Review by nastynate3118

Reviewed: 02/08/12

You are better off playing Blood Omen instead.

Introduction

Then and now, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver gets quite a bit of praise. It is considered a worthy sequel to Blood Omen and one of the best games the PS1 had to offer. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to try it out when I downloaded it off of the PlayStation Network online store. It is considered one of the PS1 “classics”, so it is bound to be good, right?

I should point out that Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is one of my favorite PS1 games. It is a masterpiece with a dark atmosphere, superb voice acting and engaging gameplay. I had high expectations for Soul Reaver, interested to see the transition from 2D to 3D and what this would bring to the series. I was saddened to see the mediocre results and the lazy effort to make a superior game. Instead, we get a boring, unbalanced and incomplete game that seems like it is in the beta testing phase.

Gameplay -4 /10

The gameplay is very similar to Tomb Raider or the Legend of Zelda games in which you travel to different areas and dungeons and gain new items and abilities to access new areas and journey farther into your quest. This is the first 3D game in the series, so needless to say the camera is of upmost importance. For some reason, the camera controls are reversed. L2 turns the camera right and R2 turns the camera left. The worst part is there is no way to change the controls, so you are stuck with these backwards camera buttons. Speaking of controls, they are very sensitive. Just a slight touch forward will send Raziel (the character you play as) up two or three steps. Another problem comes with the sensitive jumping. Raziel loves to jump really far forward even with a slight touch, and this causes major headaches when you are dealing with an area that has narrow ledges and platforms.

The developers of this game absolutely love block puzzles. I don’t know what it is about block puzzles that appeals to them so much, but they are everywhere in this game. Puzzles are a great thing to have in a game to change up the gameplay a little, but when 90% of your puzzles are block puzzles that makes things pretty ridiculous.

Besides the main story, there are a few sidequests available that include backtracking to old areas and looking for power-ups for Raziel. The rewards include new spells and health power-ups. These sidequests are actually pretty fun and a nice enhancement to the gameplay, but unfortunately the power-ups are completely useless. The game takes place in both the “Material Plane” (world of the living) and the “Spectral Plane” (world of the dead). The health power-ups I just mentioned only affect your HP in the Material Plane, but even if you lose all of your life in that world you can simply go to the Spectral Plane, regain some health and quickly return to the Material Plane. Essentially, you can never die in this game, so health power-ups are pointless. Also, the spells in this game do absolutely nothing. The game was planned to be much longer and expansive so the developers put the spells in, but one can easily beat the game without any of them.

You must be wondering about the combat system in this game if I am telling you that the spells are useless. To attack enemies, you simply have to mash the Square button until they are defeated. A nice feature is the ability of Raziel to pick up nearby objects and use them as weapons, but the combat is extremely simplistic. Another problem is how slow the fighting in this game is. You would think that there is some kind of severe gravitational pull in Nosgoth that is causing everyone to move and fight so slowly. The exception to this comes when you fight vampire enemies, which require you to stab them or throw them into fire or water. The only bright spot for the combat comes in boss battles, which require you to interact with the environment to win. This contrasts with fights with normal enemies, which are boring and repetitive. I also noticed that there are some collision detection problems during combat that make the experience even more frustrating.

On a positive note, it is really fun to explore the world of Nosgoth in this game. It is only a fraction of the size it was in the original Blood Omen game, but nevertheless there are plenty of places to travel to and dungeons to be found. The problem lies in the balance of these dungeons; they are all very short with the exception of a mid-game dungeon that takes three and a half hours to complete. All of the other places take far less time.

Interface- 7/10

The interface in this game is average. The game is kind in that it lets you save anywhere you want, but you always restart at the same point. This point happens to be at the very beginning of the game in an area near a warp gate. Using these gates is very frustrating because each gate is identifiable only by a symbol, and there is no further explanation for the area you are going to. Would it have really killed the developers to tell you the area that you are going to be warping to?

Another problem lies in the fact that the game is extremely vague about where you are supposed to go. There are no maps in this game and the only hint you receive comes from the voice of “The Elder”, a deity that guides you. He speaks to you only once after completing a dungeon and speaks in enigmatic language that really does not help you when you are figuring out what to do next.

Otherwise, the interface in this game works well. The menus are neatly organized with Secret of Mana-style circle menus and they are easy to navigate through.

Story- 7/10

The story in this game has a ton of potential, but sadly does not live up to it. It starts off as a great continuation of the plot from Blood Omen, but even if you have never played that game it sums it up enough so that you can still follow along. Like Blood Omen, the protagonist narrates from a first-person point of view. This allows the story to be more personable and immersing. It essentially follows the story of a former vampire named Raziel who was murdered by the vampire lord Kain and is brought back to life as a creature who devours souls to extract revenge on Kain.

The plot gets confusing when The Elder orders Raziel to kill all of his brothers before fighting Kain. You spend 90% of the game doing this and the reason for killing them is never really made clear. There are several plot points that are never explained or confusing, so you kind of just have to go with it. To top it off, the ending to this game is an absolute disgrace. I have never seen a bigger cop-out from a video game ending, or lack thereof.

Ultimately, the story has a very strong premise but falls apart as the game goes along. There really isn’t much depth to it and its potential is wasted on silly tangents and a lazy ending.

Graphics - 7/10

For 1999, the graphics are not too bad. They are grainy (which was common at the time) and pretty similar to the graphics of Metal Gear Solid. The main problem with the graphics deals with how little variety there is to them. On one hand, this is intentional because the game takes place in a wasteland that has been ruined by Kain. On the other hand, the dark and lifeless areas make the game seem dull and “blah”. This visual style works very well in some areas, creating a moody atmosphere that really makes you feel like you are in a wasteland, but it never develops or grows beyond that until the final dungeon of the game.

The character and enemy designs are mediocre, at best. There isn’t much variety at all in the enemies and many are used repeatedly throughout the game. The bosses and human characters look great but sadly they are in short supply in this game.

Sound/Music - 8/10

The first thing you will notice about this game is the superb voice acting. Blood Omen set a very high standard in the quality of voice acting and this game is no different. The lines are delivered flawlessly and help with the immersion I mentioned earlier.

The music in this game is also very well-done. It is very ambient and works coherently with the visuals to create the atmosphere the game is aiming for. The main theme of the game pops up several times in some areas and it is very cool sounding. The only flaw with the music comes from the fact that there really isn’t much variety to it. Only a small number of tracks were composed and they are used extensively throughout the game.

The sound effects do not live up to the music and voice acting. They are muffled and sound like they belong in an old Sega Genesis game. Every monster in the game sounds exactly the same and sound absolutely terrible and muffled.

Play Time/Replayability - 7/10

This game is very short. I finished it in 11 hours after doing every sidequest and collecting every power-up in the game. Once I finished it, I felt no desire to play through it again (I was pretty mad about the ending) because there is no incentive for that and the game was not enjoyable enough for me to play it again. You will notice that the game is extremely short if you take away all of the time with sidequests; I would estimate it is only 7 or 8 hours long. It is short to the point that it feels rushed and not fully developed, as evidenced by the useless power-ups and the one mid-game dungeon being far longer than any other.

PROS
+Sidequests are fun
+Boss battles are cleverly designed, albeit easy
+Exploring Nosgoth is a blast
+You can save whenever you want
+Presentation of story is very well-done
+Graphics and music do a great job of creating a gloomy atmosphere
+Voice acting in this game is top notch

CONS
-Reversed camera controls that cannot be changed
-Oversensitive movement
-Almost all puzzles in this game are block puzzles
-Rewards for sidequests are useless
-Combat is as slow and simplistic as molasses
-The game is pretty bad with telling you where to go next
-Plot is confusing with a terrible ending
-Not much variety with graphics, especially in enemy designs
-Sound effects are muffled and outdated
-Game is extremely short and feels underdeveloped

Final Recommendation

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver had the potential to be a truly epic game and a worthy successor to the classic Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Sadly, in all of its ambition and promise, it falls short of delivering the high-quality experience that it should have. That is not to say it is a bad game; it is a game that is playable and makes the grade, but ultimately leaves you wanting more. If you seriously enjoyed Blood Omen and want more Kain, then I recommend this title. Otherwise, stick with Blood Omen or play Tomb Raider.

Final Score: 6.67/10 rounded to 7/10

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (US, 11/19/09)

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