Legacy of Kain resurrected in Soul Reaver
(IDG) -- Unlike movies, computer game sequels are usually better than their predecessors. Most game designers aim to retain what made the original so sought-after while updating graphics, adding options and applying feedback. Fortunately, this is the case with Crystal Dynamics' Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.
A few years back, developers Silicon Knight teamed up with Crystal Dynamics and Activision to publish Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen. The PlayStation action/adventure sold like hotcakes, but the PC port felt slapped together, with blurry visuals, poor control and lackluster gameplay.
That was then, and this is now.
Unlike its top-down precursor, Soul Reaver for the PC is a creepy, third-person perspective action game with stunning 32-bit color graphics, resolutions topping out at 1600 x 1200 and highly-detailed environments. And the game offers much more than eye-candy.
Without giving away too much, the story involves Raziel, the first-born son of Kain, who rises from his grave courtesy of an "elder" to avenge his father. He takes on a tattered body, but with enough power to carry out some essential vampire skills. He must roam the realms of Nosgoth, slay and devour the souls of other undead residents, and move, at will or by necessity, between the spectral and material realms.
Much of the gameplay involves combating hordes of these creatures, but this entails much more than merely relying on Raziel's supernatural sword (dubbed "Soul Reaver"). Our immortal protagonist must solve environmental puzzles (a la Tomb Raider) and dispatch foes with such anti-vampire weapons as sunlight, water, flames or my personal favorite, impaling.
Raziel must also take advantage of all his abilities in order to survive. This includes jumping extra high, gliding on his wings, strafing, grappling and later on in the game, swimming and morphing. The varied environments are absolutely stunning, as are, to a lesser extent, the polygonal enemies.
As with Blood Omen, the narration (both delivery and script) is top-notch and adds to the overall macabre feel to the game. Moreover, much of the conversation between Raziel and his brethren gives meaning to the surroundings and battles.
One of the most impressive discoveries while playing Soul Reaver is the seamless transition between environments, with no noticeable load times. Kudos to the developers for pulling it off.
While Soul Reaver is epic in length, it doesn't quite take the 70-plus hours predicted by Eidos, but, nevertheless, it provides loads of rich gameplay. I didn't have many beefs with this game, though the latter portions seem a little less "realized" than the beginning and middle with some very repetitive obstacles.
Also, while the camera angles are fairly helpful, sometimes it switches at inopportune times, which can put Raziel in a comprising situation.
All in all, Soul Reaver is a challenging and enjoyable action/adventure and a perfect CD to play with the lights turned off and the speakers cranked up. I await yet another sequel to continue the compelling story. (The ending lends itself to this completely.)
Let's just hope the Legacy of Kain continues to make the leaps in gameplay, graphics and atmosphere that Soul Reaver did over Blood Omen.
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