There once was a time when vampires were actually cool! A time when the likes of Vampire: The Masquerade was one of the most unique and exciting pen and paper RPGs I’d ever played, and Interview with the Vampire was one of the most popular vampire movies.
That largely came to an end with certain Vampire/Werewolf/Human love triangle books and movies… However, I am going to take a trip back to that time today.
Back when vampires were still blood thirsty creatures, rather than sparkling love interests, the Legacy of Kain series came along. By the time the second game, Soul Reaver, was released, the series had firmly grounded itself in the “violent vampire” genre. However, did the second game manage to live up to the legacy of the first? Let’s find out!
The fact that the Legacy of Kain series follows the “lives” of various vampires, it should come as no surprise that there is a huge time jump between Blood Omen (the first game) and Soul Reaver. After all, vampires are immortal, aren’t they?
Soul Reaver’s storyline takes place a full 1,500 years after the events of Blood Omen. That is one heck of a time jump! This time, rather than following Kain, the game focuses on Raziel, one of Kain’s lieutenants. As the game begins, Raziel is thrown into the Lake of the Dead by Kain, killing him.
However, that obviously isn’t the end of Raziel, or we’d have a very short game on our hands… Almost as short as certain modern shooters. Raziel is resurrected by the Elder God in order to take revenge on Kain whilst also restoring the world that Kain and his vampires has turned into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. In short, he is turned into the Soul Reaver (roll credits).
Full of twists and turns, and truly making use of the rather gothic setting, the story of Soul Reaver will keep you hooked for the entirety of the game… In fact, it will also help you deal with some of the more challenging sections of the game, as you’ll do everything you can to progress and find out what happens.
The graphics of Soul Reaver, especially for the PSX, are a huge selling point for the game. The opening CGI video is well animated, painting a brilliant picture of the beginning of the story.
On top of this, each character is recognisable and distinguishable, having their own specific style and design. Raziel himself has one of the most unique character designs I have ever seen. It is a lasting design that, whenever you see him, you’ll instantly recognise him.
In terms of UI layout, the in game interface is exceedingly clean, with just the spiral life bar on show. Every now and then, tutorial hints will show at the bottom of the screen, written in a suitable font for the game but still incredibly easy to read. The pause menu is also very minimalist, taking up just the centre of the screen.
Even the enemies, despite having multiples of the same enemies, feel unique between the different species. It would have worked fine if the developers (Crystal Dynamics) had done palette swaps of the enemies like a lot of games. However, they instead created 16 entirely different types of enemy for you to encounter. Whilst this may not sound like a lot, for the time it was great for action adventure games.
In fact, even modern games tend to use less variation than this in enemy designs!
Seeing that Soul Reaver is an action adventure game, you shouldn’t be surprised that there is a focus on both combat and platforming style movement.
The main crux of the game involves you guide Raziel around, killing enemies and devouring their souls to heal yourself. Between these bouts, you have to run, jump and glide your way through various different locations, avoiding water and other environmental dangers.
Combat itself is simple to pick up without being simplistic. You can lock on to your enemies by holding R1 before slashing at them multiple times with combos. Once they have been dazed, you can then grapple them and throw the enemies around. In fact, there are even enemies that can only be killed by throwing them into water or onto spikes.
Therefore, it should come as no shock that Soul Reaver is a very violent and (for the time) gory game. For example, if you impale an enemy on a spike, pixelated blood will spur out from their dead body.
However, as mentioned earlier, combat isn’t the only aspect of Soul Reaver. When it comes to exploration, the developers showed their design pedigree that would later gain them the Tomb Raider franchise after Core Design failed to make their later Tomb Raider games a financial success.
As well as jumping and gliding around, you have to move boxes and solve various types of “puzzles” in order to proceed. This gave the game a strong platformer feel, which also gives the player a new change of pace between fights.
And That’s All Folks
All in all, Crystal Dynamics created an incredibly amazing vampire game focusing on revenge. The storyline is as aggressive as the gameplay, with a cast of memorable and distinguishable characters.
When playing Soul Reaver, it quickly becomes apparent why Crystal Dynamics were entrusted with the Tomb Raider franchise. Soul Reaver is a brilliant game that is easy to pick up but challenging enough to keep you on your toes.