It was a long two year wait for the sequel to the first Soul Reaver. The game ended on a terrible cliffhanger, not resolving the storyline as development time ran out. In retrospect, it was a quick turn around for the sequel considering the game shifted from Playstation 1 to 2. While a few gameplay and puzzle elements were softened due to the compressed schedule, the game delivered some of the best twists in the series yet.
Raziel finally tracked down his maker, Kain. The two battled, but Kain manged to slip into the time stream. Raziel followed, only to be greeted by Moebius, the Time Streamer and deceiver. I know that’s a bit of nonsense talk for someone who hasn’t played the game, but it was a hard stop ending that offered little resolution. It was as though the final act of a play was cut. I’m not sure where they had originally intended to end the first Soul Reaver, but this did an excellent job of picking up the baton and running with it.
First, let’s get the weaker elements out of the way. A two year turn around is a tight schedule for a game, let alone one released on brand new hardware (the PS2 was only a year old). While the game was an upgrade in many ways from its predecessor, something had to give. The gameplay, puzzle, and exploration elements were noticeably weaker here. They weren’t poorly conceived or implemented, just less. The game was at least a third smaller in size and scope than the original. All things considered, it’s a minor complaint, especially since there’s little if any technical problems (slow down, glitches, etc.).
I am in awe of Amy Hennig’s writing ability. She crafted an amazing story, taking the concept of time travel and cranking it up to eleven. More elements were added to the backstory of the characters and Nosgoth, explaining the origin of the pillars and vampires. While there’s plenty of subtlety to the story and solid beats that built to a jaw dropping finale, there’s a few moments that still play over and over in my head, even to this day.
Soul Reaver 2 was filled with betray and intrigue, and Raziel was trying to decipher his path. Was he a tool of vengeance? A pawn of fate? He constantly battled these ideas internally with monologues expertly delivered by Michael Bell. He was perfectly matched with Simon Templeman’s Kain and Tony Jay’s Elder God. The voice acting in this series only raises the already strong story telling.
If you haven’t played this game/series yet (it’s on Steam), skip this paragraph, SPOILERS! Two moments still echo in my head from the game. Raziel discovering that his human self, who wasn’t as pious as he thought, had killed Janos Audron, who covered Raziel’s escape, was an interesting turn. This was the catalyst that set off the finale. The Soul Reaver blade in hand, now bonded to his wraith-blade, Raziel stormed the Sarafan keep. The blade grew strong, lusting for souls as he cut through swaths of enemies. With none left, the blade turned on him. He had always been the soul-devourer inside the blade, explaining why it shattered when Kain used it against him. Kain, who Raziel paradoxically left alive, appeared from the time stream, ripping the blade from Raziel and saving his life, or postponing his fate.
That right there is why this is my favorite series. I have played each game a handful of times around their release, with this one being the most at around five, but never straight through all the titles. It’s been years since I’ve experienced this story and I look forward to playing through all five Blood Omen games consecutively. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s well thought out, strong story telling like this that drives me to be a better writer. I can count the stories that inspired me on one hand, this is one.
Did you notice the lacking gameplay? How hard did you jaw drop at the ending? Comment below!
50°F yesterday, below 0°F today.