Review by GodDogs
Reviewed: 07/25/03 | Updated: 07/25/03
The Legacy of Raziel
Perhaps you've heard of the game Blood Omen? It's a rather old game for the playstation. An overhead RPG with similar gameplay elements to that of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Well, Soul Reaver is more or less the sequel to Blood Omen, taking place centuries after. While Kain was the main character in Blood Omen, in Soul Reaver Kain is actually the villain, so to speak. You take the role of Raziel, the first born vampire son of Kain. After you've evolved wings, Kain mercilessly tears them off out of jealousy and tosses you into the lake of the dead. A mysterious benefactor known as the Elder God resurrects you as an angel of death that feeds off of souls, a Reaver of Souls, or rather - a Soul Reaver.
Soul Reaver's gameplay may take a while for some gamers to get into. At first it may come off as dull, but as the game continues you learn to enjoy it more, and for me I actually loved it. Fighting is pretty plain and simple and pretty fun at that. You fight vampires that have taken over Nosgoth and turned it into a waste land. You can use your claws, or find other weapons just laying around, including spears, torches, boulders, pikes....whatever you can get your claws on. Later on in the game you can get a Wraith Blade, which is a light-saber looking blade attached to your arm that makes enemies explode as the final blow. Your life consists of a coil-like life line. To sustain yourself, you can kill your enemies and a glowing sphere is released from the dead body as it's soul and you simply press a button to eat it and it will increase your life.
Soul Reaver is more or less a puzzle game as well. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of fights in the game, but it's puzzles are just as important, especially for boss fights. A very cool method for puzzles are the two different planes Raziel can shift through: the material plane (the actual physical world) and the spectral plane (the land of the dead). When you shift between realms, the land alters somewhat, allowing you to complete puzzles or travel to new areas.
A rather overused element to the puzzles is the block puzzles. If you haven't heard about these by now, then I will tell you that the block puzzles get a little overdone and tedious. Basically it's when you come across a series of blocks that you have to flip and push or pull to a certain area in a certain pattern. It's actually a cool puzzle element, but like I said it's by far way overused.
The bosses in the game are also puzzle oriented. Don't expect to beat the crap out of bosses with just your bare hands or a spear. You have to use your surroundings to your advantage. This element in the game is actually done quite nicely. And after each boss you defeat, you gain a new ability. This will allow you to progress further in the game, or even backtrack somewhere to where you couldn't go before without a certain ability.
Which also leads me to discuss how open the environments are. You can pretty much go anywhere you want to. Exploration is wonderful. You aren't forced to go from point A to point B right away if you don't want to. And by going off in different directions you may find different power ups, such as glyph magic to help you progress. And although the special power ups you find are virtually unnecessary, it makes the game last longer and you can get more out of it, thus making the game more fun.
For the playstation, Soul Reaver looks wonderful in terms of graphics. This is a dark, gothic adventure and the graphics really bring out this mood.
The story is dark, gothic, and a really good one. As I said before, you are Raziel..an angel of death. Your main goal is to seek revenge upon Kain and your 5 brethren for betraying you. As you progress, you'll find out more about your past, and more motivation to kick Kain's butt. However, there is one drawback to the game's plot and that is the fact that it's incomplete. The ending of the game is completely unsatisfying, but the sequel IS out now, so the ending of Soul Reaver isn't that disappointing anymore. Also, the game suffers from a lot of cuts and edits. But regardless, Soul Reaver still comes off as a very solid game. It has a riveting story that will pull you in as soon as you watch the opening FMV.
Overall the controls are very good. Wile for some gamers it may get a little slow moving at times, especially compared to other 3D platformer games on the playstaion, I find the controls to be very nice in terms of response time and smoothness. Also, the camera angles are done wonderfully. You can adjust the camera as you'd like, and there is a first person free look as well.
You can save anywhere, anytime...but I'll warn you now that no matter where you save at, you'll always start out at the same place at the beginning of the game. To make travel time less tedious, there are warp gates to assist you to help you get to where you last left off. Each area has a symbol for it, so if you aren't aware of what the symbol of the last gate you activated was, you'll just have to guess. (There are websites to assist you though). This is one of the drawbacks to the game I think, besides the block puzzles. The warp gates can be rather a nuissance sometimes.
The games music really set the tone of the game: dark and gloomy and gothic. It seriously does. I'm usually not one to score the music of the game, but Soul Reaver's music is done quite nicely to say the least.
Once you're done with the game, you probably won't be playing it again for a while. However, if you've missed some of the glyph power ups and life pieces, you may find yourself going back to it just to simply complete the game 100%. Personally, I found the story and the boss fights to be worthy of a play through more than once.
Buy or Rent?
Buy! This is by far one of my most favorite playstation games and should be a ''must own'' for any gamer out there. It is a great game, and in my opinion the best game in the Legacy of Kain series to date.
Despite some drawbacks, Soul Reaver is a fantastic game. It is not a Tomb Raider clone...no, it's far from it. In fact, I enjoyed Soul Reaver far more than I ever did any of the Tomb Raider games. Soul Reaver is great, so go get it!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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