Review by MeIchiah
"A Knowledgable Look at the PC Version of Soul Reaver 2, the Third Entry in the Legacy of Kain Series."
First off, you may be wondering why my review should be considered over any other review. Well I'm making this review in 2008 the entirety of Legacy of Kain has been out for years and I have played every game in the series multiple times over and I've played every version of each game for all the various machines they appear on. I know the pros and cons of each version and will let you know in this review what they are so you know which version of the game is the right one for you to play for best enjoyment. Soul Reaver 2 only appeared on the PS2 and PC, there was a Dreamcast version planned but it was canceled due to Dreamcasts unfortunate demise. So how does the PC version of Soul Reaver 2 fair?
Soul Reaver 2 is the second game in the Soul Reaver Saga but it is actually the third game in the Legacy of Kain series. For Soul Reaver 2 you NEED to play Soul Reaver at the very least to understand what is going on. There is also some key events that will be occurring and characters that you will meet that directly tie in with the first game Blood Omen. I highly recommend that you have played both previous entries to the series before you play this game, without doing so you will be horribly lost on what's going on and not nearly enjoy the best part about this game. The storyline.
The storyline picks up exactly where Soul Reaver leaves off. They even back it up about 5-10 minutes in the timeline and treat you to a brand new FMV of the last scene conversation between Raziel and Kain in Soul Reaver. You as Raziel, still bent on getting revenge for Kains defilement and betrayal of him pursues Kain into one of Moebius's time streaming portals. This is the game where the **** hits the fan. The story takes on such a huge scope in this game as everything you thought you knew about the events in Blood Omen and Soul Reaver will be proven wrong. The plot thickens to the point of cement here. If you have followed the storyline along since the beginning of Legacy of Kain by the end of this game your jaw will be on the floor. Some may play this game and think the gameplay has taken a backseat to storyline but I simply say that the storyline is so well done and well paced that it just ended up surpassing the gameplay to the point that you will be running through the gameplay as fast as you can just so you can get to the next cutscene to see what else unfolds. Legacy of Kain is considered one of the best storylines in gaming today if not THE best and Soul Reaver 2 is the reason why this is so.
After playing Soul Reaver you should be rather familiar with how this game plays. Action/Adventure with a heavy lean towards the puzzle solving adventure side of things. There are some major changes to combat however. First off they've added a heavy attack to the combat allowing you to change up between normal and heavy attacks for bare hands or for weapons. Another addition is blocking you can now block attacks or use the traditional dodging feature which you WILL be using far far more than you likely used in the first Soul Reaver. They've altered your telekinetic projectile feature though. You still have it but now you have to enter look around view to be able to fire it. You are no longer able to shoot projectiles out on the fly. Within a few minutes of playing your Soul Reaver will take on a different way of working as well. In the previous game you obtained the Reaver in the physical realm whenever your health is full. Now you will be able to summon the reaver at any time regardless of your health level and it no longer sustains your health so you will slowly lose health over time, also the more you use the reaver at one time the more you kill the more powerful it becomes however there is a drawback every time you use the reaver it arouses its ravenous appetite and if you use it too much at one time it will turn on you and start draining your health making the reaver a useful but dangerous tool. On the bright side you aren't restricted to just the reaver there all the old favorites of spears, staves and torches at your disposal to use as well as a couple other weapons, various swords and halberds giving a bit more variety to the weapon choices. Using a spear or stave and impaling your foe is every bit as satisfying as it once was though you will find combat itself more challenging. Not only is the AI itself more advanced but you will be often facing multiple enemies at once. A clear departure from Soul Reavers scarce and usual 1 vs 1 fights. If you are a completionist you will have likely received some secret glyph powers and abilities in the original Soul Reaver. None of these carry over to Soul Reaver 2. In fact there are no secrets to uncover this time as I will discuss in a bit.
As with the original Soul Reaver the bigger focus of this game is the puzzles and these have been much improved and far more challenging. You travel to these various dungeons and you will find far fewer block puzzles and instead a large variety of puzzles that use the differences in landscape between spectral and real realms, reflections, wind, light and elemental reaver attributes. As you progress the game you will receive temporary imbuements to the soul reaver for various elements. These give the reaver various abilities and these are used for the majority of puzzles in the game. Some of these puzzles will down right torture you in the game in their challenge level. Bring your thinking cap to these.
The game will feel far more linear than the past entries. Sadly Soul Reaver 2 was cut short thanks to Eidos rushing CD to get it out the door. The good thing is CD clearly worked on the main game first creating an amazing if not linear experience but the downside is there is not a lot of world to explore it's pretty straightforward where to go and there is no real branching paths and no secrets to uncover. This halves the playtime of the game compared to the original Soul Reaver and does make the game feel repetitive.
This game sports such a magnificent upgrade to visuals. To me some of the graphics are still so beautiful and with good PC the visuals can be spiked up even higher than they were originally intended to be. At the time of its release it was probably the best looking title out at that time which stays true to the Soul Reaver tradition. For Blood Omen players you will be thrilled to see all the old Blood Omen character faithfully recreated here and of course the games backdrops and architecture is truly something wonderful to behold. You just will not find better voice acting in any other game anywhere still to this day. All the voice actors all the way back to Blood Omen return to reprise their roles of the past and all bring their best work to the table here like nothing you have likely ever seen in a game before. This goes so far in making the story so much more interesting and engrossing to have such excellent talent and scripting. I must say they may have compressed the audio files a bit too much as there is a few conversations that come off a tiny bit tin can like but this never impacts the power of any of scenes and I probably only notice it due to replaying the game so much.
Now to really let you in on what differs between the two versions of Soul Reaver 2. The PC version was made for older OSs and thus it has install issues on machines. There are patches of course that can and do help but are not guaranteed. Even after getting it installed there are chances for it to freeze up on you. The PS2 version does not suffer from those issues however it's got its own issues the game isn't buggy but it does have a small handful of bugs and sadly all these bugs are the kind that make you lose a lot of progress depending on how often you save. So beware and learn about them and save your game often. I would also like to add here that they've changed the way the game system saves. In the previous game you could save at any point and any big events that occured or items you gained would be saved but if you restarted you would have to make your way back to the place you were from Elder Gods chamber. Soul Reaver 2 scraps that way of saving and takes its cue from the original Blood Omen there are now save points scattered around nosgoth. Platforms much like the ones young Kain used in days of old that Raziel can go up to and save his progress. The only downside to this is you can't save your progress unless you get to one of these locations and that often means beating a whole dungeon between each save. All in all I'd say the issues between the two versions even out and really it becomes which version is more easily accessible to you though at least with the PS2 version you know for certain that it will run on your machine. I would also like to point out that the PS2 is far cheaper to buy than trying to purchase the PC version. However as an upside the requirements for Soul Reaver 2 aren't high at all and if you have a machine that can run it especially like a laptop it offers LoK on the go. Though if you go with the PC version may I suggest a gamepad for control.
Soul Reaver 2 is a magnificent game and in terms of storyline is the best of the series hands down. It creates a mind blowing depth to the entire plot line all the way back to the events of Blood Omen and it will have your jaw dropping in the end. The gameplay is a step forward with all the advancements to combat and puzzles and a step backward because of the lack of exploration and the linear nature of the game and this is mainly due to the games development time being ended too soon. If you are a fan of the past 2 lok games you can't miss this installment of the series. And if you are a new comer to the series and this game interests you get off your butt and go play the other two magnificent games and then plow through this game. This game will take about 10-12 hours to beat on average.
PC Score: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/25/08
Game Release: Soul Reaver 2 (US, 11/20/01)
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