SYSTEM
PSX

PRICE
$39.99

DEVELOPER
Crystal Dynamics

PUBLISHER
Eidos

RELEASE
08/99

Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver Review

By: John Doe


The original Legacy of Kain entitled Blood Omen was a bizarre RPG that made us sit up and take notice. As Kain, you were given the power of a vampire to avenge your death. At the end of the game Kain was given a choice: Revert back to human or remain a vampire. Guess what he chose? The sequel makes a complete 360 and now you star as Raziel, one of Kain's unfortunate minions seeking revenge against him. This time, the game is not an RPG; it is a 3D-action/platformer game in the style of Tomb Raider. That being said, don't be frightened. This game is one of the best games I've ever played. Everything about this game is top notch (except the ending): the story, voice acting, graphics, control and even the camera is excellent. Don't even bother with the rest of the review. Just go and buy it now!


Highs:
Lows:

I wasn't expecting much from this game after playing the demos that I came in contact with over the last year. Run here, jump here, beat that guy up, ho hum... Even while playing it at E3, I had no idea how amazing this game would turn out. Let me be the first (or probably the last since my review is a little late) to say that this game is a masterpiece of coding and all it took was a company that cared about it's product enough to keep it in the oven until it was cooked. Yes, Soul Reaver was delayed again and again, but so what? I don't know how many people I spoke to about Soul Reaver bitched about its constant delays. I would ask them the obvious: Would you rather play a good game in 6 months or a year or a crappy game now? The wait was worth it. Just think how much better Superman 64 could have been if it had been released in January 2000 rather than May 1999? Another 8 months or so of development time could have changed history.

As Raziel, the jawless and wingless wonder, you have been upgraded from a blood-sucking vampire into a soul devouring spirit of vengeance. Unable to physically die, due to the fact you are already dead, Raziel can move between the planes of existence: the physical and the spirit world. Your environment changes as you move from one world to the next. Walls move, pillars shrink or grow, doors open... which makes for some amazingly intricate puzzles at times. If you find yourself at a dead end, move between worlds and often you will discover something new. Raziel cannot use weapons or move through doors while in the spirit world, but he is in no less danger. Many violent creatures inhabit this dark dead world. If Raziel has his life force depleted which is the result of attacks or not ingesting enough souls (Hey, don't knock it. They are 100% fat free; that's how Raziel keeps that jaw dropping figure of his) Raziel will materialize in the very place he started his adventure.

Along with his razor sharp claws, Raziel can defend himself with many implements of destruction on his journey. Torches, Spears and Rocks can be used to deal out death along with such environmental hazards as fire, spikes, water and sunlight (well they are vampires you know). The possibilities are endless; impale an enemy on your spear, or throw him into the water and watch him dissolve or perhaps you'd rather throw them into the sunlight and watch the fireworks. Whatever method you choose, be sure to suck up their precious soul once they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Throughout his journey, Raziel can add other powers that will help him. He will obtain the powers of his defeated brotherhood (the now-deformed vampires that make up the games boss battles) and can also find six elemental glyphs hidden throughout the netherworld. Locating these glyphs is not essential to complete the game, nor are some particularly useful, but they can be used to destroy your enemies with more flair. The one item you will need however, is the Soul Reaver, which you must earn by defeating Kain when you encounter him for the first time. It is the only weapon that exists in both planes. Raziel can never lose the Soul Reaver, but he can lose the use of it if he is not at 100% health. The Soul Reaver also acts as a life force. When it is active in the material plane, Raziel will no longer lose energy when he hasn't feasted on souls. The only time his health will decrease is when he is injured in battle, in which case the Soul Reaver weapon is rendered useless. Simply chow down on some souls and gain back health and the use of this devestating weapon. The Soul Reaver itself can be powered-up (or embiggened for all you Simpson's fans) if you locate the fire forge. I'll let you discover that on your own.

Raziel's quest is a long one. Expect to play it for many, many days if not weeks. The one chink in the armor of this game is that as you gain more powerful, the majority of the enemies remain the same. Once you reach a certain power-level, they will be viewed as obstacles or as meals, depending on the state of your health. With the puzzles bordering on ingenious sometimes and lackluster at others, you'll either be loving or hating this aspect of the game. Moving blocks around is definitely not my idea of a good time. I was fed up with it by Tomb Raider 2. How about you? The puzzles that require moving between planes are easily the most enjoyable and well-thought out.

The immense size of the underworld is breathtaking, especially when you factor in that there is no load time to speak of. The environments are streaming which means they load off of the disk as needed. Due to the games size, it would be extremely time consuming to have to back track to the particular area you were in when you lost all of your life so there are warp gates which can be used. These warp gates are identified by symbols which will help you establish which one you need to take to get back to your last position. As a little aside, Soul Reaver allows you to save your game anywhere, although when loading a previous game you will start back in the room of the Elder. This is where the warp gates come in handy.

Musically this game will strike a chord within the depths of your psyche. It is dark, disturbing and wonderfully orchestrated. The sound effects are also born from despair and will make turning corners a frightening task. One won't find this game as on-the-edge-of-your-seat as a Resident Evil game, but the music certainly helps to make the game atmospheric.

Complaint Dept. As mentioned earlier, puzzles requiring the movement of blocks are not only un-original but hamper the flow of the game. Who wants to be stuck somewhere for 40 minutes or more trying to move blocks around? Sure these plot devices lengthen gameplay but at what cost to the over quality of the package? Considering most of Soul Reaver is excitingly creative it is a shame that many puzzles are grounded in lackluster execution. In their defense, some of the box moving puzzles are quite imaginative, but it's still moving boxes. That aside, my major complaint with Soul Reaver is the ending. With a game this long in development and delayed time and time again, whose idea was it to tag on this pathetic ending? I'm not going to spoil anything here but needless to say plotlines that aren't really resolved to leave room for a sequel are not only annoying to the player but down right mean. When I invest this kind of time in a game I expect a pay off not a piss off. When are we going to see a sequel to Soul Reaver, and what machine is it going to be on? 10 Ten will get you twenty that it's on PSX2. So buying the sequel which is rightfully owed to you now after completing the game, is gonna run you about $400 in the hole. Fair huh? The ending debacle single-handedly brought Soul Reaver down 1 Point. That'll learn 'em. This ending makes Tomb Raider 2's conclusion where Lara Croft just drives away in her boat after 40 hours of tough gameplay look like a 10 minute Namco CG ending.

Even with the ending as is, Soul Reaver is a must have. I've been playing Dreamcast games for about two weeks straight and I still marveled at the graphic quality of Soul Reaver when I cranked up the old PSX again. That's how good they are. I highly recommend this title to all gamers over 13 years old. This game needs to be in your collection. As it is, Soul Reaver oozes professional design. Streaming environments means no load times from place to place which translates into a smooth gaming experience that will amaze you with it's dark beauty and challenge you with it's innovative game play. For those of you who have not paid attention throughout the review, here it is in two words: Buy it.

OVERALL
9.0

GRAPHICS
10.0

CONTROL
9.5

MUSIC/FX
9.5

FRUSTRATION
6.0

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