Review by TheMadcapLaughs

Reviewed: 01/08/08

Some good atmosphere and very good storytelling combines with some good platformer puzzling

Few games successfully make atmosphere even today, so the idea of making an atmosphere back in 1999 on the PSX probably sounds insane. What was even more insane was trying to make a well known game on the PSX with both the Dreamcast and PS2 taking everyone’s attention. However insanity doesn’t always breed bad omen as Legacy of Kain proves being both a possessor of great atmosphere back on the PSX in 1999 as well as being a cult classic.

However before I delve into the world of atmosphere and gameplay it feels only right that I mention the storyline first because the Kain games are renowned for their storylines.

The story is that a ruler called Kain came into power a millennium ago. He recruited six lieutenants each of which set about making a legion of vampires. Within a hundred years Kain had wiped out some of humanity whilst others were enslaved. The slaves were made to build temples, whilst massive fires were lit to block out the Sun with their smoke.

Kain would evolve every now and then becoming more like the Dark Gods. About a decade later the lieutenants would follow suit. However Raziel gained wings before Kain. His was punished by being thrown into the Lake of the Damned where the water burnt him and killed him. An eternity later and he is brought to life by the Elder. He is given a chance for revenge against Kain…

The gameplay works in two realms. The spirit realm and the physical realm. These lie on top of each other and in their basic architecture is almost identical. However the spirit realm is blurry and rather psychedelic, whilst the physical realm is realistic and has very sharp graphics. You enter the physical realm when you’re at full health and enter one of many glowing pads on the floor. You return to the spirit realm upon one of many situations; touching water, running out of energy (either by being hurt too much or by waiting too long without feeding on souls) or whenever you choose to. These realms make up a good number of the puzzles in the game because in the spirit realm you can’t interact with objects, which means no pushing blocks, no picking up weapons, no climbing walls and no opening doors. Meanwhile in the physical realm you cannot enter water and cannot take advantage of a useful ability you gain early on in the game.

To describe the gameplay in short imagine Tomb Raider with better puzzles, the removal of all those awful vehicles, a more intuitive battle system, a well used “light and dark world” gimmick, a storyline that you’ll actually give a toss about and some much cooler weapons. In fact the only thing that stands out as worse than Tomb Raider about this game is that instead of having a gargantuan bust the hero of this game is missing a jaw.

As Raziel you will do a lot of exploring looking for new abilities and temples. In each of these temples you will face puzzles ranging from the obvious to the subtle – the first truly confusing moment comes about 2 hours in and trust me when I tell you is will take quite a tad of thinking to figure such moments out.

The bosses have been frequently described as epic, though I’m not entirely sure why. Between the 7 boss fights I remember 3 were insultingly easy, 1 was very meh, 2 felt infuriatingly annoying and 1 was relatively epic – It doesn’t help that relatively epic boss battle is the first one I remember facing. Unfortunately the fact that the bosses look VERY cool doesn’t really make them anymore fun or interesting.

The graphics are truly top of their class and really push the PSX to its limit. They help create 2 brilliantly done atmospheres – the psychedelic, creepy spirit realm and the realistic and rather stunning physical realm. The music brings out all the positive aspects of the atmosphere and helps add a very strong mood to the game. The sound is taken even further with quite good voice acting and good sound effects.

The game is around 15 hours long and as far as replayability goes I’d be quite surprised if anyone other than a Kain enthusiast bothers to replay this. However this is certainly a very good game and is a must-play among the PSX library.

Gameplay = 8/10, the bosses are quite a let down, but the puzzles are fantastic
Controls = 8/10, button presses can on rare occasion be unresponsive
Graphics = 10/10, pushing the PSX to the very limit
Sound = 9/10, good VA combines with good sound effects and atmospheric music
Length = 15 hours
Replayability = Very low

Final Score = 8.5/10 (rounded to 8/10)

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (EU, 12/31/99)

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