Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Review by MeIchiah
"A veteran Legacy of Kain Player gives his experienced view on the PC version"
Why should you consider my review of any importance? I have played the Legacy of Kain series in its entirety countless times over, and every version of every game on any machine it appears on. I know the good and bad of the Legacy of Kain series and I want to share that knowledge with other gamers so they to can decide if the series is something they want to play and how to enjoy it to its fullest.
1996 signaled the release of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain from a very small company called Silicon Knights, published by Crystal Dynamics. Blood Omen told the story of a nobleman, Kain, who was assassinated and then resurrected through necromancy as a Vampire to seek his revenge against his murderers. His meager yearning for revenge would turn out to be a deeper conspiracy than Kain could have imagined. In the end Kain and the player was given, two different ending choices depicting two different fates. I will say right now if you are looking to enjoy the storyline of the Legacy of Kain series in full then you should make sure you play through Blood Omen first. It is not a requirement to play Soul Reaver to understand it but without this knowledge and introduction to characters you will miss out on lots of easter eggs and tie ins with the original game.
1999 Crystal Dynamics releases their own sequel to Blood Omen on the Playstation and ported the PC without Silicon Knights involvement and even a lawsuit between the two of them over it. That title, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Soul Reaver starts off nearly 2000 years after Blood Omen and basically follows the premise that you made the choice to have Kain rule Nosgoth in its corruption. It's an odd set of circumstances for a sequel to be completely thought up and made by a completely different developer than the one that made the original game and the games while have their similarities as you would expect do indeed vastly differ in nature.
Soul Reaver starts off with what is still to this day 9 years later one of the best opening scenes in a video game. Kain having long since taken over rulership of Nosgoth set his throne on the corrupted Pillars of Nosgoth and using his vampiric essence raised six vampiric sons to be his lieutenants and help rule Nosogth with him; Raziel, Turel, Dumah, Rahab, Zephon and Melchiah. They served Kain for 1000 years, as it turns out necromantic vampires don't evolve like other creatures slowly over time through generations. Instead being immortal, they enter periods of rapid change and emerge much a like caterpillar to a butterfly with mutations and gifts. Kain entered the state of change and emerged with his own gifts but several years later Raziel would enter the state of change and emerge with wings and the gift of flight that didn't require a shapeshifting form. Something no other vampire had not even Kain. In a seeming act of rage and jealousy and possibly feeling threatened Kain tore Raziels wings from him and ordered that he be cast into the Abyss, a swirling vortex of water that was death to vampires. Raziel plunged to the bottom his vampiric flesh being burned to it's core. After a seeming eternity of torment Raziel, to his surprise, awakens to find himself resurrected as a wraith like being with a craving no longer for blood but for souls and a servant to a mysterious squid like being called Elder God, a self proclaimed spinner of the Wheel of Fate. Elder God charges Raziel with the mission to rid Nosgoth of the immortal cancer that is his vampire siblings and his father Kain.
You are not likely to find many other games or series these days with the high level of script and plot that this game and series weaves. Blood Omen had witty dialogue and excellent voice work but Soul Reaver takes the scripting to new heights. Soul Reavers overall plot is that much like Blood Omen, a revenge storyline but there is some underlying points that start to bubble up to the surface and make one ponder things. But for the most part this chapter of the series is rather straightforward, easy to follow but very engrossing. Fans of Blood Omen and of the character Kain may or may not like Raziel. He is a very different person than Kain with different values and different beliefs but in actuality he is actually quite a bit deeper than Kain and makes an incredible character to play as and get to know, just don't go into Soul Reaver expecting Raziel to be another badass Kain like character.
Those familiar with Blood Omen will be in for some changes. Soul Reaver is completely in a 3D environment and it is very much an action title but puts a lot more focus onto the adventure aspect as you will find Soul Reaver is overly abundant with puzzles. You have vampires strung all over Nosgoth and you have various weapons from staves and spears to torches to combat vampire fledglings of the various sibling clans. Added to this are several items in the environment to use against your foes, toss them into the campfire or a beam of sunlight. Pools of water that burn like acid or impale them on a spike shaped pole jutting from the wallside. The combat isn't very complex but there is something uniquely satisfying in this game to kill the vampires you encounter. Their screams of agony perhaps? I dunno. As I mentioned before however the game puts most of its focus on puzzle solving. Now back when this was created there were some limitations with what could be done in a game. Soul Reavers puzzles come in the form most of the time as block puzzles. You will often go every couple rooms in a dungeon only to run into a room with block pipes that need to be pieced together properly for air or water to flow. Or a mural etched into a wall with huge block chunks taken out of it that you must find the appropriate piece to and fill the whole. These puzzles are overly common possibly to slight repetition by the end of the game but they are usually well thought out and can be fun to piece together. When puzzles aren't blocks they usually involve platforming segments and the transition between the physical world and the land of the dead spectral realm. Raziel being a wraith can transition back and forth between these to planes of existence. The spectral plane looks mostly like the physical realm but twisted and warped causing slight variations in landscape. As well as time not passing the same in the spirit world. So when you reach an area you seemingly can't get past, often leaving the world of the living will show you a way to progress. Platforming segments all just as integrated as the the puzzles are and you will constantly be performing acrobatic jumps across railings, building ledges, pillars and window seals. For the most part these aren't too bad but there are a couple of really challenging platforming parts in the game that may or may not cause you some frustrations. Sadly out of all the versions of SoulU Reaver the PC version is probably the worst. The game was designed for use with a gamepad so Keyboard/Mouse controls are horrible. The game accepts gamepad support but Raziel will tend to not stick his landings and quick maneuvering while in flight is unruly. Also I would have to say that the camera in Soul Reaver in any version is indeed a little problematic. There are times when it would be best focused behind you and instead it chooses to look down upon you from above and there's no way to correct this. The game gives you limited control with side to side control but no up and down control. So you have to deal with whatever angle it decides to put itself in and this can be very annoying at times especially when you are trying to look out for enemies.
Now a benefit of being a PC title is the ability for the resolution to be scaled up, to increase the filtering, anti alising..etc. The game looks quite crisp and clear on the PC and is a definite plus to playing this version. However the game is still a playstation port and the textures are the same textures used on the PS version of the game. The game isn't very colorful. Quite the opposite Nosgoth is very much a decayed and dying depressing world so the colors are all dark, murky, muddy; greens, browns, grays, and blues but the architecture, models for characters, and animations are still good and still better than many titles even on the Dreamcast. Attention to the little details like crows flying by or flags gently swaying in the wind. I would also like to sadly point out the FMV video at the first of the game is of a much poorer quality than the PS version of the movie, I don't know why this is, it's like they re-encoded it at a much lower bitrate. Blood Omen fans will quickly appreciate that all the voice actors from Blood Omen have reprised their voice roles in Soul Reaver, Simon Templeman is Kain for example. The now late Tony Jay who voiced Mortanius in Blood Omen as well as smaller parts returns to voice The Elder God in Soul Reaver. The voice work in Soul Reaver and in all of Legacy of Kain is the best you will find any where else in gaming. I don't care what games out there you think have incredible voice acting you will not find anything better than what is found here and I have heard some great voice acting in my day as a gamer.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is a magnificent game in many ways ahead of its time and in some ways still restricted by it. I would have to say the PC version is the worst version of the game, it was made for installation on Windows 98 and while there are now patches for it to be installed on XP it frequently has issues with newer PCs and often times won't even install on a particular machine. Add to this it sports the worst controls of any version and you even with the ability to have some beautiful, crisp graphics it just comes up short. The PC version is great to have if you want LoK on the go and have a laptop to play it on. But if you have a Playstation or a Dreamcast there is no real reason to play this version at home. If you can get it installed it's still very playable and very enjoyable. Soul Reaver is a great game that will likely take you 15 20 hours to beat on your first play-through.
I give Soul Reaver (PC version an 8/10)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/08
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