Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver Review


For PlayStation

By Contributing Writer Rob Pecknold

Rating: Awesome
   Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is an amazing game largely because from the 
moment you plop the game in your PlayStation for the first time to the 
moment you turn it off after the startling ending, you ARE Raziel.  You 
live in his world; you become him.  You're not playing a game anymore, 
you're living a legend.  Soul Reaver is one of the most immersive games 
I've ever played, and it's also one of my favorite games of all time.
   The story is told in a similar way to Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, in which 
the game you are playing is a flashback of the actual events.  When you 
enter a new area that progresses the story, you might hear Raziel say 
something like "I had no idea what I would find in the Tomb of Serafan, but 
the answer was surprising to say the least."  This is good because it adds 
to the cinematic qualities of the title, but bad because it detaches you 
from the character a bit.  It seems like instead of living his legacy 
youíre recalling his legacy.  Also, there's only one ending, so it doesn't 
really matter if you complete all the glyph quests or find all the secrets.
   You begin the game in the spectral realm, a dark, twisted place where 
only the souls of dead vampires roam.  From here, you must find your way 
into the material world (which mirrors the Spectral Realm), and begin your 
quest for redemption.  When in the material realm, you can shift to the 
spectral realm at any time.  Switching between realms brings out one of the 
most amazing special effects in the history of the PlayStation.  If you're 
in an area with, say, a lot of columns or cliffs, in real-time you'll see 
those columns bend and twist in every direction and the cliffs will twist 
or move higher and lower into the sky.  
   It's in this shifting between the spectral and material realms that 
brilliant puzzles emerge.  Can't get to the other side of the moat in the 
material realm?  Just switch to spectral, and a more than likely situation 
would be that a nearby column will bend or twist to within jumping distance. 
That is the most basic of the possible puzzles, but you get my drift.  This 
level of interaction has never been seen before in an adventure of this 
sort, and I applaud Crystal Dynamics for taking that risk.  It could have 
easily backfired had the puzzles that required plane-shifting become too 
monotonous, but they are fresh every time a new one comes along.
   The rest of the game's puzzles could have been packaged in a totally new 
game called Legacy of Tombs: Soul Raider.  Remember in pre-school when you 
had to do those little block puzzles where you had to fit the right shape 
in the right hole?  Little did we know at the time that the skills learned 
in this activity would come in handy in a video game years later!  Besides 
plane-shifting and the same old Tomb Raider style block-pushing, there are 
also a few puzzles in the game that will make you feel like the maintenance 
crew of the game world by putting air pipes back together and things like 
that.
   Over the course of the game, Raziel gains abilities from devouring souls.  
These range from the cool (climbing walls and swimming) to the incredible 
(firing force projectiles and passing through solid objects).  Like the 
plane-shifting special effects, the effect for firing a force projectile is 
an amazing sight to behold.
   As many things as there are to like in Soul Reaver, there are also some 
flaws.  First off, in those same block puzzles I talked about earlier, 
there is quite a bit of clipping.  It's only distracting because the rest 
of the game has almost no clipping.  Also, the control when you have to 
throw a dazed enemy into a fire or onto spikes is slow and difficult.  I've 
been hurt many times because I either couldnít reach the fire in time or 
because I accidentally threw the vampire in the opposite direction due to 
the control.  The last major flaw I noticed about this game was the fact 
that there are no load times.  Though I may sound crazy when I say this, 
let me explain.  Instead of what we think of a load time (with a special 
loading screen and a cute little graphic on it), there are insanely long 
tunnels you have to go through in Soul Reaver while the game loads the next 
area.  Walking through a boring tunnel with the same boring textures on the 
wall is just as bad as an actual loading screen.
   The graphics in Soul Reaver are some of the best yet on the PlayStation.  
Places like the Nopraptor's Keep or the Pillars are just jaw-droppingly 
amazing, making you want to bear the loading tunnels to see what's next.  
The special effects are also amazing, as well as the animation on Raziel 
and the bosses.  Special credit has to be given to GlyphX Incorporated for 
their work on the computer-generated intro.  It has to be one of the most 
detailed and beautiful computer-generated scenes that Iíve ever seen, 
surpassing everything in Final Fantasy 7 and most other games as well.
   Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver offers gamers lots of action, drama, and 
most importantly, fun.  Sure, it's a year late.  Sure, there are still 
loading times.  But when a game is as involving and fun as Soul Reaver, 
those things just don't matter.

Send your thoughts on this review to rob@mastergamer.com

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