In the past 2019, the legendary Legacy of Kain series celebrated its 20th anniversary completely unnoticed by the general public. Its current owners hinted at the possibility of continuing, but apparently without receiving the expected response, they no longer returned to this topic. But in vain … at one time Soul Reaver was included in the list of Sony’s “Greatest Hits” games, and the Dreamcast version became one of the most beautiful games in the entire history of the platform. As a child, we got into a very dark and gothic atmosphere, but the movement between the worlds and the nonlinearity of the passage did not give me the opportunity to watch the final credits, the sweeter the return became.
A little about the series
Few people know, but Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is not the first game in the series. It started in 1996 with Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and then Silicon Knights was listed as the developer. The Canadians have done a great job creating the unique world of Nosgoth and its mythology. The main success and at the same time the mistake of the studio happened when choosing a publisher. At that time, Crystal Dynamics took on any job, riveting shooters, platformers, cosmos and sports arcades. Games and ports from the Americans sold well, but they lacked a mega hit to reach the big leagues, so the offer from Silicon Knights came in handy. Thanks to the agreement on the contract, all rights to the universe passed to Crystal Dynamics, after which the creators set off for the forest, and the Americans improved their Gex engine, with redoubled efforts began to sculpt a sequel. The lawsuits essentially only postponed the premiere and forced the kidnappers to cut out some of the content that was later added to other games. The Silicone Knights never made it through failure, although they did have the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves with Too Human and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. But Crystal Dynamics, first absorbed by Eidos, and then Square Enix, had sunk into oblivion much earlier. By the way, some of the developers who took part in the creation of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver later moved to Naughty Dog, but that’s a completely different story.
In general, in order to understand all the twists and turns, it is advisable first of all to get acquainted with the first Blood Omen and the affected nerve will be felt much sharper. The world of Nosgoth was originally inhabited by ancient vampires and Hilden. Bloodsuckers possessed magic, and high technology stood at the service of rivals. As a result, the conflict ended in failure for both sides – the Hildens were exiled to the spiritual demonic dimension, having managed to deprive the vampires of their souls and make them bloodthirsty, as a result of which they killed a friend of a friend or cut themselves out on their own. Such an outcome did not suit the Elder God at all, who was deprived of spiritual food and that is how people were created. They became a replacement for the vampiric losses, and with due service and the guardians of the columns of Nosgoth, holding the Hilden in their prison. One of these columns at the end of Blood Omen was Cain.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver starts with an unexpected evolution of the main warlord of Kain – Raziel, who has unexpectedly grown wings. True, the creator did not appreciate the transformation, tore the bones from the newly acquired paired organ, and sent the failed Icarus on a test flight to the Abyss. At the bottom, the main protagonist met the Eldest God, who existed long before the arrival of the vampires. The oldest spent 1000 years, but was able to restore the body of Raziel, endowing him with the ability to move between worlds and the ability to absorb the forces of others. After that, a bloody campaign begins on the mutated brothers and the search for answers to sacred questions.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is a classic action-adventure with elements of metroidvania and sokoban. Raziel is initially weak and even ordinary vampires are quite capable of sending him back to the spirit world. Fortunately, it is basically impossible to die in the game, having left the material world, you can quite easily save up strength and go back. Although the spirit world is far from a safe place, inhabited by dark entities and vampire souls. The world of Nosgoth is complete and vast. You can move along it on foot and using 12 portals. Raziel’s path is not linear, although it is partially limited by the lack of a number of abilities, which should be taken away from their former brothers. The path to each boss is laid through his minions and classic riddles, somewhere you need to start the old mechanism, restore the bas-relief, there are tasks for time and logic. Ordinary monsters are killed by combined attacks with obligatory finishing and soul absorption, otherwise they are able to return back. Meeting with bosses is a separate pleasure, not only are they colorful in themselves, but in addition, killing everyone is associated with solving the puzzle, and the reward is a new ability that allows you to explore the secrets of Nosgoth. After the first battle with Cain, the main character will be able to arm himself with the title Soul Reaver, a sword devouring souls, which will be able to maintain his viability in the outside world and make him a much more formidable force.
Also, Raziel is capable of using glyphs, a kind of elemental magic. And then a small problem comes up – they are practically useless. At best, you will use a solar glyph to destroy a group of monsters in visible space, but after receiving a fiery sword, it becomes irrelevant. And many of the glyphs had the potential to explore the environment much more deeply. In contrast to this flaw, we were very pleased with the idea of the heterogeneity of the spiritual and material worlds, the space itself looks different in them and some of the puzzles are solved by the sequence of movements between dimensions. Unfortunately, closer to the final, the levels become much easier, and the decisive battle is completely disappointing. The fact is that the second battle with Cain was conceived as a passing stage, but due to legal proceedings, the completely finished level in the past had to be transferred to the second part of Soul Reaver. It took me 15 hours to complete and collect all 50 achievements, the lion’s share of which took the extermination of 500 vampires and replaying the levels, but more on that below. The plot part without industrial collection is designed for about 5-6 hours.
Crystal Dynamics have done an excellent job compared to the original. They abandoned isometric projection in favor of full 3D with a camera behind the main character. As we already mentioned, the game became one of the best for consoles of its time. The year of release helped a lot, there were no worthy competitors within the genre, as there was a boom in shooters, but the fashion for thrillers after the success of the cinematic “Blair Witch” suddenly blossomed. This does not in the least detract from the merits of the artists, because in fact they had to paint a huge and diverse world twice. Nosgoth strongly resembles Northern Europe in landscape, which also complicated the graphic work, due to the variety of geographical zones. Pleased with the Gothic architecture and the ruins of the past inhabitants. Many reviewers praised the sound quality and atmospheric music themes. The fact is that the composer Kurt Harland wrote the music, relying not only on the plot of the game, but also on the action taking place, the pace and tension of the narrative. Moreover, each vampire clan has its own musical accompaniment, which adds authenticity.
Let’s move from honey to tar. Initially, people complained about the lack of a map and general confusion. This problem was solved with grief in half, at least in the PC version, the F10 key demonstrates Nosgoth, in all his greatness. For the current generation of players, most likely the main problem will be an inconvenient camera, in general, due to the leisurely rhythm of what is happening in the platform part, this aspect is a small hindrance. But the fight with Doomach and Cain (the last two bosses) can burn a lot of nerve cells. Let me remind you that we run away from one, trying to evade vibrational attacks, while you cannot break away from him, otherwise you will have to run back to the throne room. Cain constantly teleports, and if the first two levels of the Chronoplast are still in sight, you need to jump to the third and not knowing the patterns you will have to do it at random. But we can overcome this moment too. It is much sadder that the incentive for sale is the old PS version, which was initially criticized for the quality of the port. So be prepared for periodic crashes of the game, and saving does not help much, since you still start in a spiritual sanctuary.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is a criminally forgotten series, with a detailed world and unique mythology. The game has practically not lost its relevance. We will slightly lower the score to 8.5 because of the quality of the port, and the happy owners of Dreamcast or Sonya may well throw half a point on top.