Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
|Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver|
Nixxes Software BV (Dreamcast)
(original game concept)
|Artist(s)||Arnold Ayala (initial concept artist)|
|Series||Legacy of Kain|
NA August 16, 1999
NA December 6, 2012 (Steam)
|Distribution||Optical disc, Download|
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is an action-adventure game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive. It was released for the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows in 1999 and for the Dreamcast in 2000. As the second game in the Legacy of Kain series, Soul Reaver is the sequel to Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Soul Reaver was followed by three games, one of which, Soul Reaver 2, is a direct sequel.
Taking place 1500 years after the events of Blood Omen, Soul Reaver chronicles the journey of the vampire-turned-wraith Raziel, lieutenant to the vampire lord Kain. Raziel is killed by Kain, but is revived by The Elder God to become his "soul reaver" and to exact revenge. Raziel shares this title with Kain's sword, the Soul Reaver, which he acquires during the game.
Crystal Dynamics began development of the game in 1997, but a deteriorating relationship with Silicon Knights, who had developed Blood Omen, created legal problems. This and other delays forced material originally planned for Soul Reaver to be instead released with later games of the series. Soul Reaver was generally well received by critics and praised for its intriguing gothic story and high-quality graphics. However, the game was criticized for simple and repetitive gameplay and an unsatisfying climax.
The player controls Raziel, a disfigured and ghostly vampire. Gameplay relies largely on shifting between the material and spectral planes of existence to progress through areas. Although interaction with objects is limited in the spectral realm, this can be advantageous, because Raziel can phase through otherwise impassable gates there, and water is insubstantial, allowing him to walk on lakebeds; however, blocks, doors, and switches can be manipulated only in the physical realm. Many puzzles are based on the differences between the two realms; for example, platforms and environment features in one realm may change form to open new paths in the other. Block puzzles are also common and require the rotation, flipping, and moving of large blocks to progress, often with a time limit and while avoiding enemies.
Combat in Soul Reaver is a hack and slash system, involving the use of combinations of various different attacks before a finishing move. Raziel's enemies are grouped into humans, spectral creatures, and most commonly, vampires. Human enemies include peasants, vampire hunters and vampire worshippers. In the spectral realm, players fight minor enemies called Sluagh and the souls of dead vampires who have become wraiths. Each brood of vampire enemies has unique powers reminiscent of their clan leader. Human and spectral enemies can be killed with Raziel's claws or any weapon, but vampires must be bludgeoned into a stunned state and then destroyed by impaling them, lighting them on fire, or tossing them into a hazard such as sunlight or water. When killed, enemies leave behind souls that replenish Raziel's health, which automatically decreases in the material realm and increases in the spectral. Possession of the Soul Reaver sword stops automatic degeneration of health in the physical realm, but Raziel loses the sword instantly if he sustains damage and can regain it only by restoring his health to full.
At first, Raziel can jump, glide using his torn wings, move blocks, and pick up and throw objects and enemies. Initially unarmed, he fights using his claws, but can alternatively use weapons such as rocks, torches, spears and staffs, and the Soul Reaver. Raziel can freely shift to the spectral realm, but can return to the material realm only through special portals when at full health. Raziel automatically shifts to the spectral realm if he runs out of health. As the game progresses, Raziel gains the powers of his clan brothers after defeating them and becomes able to phase through gates in the spectral realm and climb walls in the material realm. Initially vulnerable to water, he overcomes this weakness and learns to swim. Players can find an ancient relic that gives Raziel the power to fire bolts of telekinetic energy, which cause little damage by themselves but can knock enemies into hazards and push objects from a distance. Baptism in holy flame can transform the Soul Reaver into the Fire Reaver, which can set enemies aflame and adds fire to Raziel's telekinetic bolts. Players can also find magical glyphs that allow Raziel to expend magical energy to attack groups of enemies simultaneously.
Soul Reaver takes place within the fictional world of Nosgoth, where the health of the land is tied to the nine Pillars of Nosgoth, and each pillar in turn is represented by a guardian. Before the events of Soul Reaver, the guardians became corrupt, and, after Kain killed eight of them, he discovered he was the final one. Refusing to sacrifice himself to restore the Pillars, he doomed Nosgoth to eternal decay and proceeded to raise his vampire lieutenants, including Raziel, to besiege the land. By the time of Soul Reaver's introduction, the vampires are now the land's dominant species and apex predators, the humans have been decimated, and the vampire tribes have each claimed a region of Nosgoth and turned their attention to internal matters. Unknown to the vampires, beneath Nosgoth lurks The Elder God, an ancient and powerful entity. The Elder God controls the Wheel of Fate, a cycle of reincarnation of souls that circle the Wheel in a loop of predestination; however, because vampires are immortal, their souls do not spin with the Wheel, causing the land to decay as the Wheel stalls. By the time that Raziel is revived centuries after the game's opening cinematic, Nosgoth is on the brink of collapse, little more than a wasteland wracked with cataclysms and earthquakes.
The protagonist of Soul Reaver is the vampire-turned-wraith Raziel, whom Kain casts to death at the beginning of the game. Although Kain is the protagonist of the previous game, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, he is the primary antagonist and final boss of Soul Reaver. The Elder God resurrects and assists Raziel, explains the game's controls, and describes previous events in the story. Ariel, who preceded Kain as the guardian of the Pillar of Balance, appears as a spirit and offers Raziel advice on occasion. During his quest, Raziel meets his brothers—Melchiah, Zephon, Rahab and Dumah—who serve as the game's bosses. Each has developed different powers that Raziel partially gains by killing them and devouring their souls. A fifth brother, Turel, was omitted due to time constraints on development.
As the game begins, Raziel approaches Kain's throne and extends newly grown wings. In an act of seeming jealousy, Kain tears the bones from Raziel's wings and has him thrown into the Lake of the Dead, a large natural whirlpool; however, Raziel is resurrected as a wraith by The Elder God to become his "soul reaver" and kill Kain, thus restoring Nosgoth. With The Elder God's guidance, Raziel adapts to his new form and returns to Nosgoth. Infiltrating a Necropolis inhabited by the Melchahim vampires, Raziel finds his brother Melchiah, who has devolved into a beast unable to sustain his own flesh. After Raziel kills Melchiah and absorbs his soul, he confronts Kain among the ruined Pillars of Nosgoth in the Sanctuary of the Clans. Amazingly enough, Kain is not surprised to see Raziel, apparently having even been expecting him, and implies that he has destroyed Raziel's vampire clan, which only enrages Raziel even further. When Raziel begins to criticize him, Kain simply launches a tirade against him before noting what has become of the empire and engaging him in combat. Kain quickly overpowers Raziel and attempts to strike him down with the Soul Reaver, a powerful sword that absorbs its victims' souls; however, the Reaver shatters when it strikes Raziel, and Kain escapes, strangely satisfied. Raziel enters the spectral realm to find the blade's soul-devouring spectral form, which binds itself to him. After this, Raziel meets Ariel, who restores his strength, and learns of Zephon's location from The Elder God.
Raziel ventures into a large cathedral once inhabited by the humans and finds the Zephonim clan. After ascending into the cathedral's spires, he finds that Zephon is now a large arachnid whose body has merged into the cathedral spire in which he dwells. Raziel kills Zephon and uses the gained power to infiltrate an ancient crypt. There, Raziel discovers coffins for members of the Sarafan, a fanatical order of vampire hunters killed centuries before Kain's rule. To Raziel's horror, he finds the crypt was designated for him and his brothers; as cruel irony, Kain revived the Sarafan to serve him as his vampire sons. Raziel ventures through a secret passage under the crypt and finds a flooded abbey inhabited by the Rahabim clan, whose members have mutated into amphibians; its leader, Rahab, has become a merman. Raziel tells Rahab what he has learned about their human pasts, but Rahab is unmoved, claiming that Kain "saved" them, and attacks. Raziel defeats Rahab and absorbs his soul, then crosses the Lake of the Dead to the abandoned fortress of his brother Dumah. The Elder God explains that the Dumahim vampires were scattered following an invasion of human hunters. Raziel eventually finds Dumah shackled to his throne with his heart pierced. Raziel revives Dumah and leads him into a giant furnace, burning him alive and absorbing his soul.
Afterward, Raziel discovers the Oracle's Cave, where Moebius the Time Streamer once hid the Chronoplast, a magical time machine. Raziel traverses the caves and finds Kain in the Chronoplast's control room. Raziel is angered over what he has learned, and Kain says his actions are justified due to his being subject to destiny, before proceeding to inform Raziel that the Sarafan were far from the noble crusaders that Raziel believes them to be when the latter demands to know why he created him, which Raziel refuses to listen to. Raziel attacks Kain while the latter continues to adjust the Chronoplast's controls. Although Raziel eventually gains an advantage, the Chronoplast activates, and Kain escapes through a time portal, beckoning Raziel to follow. Raziel complies, ignoring warnings from The Elder God. As the game ends, Raziel emerges from the timeslip and is greeted by Moebius, leading into the events of Soul Reaver 2.
Soul Reaver entered development alongside Blood Omen 2 in 1997 and focused on puzzle solving instead of Blood Omen 2's action. During design, the development team created larger areas that could be explored more thoroughly as Raziel acquired new powers, avoiding the "shallow[ness]" of Blood Omen's layout. Crystal Dynamics based Soul Reaver on Silicon Knights' research of vampire mythology for Blood Omen. Other aspects of the game, such as the idea of a fallen vampire who devoured souls, were inspired by the epic poem "Paradise Lost". The staff aimed to develop gameplay similar to Tomb Raider and used an upgraded version of Gex 3's game engine to generate the three-dimensional game world. Before Soul Reaver's release, the relationship between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics dissolved. Because their research was used, Silicon Knights filed an injunction to stop further promotion of the game. Other delays pushed the release date from October 1998 to August 1999.
These delays forced Crystal Dynamics to cut significant game material, including additional powers for Raziel, a third battle with Kain, and an expanded Glyph system which would have given elemental powers to the Soul Reaver. In an interview, series director Amy Hennig stated that the development team split the original, much larger plans in two after realizing that they had "over-designed the game", given the constraints on time and data. This decision explains Soul Reaver's cliffhanger ending and the appearance of originally planned material in later games. Despite the split, Hennig explained that the team left unused components—such as extra power-ups and enemies—in Soul Reaver's game engine to avoid unforeseen glitches that might have arisen from their removal.
Kurt Harland composed most of the music for Soul Reaver; Jim Hedges handled the remaining audio. Harland remarked that, under Amy Hennig's direction, he programmed music to change based on the current gameplay situation—for example, combat or swimming. This variation was accomplished through a custom Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) driver, which altered music based on signals from the game engine. Each vampire tribe had corresponding music; one tribe of vampires was associated with a slow, thumping theme to convey a sense of working machinery. To further fit the music to the environment, the sound team consulted level designers regarding layout and appearance. Music from both Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2 was released on a promotional soundtrack in 2001.
For the game's voice acting, Raziel was voiced by Michael Bell, and Tony Jay, who had provided the voice of Mortanius in Blood Omen, voiced The Elder God. Anna Gunn, Simon Templeman and Richard Doyle reprised their roles from Blood Omen as Ariel, Kain and Moebius. Bell, Templeman and Jay also provided the voices of Melchiah, Dumah and Zephon, respectively, and Neil Ross voiced Rahab.
Soul Reaver was showcased at the 1998 E3, where attendees were given free demo discs. Over time, further demo disks were released, including one bundled with Official PlayStation Magazine. Soul Reaver was released for the PC and Sony PlayStation in 1999 and for the Dreamcast version in 2000. The PC and Dreamcast versions used a much higher frame rate than did the PlayStation version, and the Dreamcast port had further graphical enhancements. A Japanese release for the game was planned, but canceled. In 2000, Soul Reaver was added to Sony's "Greatest Hits" list, and more than 1.5 million copies were sold by 2001. Sony later re-released the game for digital download on the PlayStation Network in November 2009.
Eidos Interactive, the game's publisher, spent US$4,000,000 on a pre-release advertising campaign, which included magazine articles, television ads, and a tie-in comic book published by Top Cow Productions. Because the films The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project and The Mummy had premiered earlier in 1999, Soul Reaver's release was considered "ideally timed" for a horror-oriented game. The lack of load times was a key marketing point praised by several reviewers. After release, Eidos and BBI partnered to release action figures of Raziel and Kain.
Soul Reaver's dark and gothic atmosphere was generally well-received, and several publications praised the game's cut scenes. IGN's reviewer called it "such an ambitious game - and one that achieves nearly everything it sets out to do - that few games come close to it", and praised the soundtrack for blending with the atmosphere unobtrusively. The Dreamcast port was cited as "perhaps one of the best looking console games ever made". Next Generation Magazine echoed this, stating that, "even if you own the PlayStation version, you may want to rent this anyway", but expressed disappointment that no new features were added to the Dreamcast port. AllGame's reviewer called the cut scenes "seamless", and their frequency neither too high nor too low. The game's storyline was praised by Game Informer as being "grim and interesting". Soul Reaver's voice acting was also highly praised; GameSpot ranked this aspect of the game in its list of top ten "Best Voice Acting in Games". GameSpot also considered the atmosphere as rich as that of Blood Omen, yet less dramatically overstated, and considered the graphics "among the best that have ever been on the PlayStation." GamePro praised the aspect of shifting between realms, particularly the visual effects involved.
IGN stated that acquiring and learning the powers of Raziel's brothers constituted part of the fun, and that Raziel's moves were well animated and articulated. Finding minimal difficulty in using camera controls, GameSpot likened them to those of Banjo-Kazooie and stated that players would want to adjust the camera deliberately to watch Raziel's movements. RPGamer called the gameplay smooth and seamless, and, although the reviewer was initially worried that the interface would resemble that of the Tomb Raider series, stated that these concerns disappeared after playing. Presenting differences between the two, AllGame echoed RPGamer's sentiment and stated that the game's puzzles would challenge "all but the most experienced gamers", while Game Informer considered the puzzles "difficult-to-the-point-of-insanity". Computer Gaming World enjoyed the devouring of souls, a gameplay element that caused Alexander Smith of the Star Tribune to compare Soul Reaver to the television series Outlander.
Website reviewers deemed Soul Reaver's gameplay too non-linear and its objectives too unclear. GameSpot criticized the warp system for using confusing symbols that did little or nothing to indicate the warp's destination, and weighed the fun of impaling vampires with the Soul Reaver against the lack of challenge presented by bosses and most enemies. Next Generation Magazine considered the game challenging due to "difficult puzzles and lack of a map", requiring the player to backtrack. RPGamer's reviewer said that the music was "more suited to putting babies asleep" and that enemies sounded like barnyard animals. The Tampa Tribune also criticized the camera controls, though noted that the "auto-facing" feature made the difficulties negligible. PC Zone criticized the PC port of the game for "chunky" graphics and bad camera controls, stating "it feels too much like a PlayStation release ported hurriedly on to the PC". Computer Gaming World similarly felt that the limitations of the PlayStation carried over in the PC port, rendering the latter's visuals "mind-numbingly boring". The publication praised the Lucifer-based story for engaging players, but was disappointed that "it peters out in an unsatisfying climax". Game Informer stated, "Even after years in development, Soul Reaver doesn't feel finished. It feels rushed." 1UP ranked Soul Reaver second on its "Top 5 Games That Ended Halfway Through", stating "it's pretty clear that the plot would have been a lot different if the money hadn't inconveniently run out." GamesRadar placed Soul Reaver at #4 on a 2007 list of the top seven video game apocalypses, regarding the post-apocalyptic Nosgoth as "one of the most fascinating wastelands we've ever explored".
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- Elder God: This world is wracked with cataclysms - the earth strains to shrug off the pestilence of Kain’s parasitic empire. The fate of this world was preordained in an instant, by a solitary man. Unwilling to martyr himself to restore Nosgoth’s balance, Kain condemned the world to the decay you see. In that moment, the unraveling began... now it is nearly played out. Nosgoth teeters on the brink of collapse - its fragile balance cannot hold. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Elder God: The birth of one of Kain’s abominations traps the essence of life. It is this soul that animates the corpse you 'lived' in. And that Raziel, is the demise of Nosgoth. There is no balance. The souls of the dead remain trapped. I can not spin them in the wheel of fate. They can not complete their destinies. Redeem yourself. Or if you prefer, avenge yourself. Settle your dispute with Kain. Destroy him and your brethren. Free their souls and let the wheel of fate churn again. Use your hatred to reave their souls...I can make it possible. Become my soul reaver, my angel of death... Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Douglass Perry (August 15, 1999). "Was Kain's Story Cleaved?". IGN. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
- Raziel: I am Raziel, first-born of his lieutenants. I stood with Kain and my brethren at the dawn of the empire. I have served him a millennium. Over time, we became less human and more...divine. Kain would enter the state of change and emerge with a new gift. Some years after the master, our evolution would follow. Until I had the honor of surpassing my lord. For my transgression, I earned a new kind of reward...agony. There was only one possible outcome - my eternal damnation. I, Raziel, was to suffer the fate of traitors and weaklings - to burn forever in the bowels of the Lake of the Dead. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Raziel: My brother, Melchiah, was made last, and therefore received the poorest portion of Kain’s gift. Although immortal, his soul could not sustain the flesh, which retained much of its previous human frailty. This weakness, it seemed, was passed on to his offspring. Their fragile skins barely contained the underlying decay. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Kain: Raziel... / Raziel: Kain! / Kain: The Abyss has been unkind. / Raziel: I am your creation, Kain. Now, as before. You criticize your own work. What have you done with my clan, degenerate? You have no right! / Kain: What I have made, I can also destroy, child. / Raziel: Damn you, Kain! You are not God! This act of genocide is unconscionable! / Kain:Conscience?! You dare to speak to me of conscience?! Only when you feel the true gravity of choice should you dare question my judgment! Your lifespan is a flicker compared to the massive doubt and regret that I have born since Mortanius first turned me from the light! To know the fate of the world hangs on the advisedness of my every deed! Can you even begin to conceive what action you would take in my position?! / Raziel: I would choose integrity, Kain. / Kain: [laughs] Look around you, Raziel. See what has become of our empire. Witness the end of an age. The clans scattered to the corners of Nosgoth. This place has outlasted its usefulness, as have you. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Raziel: The Soul Reaver. Kain's ancient blade, older than any of us and a thousand times more deadly. The legends claim that the blade was possessed and thrived by devouring the souls of its victims. For all our bravado, we knew what it meant when Kain drew the Soul Reaver in anger: it meant you were dead. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Kain: The blade is vanquished. So it unfolds. And we are a step closer to our destinies. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Elder God: From this moment and ever afterward, you and this blade are inextricably bound. Soul Reaver and reaver of souls, your destinies are intertwined. By destroying the sword, you have liberated it from its corporeal prison and restored it to its true form: a wraith blade, its energy unbound. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Raziel: Zephon, your visage becomes you. It's an appropriate reflection of your soul. / Zephon: And you are not his handsome Raziel anymore. His precious first-born son, turned betrayer. You have missed so many changes, little Raziel. Look around you! See how the humans' weapon of destruction has become my home. Indeed, my body. A cocoon of brick and granite from which to watch a pupating world. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Raziel: These crypts ... defiled caskets of Sarafan saints ... bearing my brothers' names.... And my own.... The irony of Kain's blasphemous act rushed in on me with the crushing force of revelation.... / Elder God: Yes, Raziel - you were Sarafan...born of the same force that all but destroyed your race. Before the dawn of the Empire, you were chosen. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Raziel: Do you know what we were before Kain spawned us? / Rahab: Human. / Raziel: Sarafan, Rahab. The antithesis of all we ever believed. / Rahab: Does it matter? We were lost. He saved us. / Raziel: Saved us? From what? / Rahab: From ourselves.
- Elder God: It was not Kain, but Dumah’s own arrogance that brought the downfall of his clan. These are human weapons, Raziel - believing themselves invincible, Dumah and his offspring failed to see an attack coming from the least likely assailants.... Complacent in their arrogance, they were taken by surprise, allowing the human vampire hunters to decimate their ranks with little resistance. The few that escaped have been reduced to scavengers. / Raziel: My brother, Dumah - a powerful warrior, in life. He would have burned with shame, to have me find him here like a stuck pig. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Kain: As long as one of us stands, we are legion. And that is why when I must sacrifice my children to the void, I can do so with a clear heart. / Raziel: Very poetic, Kain, but in the end you offer no more than a convenient rationalization for your crimes. / Kain: These chambers offer insight for those patient enough to look - in your haste to find me, perhaps you have not gazed deeply enough. Our futures are predestined. Moebius foretold mine a millennium ago. We each play out the parts fate has written for us. We are compelled ineluctably down pre-ordained paths. Free will is an illusion. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Raziel: I have been to the Tomb of Sarafan, Kain. Your dirty secret is exposed. How could you transform a Sarafan priest into a vampire? / Kain: How could I not? One must keep his friends close, Raziel, and his enemies closer. Can you grasp the absurd beauty of the paradox? We're the same, Sarafan and vampire. With our holy wars, our obsession with Nosgoth's domination, who better to serve me than those whose passion transcends all notion of good and evil? / Raziel: I will not applaud your clever blasphemy. The Sarafan were saviors, defending Nosgoth from the corruption that we represent. My eyes are opened, Kain. I find no nobility in the unlife you rudely forced on my unwilling corpse! / Kain: You may have uncovered your past, but you know nothing of it. You think the Sarafan were noble? Altruistic? [chuckles] Don't be simple. Their agenda was the same as ours. / Raziel: You are lost in a maze of moral relativism, Kain. These apparitions and portents... what game are you playing? / Kain: Destiny is a game, is it not? And now, you await my latest move. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
- Kain: You nearly had me, Raziel. But this is not where, or how, it ends. Fate promises more twists before this drama unfolds completely. / Moebius: Raziel. Redeemer and destroyer, pawn and messiah. Welcome, time spanned soul. Welcome, to your destiny. Crystal Dynamics (August 16, 1999). Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. PlayStation. Eidos Interactive.
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