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For the past two years we have been inundated with requests for knowledge regarding the sequel to Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. First came the rumors. Then a few screenshots. There were even TWO demo levels released... unprecedented on the Playstation.
None of these could quench the thirst as release dates slipped and we began to worry that all was not well in the development studio. Lengthy delays usually mean, either the product is not up to scratch... or the team believe they have a classic on their hands and have been granted an extension for fine tuning. But which?
Eventually we cast eyes over the final code and thankfully our anxieties were needless. Legacy of Kain 2 was no longer a platform RPG. Soul Reaver was now a stunning 3D adventure. It picks up right where Tomb Raider 3 left off and then pushes the Playstation right to it's very limits.
For those who missed out, Blood Omen introduced us to a noble young warrior named Kain. One evening he was set upon by a band of vicious thugs who left his corpse lying in a pool of blood with a sword impaled in his chest. As he was passing from this world to the next Kain was offered the chance for vengeance, to return and kill his assassins...... but revenge was not free. If he was to return it would be in the form of a VAMPIRE.
From this point onward Kain wandered the villages and dwellings of Nosgarth armed with a trusty sword collecting spells, weapons and armor while morphing into various forms.
Forward in time. A millennium has passed since Lord Kain began his conquest of the world. His first act was to recruit a cadre. Dipping into the underworld, Kain snared six souls and thus birthed his lieutenants, of which Raziel was one.
It was always Kain who would first experience a new gift which he would eventually pass onto his apprentice vampires. That is, until Raziel had the 'audacity' to evolve the gift of wings before his master. And for this impertinence... he was damned.
With feather extensions ripped from his body, Raziel is thrown into the waterfalls of the Lake of the Dead (vampire flesh burns in water). Here he remained damned... until the God Elder resurrects him and plots revenge on Kain.
A strategic adventure allowing the player to experience high-resolution graphics in a full-freedom 3D environment, dynamic gameplay mechanics such as gliding and soul-feeding to maintain life, unprecedented interactivity with objects, an innovative hand-to-hand combat system, and Predator A.I featuring intelligent non-player characters which remember and react to players' actions.
Sound and Vision:
The excitement begins as soon as the awesome intro gets play underway. It depicts the story of Raziel, the lead character whom the player controls. I promise you'll need your jaw re-wiring after witnessing the attention to detail in this mini-movie. Similar scenes are dispersed throughout the game.
While loading times for the full motion animation are minimal the best is yet to come. Seamless loading. You see once the game begins all of the visuals are streamed directly from the CD leaving more time to play and less wasted minutes watching those boring loading bars.
Describing Raziel as a Michael Jackson lookalike would be unfair to the vampire. However, his pale complexion, tall wiry framework and semi masked face constantly reminded me of the musical maestro. Raziel can perform most of the tricks made famous by a certain Lara Croft (apart from the wobble). Furthermore he can jump, glide and perform a wide array of attack moves using hand to hand combat or numerous projectiles.
Enemies appear in many guises but are generally related to the demon/vampire clan. Gradually they grow in stature as the game progresses offering a fitting challenge to your steadily upgraded fighting abilities. I had a particular fondness for the spider creatures which almost infringe the copyright of H.R. Geiger's 'Alien' monster. They wrap their prey in cocoons and hang them from the walls before feeding by extending their jaws and grimacing their teeth.
While the game is viewed from a third person perspective the player does have complete control over the camera angles. Individually the bottom two shoulder buttons on the joypad rotate the view 360°. Combined they perform a helpful 'look around' function.
The scenery is extremely life-like and appears to have been sculptured, rather than animated. The main architectural style is predominantly Gothic, prevalent in the 12th to 16th Century. This is characterized by the enormous castles which have realistic fluttering flags draped over pointed arches and windows. Each is dark and moody with drawbridge access surrounded by deep moats.
An essential part of the gameplay involves warping between spectral and material worlds. To help distinguish each world a permanent mist remains visible in the distance. The color of the mist offers a clue to Raziels whereabouts. I dare say this is used to disguise pop-up but it also acts to generate a creepy atmosphere (similar to Silent Hill).
The lighting effects used in relation to certain weapons are remarkable. Charging towards an enemy with blazing torch in hand leaves a trail of sparks and loose ember spitting into thin air. However nothing can compare to the Soul Reaver. Permanently wrapped around the arm right arm of our hero the neon lit sword bares remarkable similarities to a Star Wars light sabre. The Soul Reaver evolves over the course of the game, acquiring different (and more blinding) attributes.
To complete a stunning experience on your senses the haunting music combined with the splendid narrators booming tones creates a nerve tingling atmosphere that will soil many a pair of pants.
In the very beginning of the game you will be treated to a basic walkthrough of Raziel's abilities. As each new obstacle is faced an onscreen description of the move required is offered. Controlling Raziel is relatively simple with face buttons used to jump, glide, swim, action and devour soul. By combining presses with the top shoulder buttons your character can increase his range of movements with actions such as crouching and walking. The controls take a little getting used to but similar to Tomb Raider they soon became second nature.
Next you will learn of the differences between the spectral and material world and discover that in Soul Reaver, you can't actually die. Nosgarth exists as two different realms. The material (green) world is as you would expect with solid objects and beasties that you can get your hands on. Should Raziel suffer too much damage his spirit may return to the spectral (blue) world where souls must be gathered to regain full strength. To return to the living Raziel must find a special warp point. Now this may all sound a bit of a chore but warping between worlds greatly enhances the gameplay and almost doubles the already massive play area.
The game begins in the Underworld which has a small square platform that will offer you tips about your next objective in the game. If you get lost remember to return here to find out what you are doing. Rather than opt for individual levels Nosgarth is a continuous world of vast inter-connecting locations. In fact when you near the end of the game the entire playing area can be ventured without saving and loading. Obviously this long trek could take many hours to traverse, therefore teleportation portals are dispersed throughout the world. Once the whereabouts of a portal is discovered a shortcut may be made back and forth to any part of the game.
Various creatures and Boss characters will attempt to slow down your progress therefore getting to grips with the action buttons is essential. When faced with an enemy you may first attempt hand to hand combat. Each punch will slowly weaken your opponent showing their face redden until they weaver in a state of unconsciousness. They can then be picked up and thrown onto a skewer (toasted!), tossed into a moat (vampires die in water, hehehe) or cast into a beam of sunlight (burn, baby, burn!).
Of course there is little need to get Raziel's hands dirty because dispersed all around the set are a variety of lethal items such as two-handed staff weapons, torches, and two-handed blunt objects (e.g., boulders, urns, etc.). Some objects are more stubborn, and need to be pulled forcefully out of the environment. The player should keep his eyes open for hidden items like fence-posts and window bars that can be pulled up and used as weapons. Once the enemy has been battered into a state of weaver they can be skewered or roasted and then drained of soul.
The gameplay is very 'Tomb Raider' orientated with many locations to explore, moats to be swim, mountains to climb and puzzles to solve. Most of the puzzles involved heaving large blocks of concrete around a confined space and slotting them into place, like a jigsaw. Raziel not only has the ability to push and pull blocks, but can also lift them on top of each other and spin them over adding a further dimension to play. I found most of the block puzzles relatively easy while a few of the more diverse tasks (such as clicking switches and reaching a rapidly closing door) had me scratching my head in confusion.
This is a single disk game for 1 Player. It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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