Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is an Action/Puzzle Platformer game about the vampire Raziel.

Now usually after mentioning that the game in question focuses on vampires, a reviewer will complain about Twilight. You know the sort of thing I mean: shiny vampires boo hoo, romantic werewolves waah. I’ve decided that I’m not going to live my life putting down other people for their taste in fiction, unless they enjoy child pornography or blatantly racist literature. Yes, I’m not a Twilight fan, but that doesn’t mean that I should bash the franchise every time vampires come up in casual conversation. Frankly, if there was anyone you’d expect to have a little tact about the absurd media loved by others, it’d be people who review video games for a living.

This is a second game in the Legacy of Kain series. (I haven’t played the first, to be honest I bought Soul Reaver by accident!) The eponymous vampire Kain has taken over the world with his undead empire. Then his right-hand man, Raziel, evolves into an even more beautiful form of monster. Intimidated, Kain tosses Raziel into the Abyss. A millennium later, Raziel is pulled out of the Abyss for by The Elder God, a disembodied voice with big ideas, and urged to defeat his former master and comrades. It’s hardly Final Fantasy VI, but excellent writing and voice-acting keeps things interesting towards the very end.

The puzzle-based gameplay of Soul Reaver immediately invites comparisons to the Zelda game Ocarina of Time but has one huge advantage over it, you can jump. I can’t tell you how weird 3D games are when you can’t jump, it’s like your little guy is magnetised to a board. After defeating every dungeon boss you gain a new ability with which you can access the next area of the game. These skills include swimming, phrasing through grates, and rotating cylinders by running around them in circles. Combat is fairly simple, mostly boiling down to either swiping at your opponent before setting him on fire or impaling him over a spike. You can also regain health by sucking the energy from your opponents. The most important facet of Soul Reaver’s gameplay are the two layers of reality. The first is the material plan, the normal one, where your physical actions have consequences and time has meaning. The second, the spiritual one, is all twisty and funky, and you can’t actually change anything because time’s frozen. Both have their monsters, though.

My only complaint about the gameplay was that some of the puzzles were too hard, but maybe that says more about me.

I have mixed feelings about the graphics. Sure, they’re detailed, but they’re so dim and dreary that they’re not much fun to look at. It’s like the people behind this game decided they wanted to create a world in the palette of a moth’s wings. Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I prefer more colourful games like Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly.

The sound design was great. The music was so creepy that I turned it down, the sound effects were realistic and the voice acting was sincere.

While I could appreciate the effort that went into this game and its many excellent moments, the dark graphics and confusing puzzles meant that I managed to get into it. I won’t be playing it again.

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