Posted: March 27
Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver is a forgotten gem that spawned one of the best written and best voice acted franchises I've ever seen. Sadly, the industry is at a constant change and this game couldn't just keep up with it's speed.
Let's start with the good elements, the story.
Soul Reaver tells the tale of Raziel, a vampire damned to an eternity of agony by his creator Kain. Who somehow survived his descent into the lake of the Dead and is now transformed into a ghoul, a shell of his former self. Raziel then swears to get his revenge against the man who once betrayed him and who has now led his land to ruin.
First things first, the writing is just amazing. From the brooding, gothic narrations of our character Raziel, to the shakespearean speeches of our antagonist Kain. Amy Hennig surely did a great job of defining who these characters were and a way to identify this game among the ocean of poorly written cash grabs that plagued the industry at it's time. World building is in every corner of this game, from little tidbits about the lore to just small visual details of the dark and Gothic steampunk fantasy setting of Nosgoth. Which was something you didn't really see that much in 1999.
The voice acting is amazing and it still holds up to this day, from Michael Bell's gothic narrations of Raziel, to the defiant and Simon Templeman's defiant and perfect representation of the amazing villain that is Kain.
In fact, this game's opening sequence has to be the best opening sequence I have ever seen in a game, it's visuals look great (even today kinda), the voice acting and narration not only manages to set the character motivations and general setting, but it also manages to be great at it.
The problem with the story though, is the ending. Without spoiling that much all I can tell you is that the game ends in your average "To be Continued..." cliffhanger, which is not satisfying at all.
On the other hand, the thing that draws this game back is the gameplay. Not that it's bad, but it's horrifically dated. Soul Reaver is a Zelda-esque game that features a fully 3D open world with explorable dungeons and collectibles, but the catch is that in the game you are allowed to visit another realm of this world, The "Spirit Realm" let's you see things that are not normally present in the physical realm and it also acts as a warp place whenever you lose all of your health. Now, the main draw in all of this is that the Spirit Realm kinda makes the game a little too easy, because there is no real consequence to dying, it really just makes most of the tension go away from combat, which also get a little too repetitive sometimes. But of course, the main draw here are the puzzles. Now, do you expect to see puzzles that creatively use the realm switching mechanic? Well, Yes and no. Because for the most part you are treated to just block jigsaw puzzles (A little too much like in Zelda), these get VERY repetitive, VERY quickly and as I said really don't do more than just make the experience less enjoyable. Now, but when you're treated to realm switching puzzles it always just comes down to plaforming while switching back and forth between realms. Now, this could be enjoyable if only the controls weren't so dated. The camera is the biggest offeder here, because the game constantly requieres you to look up, but the camera can only rotate left and right. Another problem with the open world is that most of the collectibles featured in this game are completely useless, because the game is far too forgiving. I often found no difference between having a long health bar and a bunch of OP power-ups or not having them at all. Another problem with exploration is that the game gives you no sense of direction in any way, and there are no unique or indistinguishable areas in all of Nosgoth that help it either due this game's graphical limitations.
Another thing that hasn't aged well about this game either, are it's graphics.
Most of the areas just look very same-ish or would look good back in 1999. Another issue I take with the graphics is that many cutscenes are poorly rescaled more often than not leading to some mess of blurry pictures that are supposed to be FMV's.
The soundtrack is also good, but not something amazing. What's really good about it is how it dynamically changes depending on the environment you're on.
Overall, the only way I can reccomend Soul Reaver is if you buy it in the Legacy of Kain Collection bundle, when it's on sale at that. It's a good game, one I will certainly remember in the years to come. But it's just such a chore to drag through this game's flawed and clunky gameplay just to get to an unsatisfying ending. Because in the end, most of the good elements this game once had are now gone. Why? Because this is no longer 1999. Most of the things this game does (Lack of loading screens, amazing voice acting, great writing, open world, etc...) are now standards to the game industry and they are just no longer impressive when you play it nowadays. If this was 1999 I would've given this game a must buy, but sadly in the year 2015 this game cannot find a proper place to fit in.
Maybe you'll like it, but for your own sake try to not to buy this game individually.
PC PORT REPORT:
Now, the main reason you shouldn't buy this game is because of the god forsaken PC port this is. This game was clearly intended to be played on a Playstation 1, and it shows in this port. Because the controls are ♥♥♥♥, with weird camera controls (LCTRL and RCTRL?) that while they can be rebinded, never offer an experience as gratifying as playing with a mouse. Plus, this game restricts controller support, only offering support for now dead gamepads (I tried with my DirectInput controller and my XInput controller and niether of them worked). The menu's are poorly rescaled and as I mentioned so are the cutscenes. And of course, the crashes. I didn't get as many crashes in my playthrough of the game, but they are here.
This is just a lazy straight-up port of the PS1 version of the game. If you ever plan to play this game, just get it for the Dreamcast or the PS1, and if you don't have either of those consoles, just emulate it.
If you don't want to emulate it either, do not buy it standalone. Buy it in the Legacy of Kain collection bundle when it's on sale. I got it for 5$ with the rest of the series and so should you.