I have owned Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver for some three years now, and I can't believe I hadn't reviewed it before!

I will state this from the beginning: this game is marvelous. I must admit that when I first saw the EIDOS logo on my PC screen, my heart sank. ''Oh, brother,'' I thought, ''not Lara Croft again.'' Yes, I'm one of the very few who HATE the Tomb Raider series (that includes the two pathetic movies, which I never intend to watch, mind you). As was the case with Thief: The Dark Project (which also proudly brandishes the EIDOS logo), I was wrong. Soul Reaver sucked me in right from the intro.

The story develops around Raziel, a member of a clan of vampires from an ancient kingdom named Nosgoth. This kingdom is ruled by an evil patriarch named Kain, and, as the story goes, the vampires of Nosgoth evolve as time passes, becoming more and more ''divine''. The first to evolve is, of course, Kain, but this time something is different: it is Raziel who first sprouts a pair of vampiric wings. Kain, out of envy and humiliation, has Raziel cast out of the clan and executed; but Raziel is not quite dead yet...

This is a gigantic game. It has the perfect amount of action, adventure, puzzle, and RPG elements to satisfy fans of said genres. Often you will have to solve various puzzles to proceed on your quest, but, even when there is a definitive Tomb Raider influence to them (they involve moving blocks around), they do not get frustrating like those in the horrid Lara Croft universe. They are, however, quite challenging. For those who can't stand a game without violence, Raziel can pick up spears, pipes and lances to mercilessly impale his enemies and watch them twitch and kick in agony before gurgling to death. But Soul Reaver's main strength lies in the vast amount of exploration it requires to its completion. The land of Nosgoth is huge and this game is guaranteed to take many, many hours from the player's life. However, with the deep, involving storyline and the excellent ambiance Soul Reaver offers, boredom is something you won't come across.

The visuals in Soul Reaver are splendid. Nosgoth is a depressing, deserted looking place, making you believe that it once used to be a proud, majestic empire now in plain decadence and ruins. You will visit catacombs, a cathedral, an industrial-looking plant and a citadel, among others. The most interesting part, however, is that there are two versions of Nosgoth: the physical or material world, and the spiritual realm. You see, Raziel is an undead, and as such he can travel between the material and spectral realms at will. Doing so is often required to solve some of the puzzles or reach places that in one realm are inaccessible, but in the other are rather possible to reach. This provides for an excellent twist. Since Raziel can't die, every time his stamina bar depletes, he is forcefully sent to the spiritual world where he must recover and then find a dimensional portal back to the physical world.

As if that wasn't enough, Raziel has a wide array of abilities: he can run, tiptoe, lock on an enemy, jump, cling to ledges, climb, glide, walk through solid gates, absorb his fallen foes's souls (necessary to stay in the material realm), pick up objects and weapons, cast spells, teleport between worlds, throw spears to impale enemies from a distance, acquire bosses's abilities, and the best of all: he can use the Soul Reaver, a powerful sword taken from the very hands of Kain, with a great visual effect: it looks like an extension of Raziel's arm, with lightning surrounding it, and it sounds like a Jedi lightsaber when swung. SUH-WEET!

The sound department is no less impressive. The music is excellently orchestrated, giving the game an epic, supernatural atmosphere, thus increasing the pleasure of the playing experience. But best of all is the voice acting. You see, all of the game's plot develops by means of dialogues and interactions between Raziel and The Guardian, and the voice talents behind each and every character in Soul Reaver perform flawlessly. The Guardian's voice is just impressive, and although you never get to see him, you feel like you area actually listening to a god.

The controls in Soul Reaver are fully customizable, and, although the newcomer will find them confusing at first, due to all the different functions and abilities Raziel has at his disposal, there is plenty of room and time to get used to them. The very first part of the game is a training session, with The Guardian guiding you through all of your abilities, and the HUD showing you which keys to press and how. So there's no excuse for complaining about the controls.

The final word: Soul Reaver is easily one of the best PC games ever made, and is a must-buy for anyone who likes intelligent and different games with a high replay value. Along with Thief, this one belongs in my shrine of timeless classics. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 10/09/03

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