just one step ahead of you, and you want to see him PAY for his crimes, only to find he's actually TWO steps ahead of you ... it's hellishly addictive, and very well thought out.
GAMEPLAY - 9/10
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is a very enjoyable game to play. It may take a little getting used to as it is nothing like the first title (Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain) in terms of its play mechanics, but once you are used to moving in the fully 3d world that the developers have created for you, you will have mastered Raziel's combat techniques in no time.
The game retains the same sense of intrigue and depth that Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain title boasted, with a rich plot that keeps you on your toes throughout, so there is no shortage of moments where your heart will race from that.
With regard to the development of the character Raziel, picking up new powers as you proceed through the game ensures that you are consistently refreshed by his repertoire of skills, some of which you absolutely must have to overcome the obstacles on higher levels, so there is an additional element of strategy there.
It's a very enjoyable game to play.
REPLAY VALUE - 5/10
The biggest drawback with this game, as with most of the other titles in the series, is that they are SO very massive to play that you really won't be able to just pick it up and play five minutes of it - you need to devote many, many hours of time to the game to fully appreciate, not only its depth, but the complexities of its PLOT as well, and you really should try and do this in one big push if you like, because if you stagger it over a long period of time, you'll find it's like picking up and putting down a good book - you'll forget bits of what's happened before, and this will detract from your enjoyment of it.
Once you've played it, you are unlikely to want to play it all the way through from the beginning again, so the replay value is not so great unfortunately.
VALUE FOR MONEY - 8/10
Considering that it should be very reasonably priced these days, and given the HOURS and hours of playing-time you will get out of this title, not to mention its position as a part of a very powerful series, I think it represents great value for money.
OVERALL - 9/10 (This is NOT an average)
This game represents a HUGE step-up in terms of its graphics, sound, and play mechanics from Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. It is the second title in a well-embellished series, rich in both plot and action, and should keep you very well entertained for many hours - it's well worth a look see.
MAIN GOOD POINTS
* Beautifully designed levels (graphically and in terms of the puzzles you have to solved).
* Complex puzzles, which can be a little frustrating at times, but all of which are very solvable.
* Great, high-quality voice-acting.
* Very involved and elaborate plot.
MAIN BAD POINTS
* Minor annoyance at some of the puzzles.
* Minor annoyance at how fluid Raziel can be sometimes when he's moving.
SO SHOULD YOU GET IT ?
If you're a fan of the series then yep, definitely ! If you're looking for a stand-alone game then I would suggest you stop and think before buying it, however, as you'll be kinda projected into the plot with bits missing. You would still be able to play it and get a lot out of it, but the BEST way to play this game is to do so as a follow-up to Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Yep, I heartily recommend it as a title :)
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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