Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver 2
The legend of Raziel and Kain enters in full glory the world of Ps2.
As I stated in an article a month ago, for more than reason the release of Soul Reaver 2 is something special. First of all, this is one of those games that the owners of a Ps2 have been waiting for a long time. Adding to that, this title is an exclusive on Ps2 for North America. Then, this game carries on the heritage of a series that took the rules of a genre and changed them – just like a few other games have done. But what’s more important, Soul Reaver 2 continues one of the most fascinating, powerful, epic tales ever to grace a gaming console. A tale where revenge seems to be the reason to exist, a tale with the imaginative power of ancient legends.
For all these reasons, we have dedicated to Soul Reaver 2 a long special in the beginning of this month. The Legacy Of Kain series narrates the story of a clan of vampires and of the whole fantasy land of Nosgoth. In the first episode of the series, Kain was a young nobleman killed by a band of plunderers. He was given the possibility to come back in the earthly world and take revenge of his murderers. But that was only the beginning of a new existence as a vampire, a creature without a soul, forced to roam in eternal search of souls to feed his corpse - forced to kill innocents to exists. Also thanks to the power of the Soul Reaver, a powerful soul-devouring sword, Kain became the ruler of the land of Nosgoth. Then, he dipped into the underworld in search of six souls to create his lieutenants. Raziel, the main character of Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2, was one of them. One day, Raziel was gifted with wings before his own master. Envious of his son, Kain condemned Raziel to Eternal damnation. Like his master before him, Raziel was plucked from the brink of oblivion by a mysterious ancient god and he was given the possibility to have his revenge on Kain. Raziel takes possession of the legendary sword, the Soul Reaver, but before he can deal a final blow on Kain’s body, the Lord of Nosgoth enters a time portal and disappears. Raziel follows him.
The story of Soul Reaver 2 starts from this point. There is no need to say that many didn’t like the suspended ending of the previous episode. Anyhow, the characters’ in-depth development makes Soul Reaver and this sequel unique and fascinating. The classic conflict good/evil is replaced in The Legacy Of Kain in a desire of revenge. But in Soul Reaver 2 this desire clearly assumes the form of a need to unearths the secrets of existence – in his enemy, Raziel will find his inner self.
If you want to find more information on the story, the characters and the concepts behind Soul Reaver 2, I suggest to read our detailed special feature. Just follow the links at the end of this review.
Like in the preceding episode, Soul Reaver 2 begins with a gorgeous cutscene in CG. After all, presentation is fundamental for a story-driven adventure game like Soul Reaver 2. For this reason,
in the manual there are many pages that narrates the story of Nosgoth. The DVD of the game also features a great amount of extra content. Arts, renders, a preview of Blood Omen and more things that will please the fan of the series are included in the disk.
The gameplay is apparently similar to the one of the preceding episode. The novices of the series should know that Raziel is an immortal creature. In the world of the game there are two planes in which you can move. The Spectral Plane – the place where all dead souls roam – and the Material Plane, the earthly world. When Raziel dies in the material plane he is immediately brought to the Spectral Plane. The environments are transformed in real time by the solid graphic engine and the environments are wrapped in an eerie blue light. The Spectral Plane is the real essence of the world of Nosgoth, the dimension whose existence all living beings ignore. In the Spectral Plane, all objects are deprived of their material side. Raziel can’t use weapons, climb walls, swim or anything else that implies an interaction with the environments. Sometimes many doors and passages are opened only in the Spectral Plane. For this reason you can easily shift among the two planes by accessing the select menu with the select button. Once in the Spectral Plane, Raziel needs to feed on the souls of the dead in order to gain enough energy to awaken is earthly body. Then, he can come back to the Material Plane through special planar ports. Most of the puzzles in the game can be solved only if you “work” and think in the two planes. The new episode features exactly the same original and challenging structure. Anyhow, from the very beginning of the game is evident that the developers wanted to give this title a different equilibrium.
First of all, the battle system has been improved with great skill. This was already evident in the demo featured in the Summer Jampack in U.S. and on Ps2 official magazine in Europe.
Raziel can perform a series of combos and new moves that give an extraordinary freedom of movement to the player. The developers had also the great idea to introduce an easy to handle lock-on system. By pressing the R1 button Raziel can move around an enemy dodging his attacks. Defence is fundamental when it comes to bigger monsters like demons that can follow you in the two planes. It’s sufficient to look at one of the frequent battles during the game, to understand the great work done by Crystal Dynamics to make this game elegant and fascinating.
The excellent AI of the enemies plays a fundamental role in the greatness of the battle system. Each creature has different techniques to attack Raziel, and all are extremely believable. For example, Serafan Knights usually hunt Raziel in groups of three or four soldiers and they’ll cooperate to get rid of you. Demon hunters are helped by dangerous dogs, that will easily sense Raziel from a long range. Supernatural creatures like demons are actually terrifying in their movements and in their powerful attacks and each species has a completely different behaviour.
Raziel can use his mighty Sword, the Soul Reaver, to defeat his enemies. Throughout the game elemental fonts are scattered. Each element can give the Reaver a special power that is useful to disable certain enemies, open doors and solve puzzles. Anyhow, the Soul Reaver is a sword eager of life. If used excessively it will drain not only opponents’ life but also the life of the one who possesses it. For this reason, you’ll have to steal and use your enemies’ weapons instead of the Soul Reaver for great part of the game.
The emphasis given to strategic action doesn’t mean the developers haven’t created a rich series of puzzles for this game. While in the preceding episode the player had basically to move certain blocks in certain positions for great part of the game, this time the puzzles are much more challenging. Maybe the lovers of pure action games like Devil May Cry will hate this characteristic of Soul Reaver, but all the lovers of adventure games will be happy to make use of their intelligence to proceed in the game. The puzzles generally involve the use of one of the elemental abilities of the Soul Reaver and a series of actions on the two planes. Basically you have always to remember that each plane has different properties. What’s obvious in the Material Plane becomes impossible in the Spectral Plane and vice versa. You’ll soon get used to this amusing and original system. In more than a point during the game you’ll feel completely lost. Be sure to explore the same places in both planes!
A nice improvement is the introduction of a nice map with a compass, that can help you travel through the land of Nosgoth. One of the greatest features of Soul Reaver 2 is the complete absence of loading times. At any moment, the game streams all the data off the disk. In this way the gaming experience is continuous and freed of the classic mission-based structure of many action games.
Overall, the developers have improved the action elements of the game and created a different structure for the puzzles. Yes, the game plays like an enhanced Soul Reaver. But with a revolutionary gameplay like the one created by Crystal Dynamics it would be senseless not to use the same formula for the new episodes. The Soul Reaver series is a breath of fresh air in the industry.