Three years after the amazing Blood Omen game on Playstation, a sequel was released on the same console (and eventually Dreamcast); Soul Reaver. The differences between the title were many, chiefly a shift from 2D to 3D, and an entire different developer. Developer Silicon Knights and publisher Crystal Dynamics had split shortly after the first title’s release. While the disparities in two titles were numerous, the enthralling story and superior voice acting remained intact.
Though Silicon Knights created Legacy of Kain, they relinquished the rights upon signing with Crystal Dynamics (that’s typically how publishing
works worked). After a lawsuit and private settlement, Crystal retained the rights to Kain. Amy Hennig and Seth Carus, who was sent by Crystal to assist with development of the first title, lead the development of Reaver. Originally they were creating a new IP, Shifter. These assets were put into the Kain mythology at the request of executives. The game opens with an evocative cutscene. It has been 1500 years since Kain chose to damn Nosgoth, essentially choosing the evil ending from the first game. He lead his vampire army, spreading his scourge across the land. Raziel was his first sired son, and second-in-command. The vampire curse continued to mutate their bodies in different ways over the centuries. Raziel enters Kain’s throne room, built atop the ruined pillars, to show his new growth, wings. Out of jealously, Kain rips the bones from wings, and casts him into the Lake of the Dead. Time lost meaning as Raziel passed into death. A millennia passed, and he was resurrected by the Elder God, as a wraith, a reaver of souls.
The status quo was set within the first three minutes. Instantly I was hooked, driven to complete the game as quickly as possible. Thankfully, it did not disappoint. Mostly. While the gameplay, score, level design, and voice work set a new level of quality, the ending still left something to be desired. The release date was pushed up and several areas and features were cut. The story ended abruptly on a cliffhanger, much to the chagrin of fans. This prompted the quick development pace for Soul Reaver 2. The major gameplay mechanic was the ability to shift between worlds, much like Zelda: A Link to the Past. When Raziel “died” (he was already dead), the plan of reality would shift and contort around him (similar to Beetlejuice). Upon collecting enough souls, he could return. Like Zelda, this mechanic could be used to solve puzzles and traverse different areas of the game. Few games have used this before or since, though this is still a prime example of it being done well.
Most of the original voice actors returned from Omen, with a new notable entry. Michael Bell (Duke on G.I. Joe and half of the autobots on Transformers) voiced Raziel. As the lead, his narration was eloquent and foreboding. The contempt and pain in his voice was palpable. Simon Templeman, Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), and Richard Doyle returned as Kain, Ariel, and Moebius, respectively. Each turned in quality performances. Tony Jay also returned, but voicing the Elder God instead. While the ending left much to be desired, this game was still a perfect storm of everything I love in games; expertly constructed plot, solid voice acting, and intriguing gameplay. No wonder this series ranks so highly for me. Did the opening, or mid game reveal captivate you more? How did the ending sit with you? Comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter! You can now see my Saturday Morning Cartoon posts at The Two-Headed Nerd! 3D PSOne games do not hold up well, visually.