What An Epic!
Well folks you are in for one hell of a ride. If you are a fan of vampires or if you're just looking for a great story with plenty of action and original ideas this your game. Oh, and you need a tolerance for Playstation 1 graphics if you're going to get through this one.
The game is actually a sort of follow up to Silicon Knight's excellent Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Set many years after the end of Blood Omen (I'm not calling it B.O. so bear with me :P) the enigmatic vampire Kain has forged an empire for himself and basically exterminated the humans of Nosgoth. With his empire being so large and all Kain creates 5 lieutenants to command his vampire forces. One of those lieutenants is Raziel, our protagonist. The story opens with a stunning CG (for it's time) explaining how Raziel sprouted wings and received death for his "transgression." Kain, being the evil jealous vampire lord that he is, decides that if he doesn't evolve first - nobody does. And with that he casts Raziel into the Abyss where he lays burned and very much dead until....
A few centuries later the mysterious "Elder God" revives Raziel and gives him a chance for vengeance...but for what price. And I'll leave it at that. The story, while an unoriginal vengeance theme, is excellent and provides a couple of "jump out of your seat" twists and many turns as Raziel seeks to hunt Kain down for killing him.
I must say, and many gamers out there agree with me, that the LoK series has some of the best voice acting done in ANY video game - period. Simon Templeman returns to revise his role of Kain from Blood Omen and his powerful voice acting is superbly done and he steals the show. But Michael Bell as Raziel was one great casting decision and the banter between these two especially later on is fantastic. All the supporting cast is creepy and vampiric and very well done. The music is absolutely fantastic. Kurt Harland and his Ozar Midrashim song seem like they were made for this game. Powerful. All the area themes are very well done and the combat effects are top notch. A lot of today's designers could learn a lot from the presentation of Soul Reaver. The game's best aspect by far.
Controlling Raziel is very easy and responsive. Even the windows version is quite good with the keyboard and all. There are 2 different types of jumps and you can glide with your ruined wings which is very cool. You can attack with your claws and in groundbreaking style (for it's time...) you can grab torches off walls, use sharp lances and spears and basically just destroy your vampire opponents with whatever your sick imagination brings up. Once your vampire foes are dazed which happens after you hit them successively and hard, you can pick them up and throw them in sunlight, water and on spikes to finish them off. Once this happens their soul appears and Raziel, being the "Soul Reaver" can eat the foes' souls and recover health. Very cool and this forces you to feed to keep alive in the material world. Ah yes, there are 2 worlds. Raziel can switch between the Spirit Realm and the Material Realm at certain "portals". This is helpful in certain puzzles where the spirit realm makes places much more accessible. You also gain special abilities such as telekenesis by acquiring glyphs scattered across Nosgoth in shrines that really add to the game. And when you acquire a certain legendary weapon - the fun really starts!
Saving is a breeze you can save anytime, anywhere. Not to mention there are warp gates all around Nosgoth that teleport you from place to place so there's no repetitive walking around. The boss fights will make you replay them again they are so fun and the rewards for them help access new areas such as the aforementioned glyphs. Your enemies are never repetitive as you go up against hordes of vampires from your former brother's legions. If killing humans is your thang then stroll on over to the human citadel and start sucking souls - if you can find it!
Well the graphics are a bit dated and it does detract I am afraid but it's not too much to worry about.
Some of the puzzles are pretty dumb and they appear at the most inappropriate times. For example you wade through hordes of vampires as you try and get to the boss and just before his lair the game throws a block puzzle at you. This is just a waste of momentum.
As for the ending: Well it may leave you screaming at your screen... There is a reason for Soul Reaver 2 folks and this game is it.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for an excellent cinematic adventure with plenty of action and drama along with awesome weapons and vampires sprinkled in then look no further. Grab Soul Reaver from a bargain bin now and go on an epic ride. Just make sure you leave space on that hard disk (sorry PS owners :P) for Soul Reaver 2 and LoK: Defiance if you want to see the story of Kain and Raziel through.