Chapter 2: Appearence, existence.  
"Now I stalk the ruins of Nosgoth seeking to destroy my creator." (Raziel)

Harry In silence, the brilliant stars shine high over the land of Nosgoth. The moon, like a thought of sorrow, shrouds the world in blue. Under this light, the material plane seems to show something of the real essence of Nosgoth. Raziel, the vampire, knows that what he sees is just a mirror of the real realm, where all the souls roam.

With Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver, the developers from Crystal Dynamics created something different from the usual adventure game. Raziel, the vampire in pursuit of Kain, was able to travel the world of Nosgoth through two different dimensions, the material plane and the spectral realm.

The material plane is the dimension where all living beings actually exist, where all those creatures with a body and a soul conduct their lives. The spectral realm is the place where all the souls are destined to roam after the death of the body.

In order to act and exist in the material plane, Raziel needs something more than the blood of the innocents that serves to feed his earthly body. He needs souls from the spectral realm to reanimate the corpse. When Raziel is killed in the material plane, he is brought back in the spectral realm, where he can find and steal lost souls. In this way his earthly body is resurrected in the material plane.

In other words, with the first Soul Reaver a new way to intend the Adventure genre is introduced. In a classic adventure game like Tomb Raider, the main interest of the player is to perform certain actions avoiding that the main character is killed. In Soul Reaver this problem doesn't exist. Raziel is an immortal creature: death is just a change of status, a passage to a different dimension from which he can easily come back.

This leads to a gameplay that is conceptually different from the assumptions of the genre, a breath of fresh hair in the industry. In fact, the gaming experience becomes uninterrupted and the attention of the player is focused on a new series of problems. The story becomes fundamental and the intelligence of the player is continuously stimulated to create a strategy through the two planes that can let him proceed in the game.

Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 is based on the same extraordinary, fascinating conception. The way things appear is not the way things are in Nosgoth.

The Way Things Appear
Eager the sword, eager of life.

The material plane is the plane of the living, where appearance is confused with reality. In the material plane, Raziel can use his extraordinary strength and powers, but he needs constantly to feed on the souls of his enemies. Only in this way he can maintain his earthly existence.

The Soul Reaver is a powerful weapon. Raziel can imbue the Soul Reaver with one of the Magic powers existing in Nosgoth and use them only in this plane. If brandished wisely, the Soul Reaver is the key that opens the infinite passages of the material plane that lead to Kain.

Raziel in the material plane.
The Soul Reaver is a powerful weapon - but it can steal the life of the one who possesses it.

But the sword was not made to be used by an earthly body. It's a weapon eager of life, eager of the souls of the living - and if used excessively, it devours not only the life of the opponents, but also the life of the one who possesses it.

Sometimes, the material plane hides passages that are open in the spectral plane. From any point of the Material Plane, Raziel can shift to the Spectral Plane.

The Way Things Are
The circle of life and death.

A dark blue light reigns in the Spectral Realm. This is the realm where Raziel have existed for centuries as a lieutenant of Kain. When he was rescued from the Lake Of The Dead, the Elder gave him the possibility to exist on the two planes, but to sustain the burden of the body in the material plane Raziel needs a continuous flux of souls.

When Raziel shifts to the Spectral Realm, objects reveal their true essence. They appear motionless and distorted, silently wrapped in the veil of an eternal remoteness. Lost souls and creatures of the underworld roam this realm, where all the abilities of an earthly body are completely deprived of a sense. Raziel can't use any of the objects from the material plane in the spectral plane.

Raziel in the spectral plane.
Raziel steals a lost soul from the underworld.

But in this world, the Soul Reaver is one thing with the vampire. The sword burns with an eternal light. Raziel reaves the souls of the dead - full of their energy and of their desire for a new existence, he can shift back to the material plane through the spirals of the planar portals.

Death and life in an eternal circle. The way things are, the way things appear.

The Art Behind Nosgoth

The first Soul Reaver released on Psx was surely one of the games that pushed the power of the old console to its limits. With Soul Reaver 2, it seems that the developers at Crystal Dynamics have created a game with the rare power to enchant and fascinate the player.

I strongly believe that videogames have become in the latest years one of the deepest and most interesting form of art. A proof that industry and artists can work together and create something that goes beyond the definition of consumer goods.

Unfortunately, this happens rarely. We live in a moment in which everything can be sold if packaged properly. For this reason, playing a game like Soul Reaver 2, with the heritage of one of the deepest games of all times and a long period of development, it's something special.

The graphic engine developed for this new chapter is smooth, refined, crystal clear. When the work on Soul Reaver 2 started, a design rule was established among all the artists and the team members: at any point during the development, they should have kept the game running at 60fps. For this reason, the demo of the game which was playable on the Summer Jampack 2001 boasted one of the smoother graphics ever seen in a Ps2 title.

There are two points that make the graphic engine of Soul Reaver 2 special. First of all, not only the characters and environments are entirely rendered in real time by the Emotion Engine. When Raziel shifts from one plane to the other, every single element of the environment - walls, objects - is transformed under the amazed eyes of the player. At the same time, particle effects introduced in the game also thanks to the power of the new 128-bit console, bring realism into the world of Nosgoth. The characters are built with an high number of polygons (Raziel is made of about 3,000 polygons in his Ps2 version) and are superbly animated. The second strong point is the fact that the Ps2 streams all this greatness from the disk continuously. This means that after the game is started, you won't experience any loading time at all while playing Soul Reaver 2. Of course this affect not only the graphics, but also the gameplay.

It's not easy to create a game able to carry on the intrigued, epic story behind the Legacy Of Kain series. When I saw the "new" Raziel moving in the land of Nosgoth, I was excited. The movements, the rich textures used to give this sad creature of the darkness a breath of life, proved there was skill, passion, love behind this game. And that's what all great games should be made of.

Thanks to Kjell at Eidos for the support.

- Harry (2 Nov, 2001)