Review by XAOS

Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 07/05/02

Mmmmm pretty... and plays well too!

OK, my expectations for this game were through the roof. I saw it at E3 in Atlanta in the spring of 98 where they were claiming a release date of Oct 98. As slipment after slipment came and went, I wanted the game more and more, but expected less and less from it; you know ho it usually is with games that slip this much.

Well I have to say, I'm very pleasantly surprised. From the moment you start up the game, everything about this game is nearly perfect. Even before you begin te game, the main menu screen features statuary that occasionally animates in various spooky ways. And the opening cinema is better than any I've seen outside of Final Fantasy 8; high praise indeed. The game is amazingly beautiful during play as well, in both the physical realm and the blue-cast spectral plane. As seems to be par for the course with over the shoulder action games, there are occasional nuisances and glitches with the angles, but I didn't encounter anything too annoying here. The voiceovers continue, in the tradition of Blood Omen, to be excellent, with some very nice voice effects on the Elder God and a number of the bosses. The script is also quite nice, not dumbed down at all.

But wait - there's more. The story is quite compelling. People who played the first Legacy of Kain (Blood Omen) will recall the climactic choice Kain was called upon to make at the end of that game. This game is predicated upon Kain making the... less savory choice. But as you play, interesting details unfold about what Kain has been up to in the succeeding millennium.

OK, good graphics, good story. Fine, but how does it *play*? Well that's a matter of opinion and there's likely to be a lot of differences of opinion here. One of the most jarring things about this game is that your character, Raziel, *cannot* die in the course of the game (hey, the guy's already died twice; it has to get boring eventually).Rather if you take enough damage, you are shifted to the ghostly spectral plane until you gain enough strength to materialize again. How do you gain strength? By drinking souls, of course (kids, don't try this at home). One nice touch is that when you drink a boss' soul, you gain some new ability keyed to that boss. For instance, killing a spider-like boss gives you the ability to walk on certain walls.

There has to be a downside, right? Sure, but precious little. First, save games take *three* blocks on a memory card. Ouch. Especially painful becuase the save doesn't include your location. You always begin in the same place. Helping to ameliorate this annoyance is the presence of warp gates. However, these are generally pretty out of the way so its easy to miss them.

For people looking for a bloodbath hack and slash game, this isn't for you. Especially because of the lack of urgency from your character being unable to die, combat is rendered mainly an annoyance rather than a desperate struggle, even when fighting Kain himself. Rather, the game is principally puzzle- and exploration-driven, a la Tomb Raider. For instance, there are a lot of puzzles that involve moving blocks in certain ways, and most of the bosses can only be beaten in certain ways.

Finally, the game feels too short. I was very surprised when I got it and saw that it was only one disc. It took me about 25 hours to finish the game, and most of that was only because I was slow in figuring out how to take out some of the bosses. The game didn't suffer from it's length at all, but it definitely left me wanting a lot more. Still, rumor has it that Soul Reaver 3 is being planned, so let's hope for a big big big adventure next time out :)

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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