Title  : Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Platforms  : Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : Eidos
ESRB Rating  : Mature
Game Rating  : 9.3
Review by  : Ken Gagne

A millennia ago, the world of Nosgoth fell under a dark shadow. Kain was murdered and chose to become a vampire. Upon exacting his revenge, he had the choice to sacrifice himself to save the world, or become its ruler, and, in doing so, plunge it into darkness. For Kain, the choice was obvious. 

One day, Raziel, the first of Kain's vampire lieutenants, evolved before his master Kain. For his transgression, he was cast into The Lake of the Dead, where his body burned for aeons. Rescued by the mysterious Elder God, Raziel now sets out to avenge himself in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, a Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast game from Eidos. [DC version reviewed here] 

Gameplay occurs in a 3D, over-the-shoulder style, with some elements of Tomb Raider. Many games carry themselves with eye candy, or else they sacrifice graphic quality for gameplay. Soul Reaver falls victim to neither trap, excelling in both categories. 

As Raziel travels through Nosgoth, he can switch to the spiritual realm, a twisted mirror of the physical world. Each world has different properties that he must recognize in order to proceed. Also, it is impossible for Raziel to die; loss of energy will simply lose him his corporeal form, forcing him back into the spirit world. 

To stay healthy, Raziel must consume the souls of his victims. His vampiric brethren are vulnerable to fire, water, and impalement, and Raziel employs all with equal relish. One person's blasphemy is another person's sustenance! 

Players always resume play at the same starting point. Fortunately, warp gates allow quick access to most major sections of Nosgoth — which, even in its fallen state, is beautiful. 

The graphics run at sixty frames per second, which translates into incredibly smooth scrolling. Raziel moves with a fluid grace befitting of a vampire, swiftly dodging attacks, scaling walls, and stealing souls. There are a few graphical glitches, including camera trouble near walls, but these moments are rare and insignificant. 

Adding to the impact of the presentation is the audio. The music is dark and moody, but usually rests in the background, letting other audio effects take front stage. Sound effects accompany Raziel's travels and tribulations, while excellent voice acting accompanies the cinema scenes. The Elder God is played by Tony Jay, star of numerous television cartoons, including ReBoot, and is perfect for the part. 

Nosgoth in a single, large world; as a result, determining where to go next can be confusing. The Elder God gives advice at major points in the game and when restoring saved data, but there is still some trial and error involved in finding new areas. 

Control is tight, though there are some loose moments. Grappling with monsters and climbing cliffs comes with ease to one of Raziel's agility, but throwing enemies, swimming, and making precision jumps — the latter of which are plenty of — requires patience and practice. 

Raziel will confront many bosses in encounters that are both physical and cerebral. These battles require not only fast reflexes, but keen observation of one's surroundings, and how to use take advantage of them. Victory will allow Raziel to swallow their soul and attributes, gaining new powers that will get him places previously inaccessible. 

The game also has a somewhat annoying dependence on block puzzles. Such situations require Raziel to flip, rotate, and move blocks into certain positions. Fortunately, these moments are not insurmountable. 

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is a gloomy, mysterious, and enjoyable game, with a cinematic storyline and stunning sights and sounds. Don't wait for a full moon; enter Kain's realm as soon as possible.


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 07-Feb-00