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by Eidos

screen_13-01.jpg (5437 bytes)The latest installment in the Legacy of Kain series, Soul Reaver 2, brings us deeper into the web of intrigue between the vampire Kain, the seer Moebius, and our "hero" (and devourer of souls), Raziel. This game combines some of the best features of RPG and Action/Adventure games and keeps players entranced with a wickedly complex plot line. Although there are some minor hiccups along the way, Soul Reaver 2 is a game that non-initiates and fans alike will love to play.

screen_11-01.jpg (5877 bytes)SR2 does a great job of catching everyone up to speed on the events in the land of Nosgoth, with the handy Reader’s Digest version in the booklet and another version in the Bonus Materials section of the game, as well as a great first scene between Kain and Raziel in the cinema screens. To be brief, Raziel is a former warrior-priest whom the vampire Kain raised to be his first Lieutenant in his new empire. However, Kain ends up shredding our symbolic dark angel’s newly formed wings and casting him down into the Lake of the Dead. Raziel survived with help from a mysterious benefactor, and returns with his symbiotic sword, the Soul Reaver, to confront Kain. After a temporary defeat, Raziel follows Kain through Moebius’s time-stream portal to try and stop him from returning in time to change Nosgoth’s history. SR2 begins with Raziel shifting through time and seeking revenge upon Kain, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the lines between hero and villain are very thin indeed. Many of the assumptions from previous games are challenged, and I feel that the spirits of Blood Omen and SR are closer than ever to converging.

screen_17-01.jpg (6073 bytes)The graphics on SR2 are fabulous, with detailed and interesting interior architecture and environments. Some of the enemies are less detailed and have polygon problems and the outdoor environments are occasionally overly simplistic, but on the whole this is a beautifully rendered game. The cinematic screens are a thing of wonder as well. I can’t wait for the next installment where the game can make more use of the PS2 capabilities. (as a side note, everyone should probably turn up the brightness on their TVs before beginning, as some of the environments tend to be darker than necessary to see important elements)

screen_25-01.jpg (6363 bytes)The character movement is fluid and the camera does a great job of unobtrusively following Raziel. The fighting, where the future of the game could stand to evolve, is somewhat limited, with slight variations on two basic moves, a block and dodge function, and an ability to throw projectiles (although the latter is more complicated). This is much better than the old RPG style fights, but could still be beefed-up with more moves and better combinations. One element that was helpful was the autofacing feature, which came in handy when multiple enemies attack. As far as choices in movement, Raziel can glide (remember the torn wings?), crouch/crawl, sneak, swim, and climb certain walls. This really gives the environments a lot more depth and complexity. He can also rotate/push objects and pull switches (a la Laura Croft).

screen_18-01.jpg (6572 bytes)The music of the game is "dark and sinister orchestra music," which is really great, but I would have liked more variety. You know how it is when you get stuck for long periods of time in one environment, and the music gets so repetitive you want to throw your controller at the screen. The sound effects were good (I loved the sound of souls being sucked into my body), but enemy responses were pretty abysmal. One of the strongest elements of the game was the stupendous voice acting done in the cinematic sections. It was compelling and worthy of a big-screen performance by the best. Some critics have said it was too cheesy, but that fault would lie with the dialogue writers rather than actors, and it is this writer’s opinion that the dialogue was perfect for this sort of game.

screen_09-01.jpg (6791 bytes)So what are the plusses and minuses of this game that earn it a four star rating? My biggest peeve is the fact that it still has save points rather than a save button. I realize that this may make the game more challenging for some, but when you only have limited increments of time to play (some people work, you know!), a convoluted game such as this really needs a save function readily available. This element also becomes annoying because of the fact that you can’t skip through cinema screens, which can be long and tedious if you’ve already sat through them before. The game also could be pushed more in combat choices and in delivering a larger variety of puzzles. It has improved in leaps and bounds since the last installment, but could still use more variety.

screen_10-01.jpg (6816 bytes)What will make this game a must have for players is the great plot, which is full of surprises and a complexity between good and evil that rivals real life. The story is also chalk-full of symbolism and, this is my favorite part, has started working with the issues of free-will and time travel. The layers that are added by the ability to shift between the spirit and material realm (some actions can only be completed in one realm) and the actions made in time (which send out ripples to other times) opens up possibilities in complexity that are extremely exciting. I think that these elements are what will be blown open in the next installment, and I’m drooling as we speak. Although this game may not have taken as full advantage of this as it could, I am confident that we have some wonderful things to look forward to from this set-up. SR2 is definitely not a "the end" sort of game, and hints of many things to come.

screen_24-01.jpg (7037 bytes)If you are a fan, you’ve probably gone out and bought this game already. You may be looking at this and shaking your head because you feel like your appetite has just been whetted instead of satisfied. But if you have a penchant for RPG/action and haven’t been introduced to this series yet, by all means, purchase this game. Sour Reaver 2 is beginning to use the DVD functions with the game and is, in my opinion, on the way to tapping into the potential of the technology. In another generation, I think this series could be a contender if Eidos keeps pushing the boundaries and thinking outside of the box (so to speak). SR2 may leave a little to be desired, but it is a great playing experience and a nice place to get started in a series that looks to be going places that you, as a gamer, are going to want to go.

Monica Hafer   (12/21/2001)


Ups: Great story; nice visuals; good control; excellent soundtrack.

Downs: Save points; can't skip through cutscenes.

Platform: Sony PS2