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Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver - Review

By Brad Lohr, RPGamer Writer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System8.0
   Gameplay9.0
   Music2.0
   Originality8.0
   Plot7.5
   Replay Value3.0
   Sound2.0
   Visuals8.5
   DifficultyAbove Average
   Time to Complete~20-25 hours 
Overall
6.0
Criteria

   Opening up as our first review under our new criteria, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is a game with a dark, almost gothic setting, where it's not the good guys vs. the bad guys, but the bad guys vs. the worse guys.

   My first reaction to seeing that they would be taking Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver out of the 'Zelda-style' overhead view was a negative one. I thought Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen was very well done in its gameplay aspect, though load times were awful. I saw the Tomb-Raideresque gameplay and seriously balked. Many people did, but Eidos and Crystal Dynamics really cleaned up a problem-filled interface for us, and gave a quality product for the shelves.

   You begin your quest in the now tortured world of Nosgoth, with many memories for the people who played the first game. The visuals on this world are better than they've ever been, with beautiful graphics surrounding almost all of the castles, sanctuarys, crypts, and various caves, towns, and other places that Raziel visits. I was particularly impressed with how the water effects were done, giving the world a lot of life. Attention to little details really brought the graphics to life, and of course, the movement between the material and spiritual planes was excellently handled.

   The gameplay of Soul Reaver was smooth, seamless, and altogether very well put together. As mentioned above, I was worried about the overhead view being taken out and a more Tomb-Raider styled game engine being thrown in, but my fears were certainly quelled quickly upon starting this game. When you hit jump, Raziel jumps. The camera, like any other game with similar controls, takes a little getting used to, but all in all, the control and response from the game are much higher than other games that I've played with similar viewpoints. A definite plus, for those of us who aren't much into this viewpoint.

Raziel
Hey, I'm Raziel. I eat souls.  

   The music. Ouch. I don't know how they ended up with a soundtrack that seems more suited to putting babies asleep than to fighting vampires with a blade of psionic energy, but this is a serious flaw in this game. The music is only good in a rare few places, and during a couple battles, but generally, it's just boring, slow, subtle, and uninspiring to the type of game that it is. I felt that the mood of the game could have really been changed through a better choice of the background music.

   Sound effects also suffered to the same sort of blandness that riddled the soundtrack. The only sound I could say was better than 'eh' was the swinging of the Soul Reaver blade, which made a very satisfying lightsaberish noise. Second place goes to the voices, although some of the enemies sound an awful lot like eachother. Raziel's voice acting was rather good, and also, that of the Elder. Other effects, such as vampires dying, sounded more like barnyard animals being poked with a different variety of fork for a new noise, (I swear I heard a pig at one point). Some of the ambient sounds, however, such as the blocks sliding, the water rushing.. gave a nice feel, but did not help the game out much, in the end.

   The puzzles in this game are a definite high point, however, with a large variety and some interesting puzzles that I'd never seen before, and frankly, enjoyed. While many people who have completed the game will be likely to go into convulsions the next block puzzle they see, (they are literally in 3/4 of the places you go through), I enjoyed the block puzzle's varieties, and the ease in which Raziel could throw around those blocks. Being able to crush enemies that pestered you during a particularly hard block puzzle had a very satisfying feeling to it as well.

   Combat in Soul Reaver is handled pretty well, if you're an avid vampire myth person. You can only kill vampires using such tools as impaling and torching, though more options become availble as you progress, (such as the Soul Reaver blade itself, a very nasty way to blow up enemies), but you must eat the soul of the vampire you have just conquered, or else he will either come back to life, or haunt you on the spiritual plane as an undead vampire. However redundant that may be. What this ends up meaning is that killing even normal enemies in this game gets to be a pain. You must have full health so that your Soul Reaver is active, (one hit and it disappears), have a staff-like weapon to impale (you must drop them when entering into the spiritual plane), have a torch (one use each), or use various things about the room in order to kill the vampires, such as sunlight, water, spiky ornaments, open fires, etc. This can get very tiresome quickly, as most of us are used to just beating an enemy till it falls. (Well, okay, you can do that to the humans in the game, but it's just not as much fun.)


Baddy on fire..
Come on baby, light my fire...  

   The plot of Soul Reaver is very well done. More of the fascinating history of Nosgoth is revealed, and unlike the first game, it doesn't seem like a simple pointless revenge quest, even though that's what it ultimately boils down to. Several interesting plot twists keep you thinking about what's going on in the mind of Raziel, why he is fighting, and his half hearted nature about destroying his own brothers, and of course his own creator, Kain. Unfortuneately, there seems to be a lot of gameplay between story bits, and the story can seem a bit fragmented at times. The story also isn't always explained in the most explicit of statements, and it took me twice listening to a bit to sometimes 'get it'.

   As for replay value.. unless you're a 100% item nut, there isn't much incentive to go through and 'try things differently'. The gameplay is almost entirely linear, though one might grasp more of the story on a secound round through, there isn't really much incentive to do so.

   In conclusion, Soul Reaver was a great plan that failed to meet all of its potential. Poor music hurt it a lot, while the visuals were stunning and the gameplay smooth and fun. It's above average in general, though I feel that with a few improvements, this game would easily have taken a 6.0 up to a 7.5 or 8.0. They had a great setup for a game, and the concept was absolutely full of potential. If you like the world of Nosgoth, and got into Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, or are a vampire nut, this game could be a must-have. If you like puzzles, go grab this game, it's much more intellectual than it is a 'beat-em-up'. If you've only got money for one game till Christmastime, save up for something that meets more of its total potential.

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