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Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (Windows)

80
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Zovni (9360)
Written on  :  Jun 11, 2002
Platform  :  Windows

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Summary

"I will devour your Soul, you helpless little gamer!!!"

The Good

I was really surprised by Soul Reaver when it finally got to me, especially since I expected it to be nothing more than a post-apocalyptic/horror Tomb Raider wannabe. The game starts out on the right foot by putting you in a story that is entertaining and fits smartly into the game. You are the vampire Raziel, Kain's right hand man and his most powerful warrior. But as it turns out you make the mistake of "evolving" sooner than your master, he gets pissed and throws you into the abyss. However instead of dying you awake centuries later having been transformed by an unknown force into some sort of spectral vampire, a creature that feeds on souls and can walk through either the material or spectral planes of the world. Your mission? Payback time baby! And along the way you'll pick up some interesting tidbits about your past...

Gameplay itself could be summed up as a "less anal Tomb Raider" meaning that there isn't as high an emphasis on precision jumping or acrobatic antics, but the game is at it's core a 3d action-platformer. Of course I wouldn't be writing this down in the "good" section if it weren't for the wonderful twists the game applies to enhance everything that is good about that genre, and get rid of everything that is not. For starters Raziel has super-human strenght, so you are able to push, pull and even flip objects (adding a new layer of complexity to the Eidos trademark "giant box puzzles"), and you get to make impossibly long jumps, as well as glide around, etc. Another good design choice is the way the game progresses and introduces it's mechanics. Each boss soul you absorb grants you new powers, and those powers in turn, open up new parts of the gameworld (ie. being able to climb allows you to go up that mountain you couldn't get to before).

Enemies are for the most part vampire mutations, and as we know, vampires only die by fire, water, sunlight, or... impaling :))... So even the tedious fighting in these types of games gets revamped when it comes to getting down and dirty, since you can stun your opponents with your hits, but it will take one of those previous means to destroy them...

The other great gameplay premise lies within the plane-switching abilities you have, which allow you to switch between the material and spectral plane of a given location on the fly. This changes the scenery dramatically in most places and introduces new sets of rules (ie. you are weightless, water has no mass, and you can't flip switches or open doors on the spectral plane), in essence it is a clever and original feature that breathes new life into what's already a tired idea.

The plane-switching also shows off another area where the game really shines: the graphics. Sure, they are not the most detailed, and there's some considerable fogging when compared to newer games, but the engine uses a lot of excellent lighting effects (which are used to the max when you switch planes, changing the tones and shades of everything around you), and has virtually no load times. In fact, you can traverse the entire gameworld without loading up once!

And of course I have to mention that the game has a great moody soundtrack which really kicks in sometimes, and an excellent voice-acting (truly some of the best I've heard).

The Bad

As surprised as I was about Soul Reaver's originality, I still have some bones to pick with it. For starters the consolistic controls will give you a headache every now and then ("my mouse is RIGHT there!! Why can't I use it to look around???") and there are a lot of console-touches that may rub a lot of people the wrong way (ie. "Press Start").

There are WAAAAAAAAYYY too much of the Eidos box-puzzles, and the game sometimes gives no clear indication of what to do next, momentarily stopping progression because you simply have no clue of what to do or where to go! "Go east of the temple and you shall find your destiny in the bowels of the earth...!!" Ok, I take it that means I have to go down some cave somewhere... but what am I going to do/kill/destroy there? What's my objective? And where the hell is east in this place anyway???? :))

The game also gives you a glimpse of what could become a pseudo-rpg angle, but never really explores that. It allows you basically to get some bonus spells, and enlarge your health bar, but that's it. It's a real shame they didn't explore that concept more throughly.

But what stings me the most is the way the story ends. I don't want to spoil it for you all, but it is simply embarrassing. The game slowly builds up from it's "just revenge" storyline and introduces sideplots and different threads that make the plot more and more interesting as you go. But the game ends before properly closing any threads. In short... there's no climax!! You fight Kain and... "To be continued" (well not exactly that way, but I don't want to spoil anymore) I hear this is because the game was in fact, chopped in half and released like this, but I don't think that's a fair excuse. They should have decided a better place to chop this gigantic idea they had, because as it is right now the game just doesn't end, it simply stops.

The Bottom Line

There are some things you can point out and that become a nuisance about Soul Reaver, but the fact of the matter is that it is a kickass game. Not so much because of it's particular genre or basic premise, but because the twists and original ideas it brings to a tried and true (but already boring) formula. If you are not afraid of dipping into some console-based waters, then dive in because you'll have a blast playing this one.