|I had a blast with the first
Legacy of Kain a few years ago. It had an interesting story, good gameplay, and a pretty
good cast of voice actors to take the place of the simple text windows. When I heard
Crystal Dynamics and Eidos were teaming up for the sequel I was more then a little
excited. Kain in a 3-D Tomb Raider-like environment, imagine the possibilities! I played a
demo about nine months ago. The control was a little shaky, but overall it looked really
promising. Cut to the present. Kain is a strange animal indeed, and difficult to
You play Raziel, one of Kains vampire creations. Over the years Kain undergoes various beneficial mutations, and his fledglings soon follow with a similar metamorphoses. It comes to pass that Raziel grows wings before his master does. Being the jealous overlord of evil that he is, Kain is less than pleased with this transgression. He rips the wings from Raziels back and tosses him into the Lake of the Dead to burn for eternity. Cool. Fate is kind to young Raziel, however, and eventually a powerful otherworldly being know as the Elder frees him, gives him the power to devour undead souls, and sets him on the path of vengeance. Way cool.
The game's best feature by far is the incredible voice-acting and solid story. The dialogue is intriguing, intelligent, dramatic- and dare I say- sometimes even witty. Its a step up from anything Ive ever seen on a video game.
The game play is great, with a nice mixture of obstacles, puzzles, and, of course, hordes of undead to brutally destroy. Speaking of destroying, you can take your pick with Soul Reaver. Tired of using your spear? Pick up your vampiric foes and impale them on spiked walls, burn 'em, chuck 'em in water and watch them fry or slam 'em into the sunlight for some quick incineration action. Eventually youll even get the soul reaver, a great looking, undead-exploding lightsaber. It all makes for a beautiful assortment of vampire slaying mayhem. The environments look pretty cool and give you a lot of different ways to interact with them. An interesting feature is Kain's ability to toggle between the material world and the spirit world. The material world is full of vampire baddies and everything operates pretty much normally. When in the spirit world, time essentially stops and no objects can be picked up and doors cant be opened. Entering the spirit world also results in a warping of your surroundings. Things will bend differently and new ledges may appear. This makes for some pretty interesting puzzles.
On the downside, it seems like Raziel has to do some stuff during the course of his adventuring career that is, well, kind of weird. But then again thousand year-old, undead, soul-sucking vampire killers may very well do a lot of wierd stuff, so Im willing to let that one slide. Besides, it may be weird but its still fun. You spend a heck of a lot of time pushing blocks around to solve various puzzles, and this didnt make much sense to me. Compare this to Tomb Raider. I mean an acrobatic, daisy-duke wearing, gun packing, hot polygonal babe pushing blocks around all day this I understand. Not only do I understand it, but it reaffirms my belief that the world is indeed a beautiful place. But a soul-sucking vampire killer pushing blocks around all day I dont know. Maybe its just me. At least the block puzzles are a lot more intricate than Tomb Raiders due to your ability to flip blocks in addition to pushing and pulling. That kind of makes up for the strangeness of it, I guess.
The boss characters are really magnificent to behold. Theyre beautiful in a sick and twisted undead kind of a way. The dialogue when Raziel meets his vampire brethren is excellent. Yes, I realize that I already said so, but its worth mentioning again. You wont be able to beat the bosses through conventional means, so youll have to find a weakness and exploit it. Once again, some of the weakness are pretty strange, but what the hell it looks cool and its fun.
For the most part the graphics are superb. Theres a really cool dark, macabre feel to the game. The lighting is the best Ive ever seen on the PlayStation. Watching Raziel carry a torch through those dark and twisting caverns is one of the highlights of the game. Its really obvious that Soul Reaver is pushing the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation to the max. Maybe past the max, as I soon shall reveal.
Why then, you may be rightly asking, is this only a three star game? It pains me to say it, but this game played like a journey into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Its a pretty swell game in most respects, but theres a darkness lurking within. Youve seen the Doctor in all his glory; now say hello to the sinister Mr. Hyde.
Soul Reaver is plagued by a sloppy, unfinished feel in virtually every aspect of the game, except the story and sound track. Raziels movement is spasmatic and imprecise-- incredibly loose is an understatement. Even after hours of playing the game, executing simple jumps is difficult and will almost always take multiple attempts. The control is so shaky that Raziel has about the same chance of walking in a straight line as an Irish priest on St. Patricks day. It just cant be done no matter how much you think it should be. There is no precision. The graphics --as beautiful as they are sometimes give out. A couple of times I jumped off a ledge only to land in utter nothingness, from which the character promptly disappeared leaving me with a black screen, a mean temper, no answers, and a destiny with the reset button. Your action button is used to open doors and pick up objects, but its also the same as your attack button. For some reason its virtually impossible to open a door without kung-fu fighting it for a while. The same goes for picking up a weapon or flipping a switch. You just wail away at it until the proper action caches on. Sometimes you give it a beating that would make the L.A.P.D. green with envy before you actually execute the desired effect. On occasion you drop a weapon in an odd location, like next to a wall. Instead of bouncing off, it disappears half way into the wall for a few seconds before promptly teleporting to a more accessible location a few feet away. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. This had the feel of a really excellent beta version, which is even stranger considering the game was almost a year late. Maybe Im being a bit hard on the game, but only because it came so close and then choked on ridiculous mistakes. Besides, Ive seen both Eidos and Crystal Dynamics do so much better on several occasions. Mr. Hyde is an ugly old chap indeed.
Dont get me wrong, this isnt a bad game, its just not a great game. It was six months late and it should have been a year late. Millennium approaches, PCs are rocking, third and forth generation PlayStation games are looking super sweet, and the Dreamcast has launched. An unfinished product just isnt going to cut it. The bottom line on Kain; Could have been, should have been, and tragically wasnt.