Review by McGray

Reviewed: 12/20/02 | Updated: 12/20/02

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Soul Reaver: Legacy of Kain. Soul Reaver is a great game. It’s gothic, dark, and it’s not for everyone. But if you’re a fan of excellent adventure games, Soul Reaver is definitely something you should think about at least renting. Soul Reaver is a title that is in the same series as Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, but in a different timeline, with a different main character. It's a decent title with very few, very pardonable flaws.

Graphics: For Playstation, these are wonderful. Raziel, the anti-hero and star of Soul Reaver, is a twice-dead vampire brought back from oblivion. Rotted away, his skin has turned a vague blue and his wings are torn. They are ever-flowing behind him as he runs, tattered and ruined. His eyes glow with an eerie white light, and his chest is a rotten rib cage. The bottom jaw was rotted off, but he now wears his old cowl to cover his face. His grotesque appearance fits this game perfectly.
The surrounding environments are equally dark and intimidating. As you explore the ruined world of Nosgoth, you'll find much of the ground to be desolate, with nothing but dirt covering its empty surface. There isn't a plant in sight, save for a dead tree or two. The only living things you see are a few crows. Remember, vampires aren't living, so those don't count. The dull colored textures are completely devoid of any vibrancy. That's not a bad thing, though; they do an excellent job of setting the mood for the dark and depressing world of Nosgoth.
There are 4 different species of vampire in this game, each having their own distinct look. The Dumahim vampires are hulking and vicious, while the Zephonim are slender, spindly and pale. Each type of vampire, aside from the Dumahim, abide in a distinct area. Zephonim inhabit the Silenced Cathedral, the Rahabim inhabit the Drowned Abby, and so forth.
The areas themselves are all very impressive. Melchiah's quarters are set in a strange temple. The stone is cracking and falling out of place, and the rain is constant here. The Silenced Cathedral is dark and towering, much more vertical than it is horizontal. It even a small village built into it.
The Spectral Plane (more on this below) it constantly flooded by a strong blue light, covering everything in the realm itself.
The downfall is, there are visible seams in this game; luckily, it's nothing like Tenchu 2, which was plagued with them.

Sound: Very eerie. The world in which Raziel roams has very quiet music in some areas, much louder in others. One very memorable tune is one absolutely awesome theme that plays in Kane's sanctuary. The rest of the music is quiet and nothing spectacular; it's only there to set the mood.
Sound effects...good, but there have been better. The real treat here is the voice acting. I've never heard better voice acting. Ever. It is so real, so well done, it absolutely amazes me. As you go through the game, it only gets better. Each speaker in the game, from Raziel to Kane to to Dumah and every where in between, uses a very large and impressive vocabulary, and with excellent emotion. You can feel what the characters are feeling just by listening to the tone in their voice.

Story: ''Kain is deified. The clans tell tales of him. Few know the truth. He was mortal once, as were we all. However, his contempt for humanity drove him to create me, and my brethren. I am Raziel, first born of his lieutenants.''
The intro continues, as Raziel tells his tale. Kain, the star vampire from Blood Omen (the past Legacy of Kain game), was presented with a choice at the end of Blood Omen. Kill himself and restore the Pillars, exterminating the vampire race, or spare himself, declaring himself ruler of all, but damning the Pillars to decay. The Pillars are the center of Nosgoth, and without them, the world will mar as they do (explained in Blood Omen). Kain chose the latter, and the Pillars corrupted.
Kain created his six ''sons'', Raziel being the first. The vampires would evolve and grow by doing so.
''Kane would enter this state of change and emerge with a new gift. Some years after the master, our evolution would follow...until I had the honor of surpassing my lord.''
Raziel evolved before Kain, showing a pair of vampiric wings. In a seemingly jealous fit of rage, Kain slams his clawed hands down onto the wings, ripping the bone out, as Raziel collapses to the ground.
''There was only one possible outcome: my eternal damnation... I was to suffer the fate of traitors and weaklings: to burn forever, in the bowls of the Lake of the Dead.'' Turel and Dumah, second and third-born, follow Kain to the edge of a cliff, hauling a weakened Raziel. The cliff over-looks an enormous swirling vortex of greenish water. Raziel is hurled in.
''Tumbling, burning with white hot fire, I plunged into the depths of the abyss... Unspeakable pain, relentless agony, time ceased to exist; only this torture, and a deepened hatred of the hypocrisy that damned me to this hell. An eternity passed, and my torment receded, bringing me back from the precipice of madness. The decent had destroyed me...yet...I lived.'' Raziel awakens, a mere shell of his former glory, at the bottom of the abyss, saved from oblivion by an entity known only as the Elder.
Now, Raziel seeks vengeance against his brothers and Kain, and his job is to hunt and destroy, by any means necessary.

Game Play: I'll start with combat...
Combat is simplistic and satisfying. You target, use X with a direction on the control stick to dodge, and Square to attack. Raziel will execute a 3-hit combo when pressed sequentially. When the enemy takes enough damage, you'll be able to do a finisher.
''I knew my opponents' weaknesses, having suffered them myself. Physical wounds are fleeting; a vampire's immortal flesh begins to close as soon as it is cleaved. Vampires need only fear those wounds that impale, or inflame. Water scorches like acid, and fledglings are devastated by sunlight's touch.''
You can't just kill a vampire by repeatedly slashing him with you claws; however, by repeatedly bashing a vampire enemy, you will eventually stun them. After they are stunned, you can do a number of things to them. If Raziel has a weapon, he'll perform his a finisher, such as impaling the enemy with a spear. If you're fighting with bare hands, Raziel will hoist the opponent into the air, and upon releasing Triangle, throw the opponent in the direction he's facing. By doing this, you can land the enemy onto a spike, into water, sunlight, or any other place where death will ensue. Of course, if there is no hazardous terrain around, then he'll just hurl the enemy, they'll fly through the air, tumble, and end up in a stunned stance once again.
The world of Nosgoth is played on one big map. Levels are played in a pattern akin to Metroid: use what you have, access what you can, and when you have a new ability, return to a past area and use it to gain entry. The Elder, the one who guides Raziel's hand, will tell you what to do after you receive a new ability, and will give you information and pointers throughout your journey. The game is very gripping.
Soul Reaver is notorious for its block puzzles. These puzzles consist of pushing, pulling, sliding, and flipping blocks to get them into a particular position to fit a picture or some such to make them work. It's fun at first, but it gets redundant.
This is a small complaint, though. The rest of the time, it's finding your way to the next point. This is done by traversing area in two planes: the Material, and the Spectral planes. By default, Raziel starts the game in the Spectral Realm. This is the ghost world of Nosgoth, riddled with souls. Raziel's health coil is filled by consuming souls and devouring the energy they contain. After being destroyed, his blood lust has left him, and instead is replaced by the hunger for souls. By devouring enough souls in the Spectral Realm, he is able to use Planar Portals in order to gather matter and will himself to be manifest in the Material Realm. However, over time, his health coil will reduce, and without souls, his energy will fade until he sent back to the Spectral Realm. Also, sustaining damage from enemies will speed the health coil in receding.
The Spectral Realm is not a punishment, though. You are able to shift to the Spectral Realm at any time by using a the Spectral Glyph (Glyphs are ancient runes that empower Raziel with a few elements, such as Water and Fire). Using the Spectral Glyph, Raziel will abandon his physical body and return to the spirit world. By coming to this world, souls roam freely, as said before, so it's free energy. Plus, paths and walls will twist and contort to reveal new paths to help you when you're stuck. One drawback is, however, that objects cannot be tampered with in the Spectral Realm, meaning you can't flip switches or move blocks. There are also two types of ghostly enemies in this world, and if you lose all energy here, you're sent back to the Elder's Chamber at the bottom of the Lake of the Dead. As the Elder's agent, you are ''beyond death'', so game-overs do not happen in this game, nor do lives of any sort. Having this said, it actually takes more devotion to KILL yourself in Soul Reaver than it does to regain your health, usually.
Not too far along in the game, you will receive the Soul Reaver (a spectral blade) through events that I won't spoil for you. The Soul Reaver takes energy to manifest, and when Raziel reaches full strength in the health coil, the Soul Reaver will show up. This weapon is extremely powerful, and as long as Raziel stays at full life, the Reaver will stay with him, and it won't let his health drop over time.

One large flaw to Soul Reaver, is that the game was rushed. They had to cut it at the end, and make it much shorter than it was supposed to be. Luckily, Soul Reaver 2 picks up where Soul Reaver 1 left off, and even though it does venture off of the original plan, it's still a wonderful series.

Replay Value: This game doesn't have much to be spoken of. Once you've played it, you're done. It's a fairly long game the first time through, so it should hold you. Otherwise, it's good to have around just in case the urge comes to play it again (although I haven't had that urge much).

Rent or Buy: It depends on the person. If you like gothic, dark games, I'd say Soul Reaver should be right up your ally. On any note, I'd say give it a rent, THEN buy it if you like it. I always do that with my games, anyway.

Soul Reaver is an excellent game on the whole, and leads to the next excellent game in the series, Soul Reaver 2, which will soon have Soul Reaver 3 to continue its story. And if you haven't guessed, Soul Reaver is very heavy in the story department, and that's what makes this game even more worthy of play.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 10
Story: 10
Gameplay: 8
Replay Value: 6

OVERALL: 8

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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