Title: Soul Reaver 2
Platform: PC, Steam, PS2
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Adventure, Action, Puzzle
Players: Single Player
Written by Whistler 1st October 2013
Many years ago when I was still a fledgling gamer I would spend plenty of my time after school sitting down to watch my dad play some of the PSX's gems, like Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil and a little diamond in the rough by the name of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver; A tale that follows Raziel, one of the vampire king of Nosgoth's lieutenants.
Kain the vampire king had brought about the ruin of the Pillars, a group of pillars that controlled the balance of the world; and thus led the land of Nosgoth down a path of ruination. With every few centuries or so Kain would evolve and gain a new gift, afterwards the other lieutenants would follow; however Raziel steps forth with the gift of wings before his master.
In what seems to be envy Kain tears the wings from Raziel and has him cast into the lake of the dead, a endless whirlpool of pain and damnation meant for traitors and cowards.
Raziel is brought back from the dead and goes on a vengeful quest to hunt down each of his once sworn brethren and Kain himself in order to restore the wheel of fate, end Kain's plague on Nosgoth and ultimately to get his own back.
Soul Reaver 2 as expected is a continuation of the tale as Raziel misses the chance to kill Kain which leads him to enter the time streaming chamber and travel back in time to continue his hunt for his former master.
LoK:Soul Reaver 2 is a action adventure game that mainly focuses on puzzle solving and a more story focused experience, sadly I was never able to fully appreciate this game as when I play this game for PS2 I had replaced my console with the PS3 which lacked a specific emulation chip that would glitch a particular puzzle in the first dungeon. Little did I know that the game had in fact also been released for PC until I stumbled across it and the rest of the Legacy of Kain series on Steam for cheap; and with new-
Now even when considering this games age of 12 whole years, Soul Reaver 2 was never a particularly pretty game with typically average models and fairly low resolution textures. It does however still to this day retain a very unique feel, with surprisingly life filled character animations that help you really connect with them and immerse yourself in this world of Nosgoth's past.
There is a half decent amount of variety to the levels, each feeling unique to the other; where the textures may have been low quality, various sections of the game are painted with detailed wall murals or ancient texts that help make the world feel a little more alive that help make up for the more simplistic sections of the game.
The main mechanics of the game have been brought from Soul Reaver 1 and refined,
Raziel's health is depicted in a spiral coil where he loses energy upon taking damage and similar to a vampire draining its prey of blood to sustain life, Raziel can consume the souls of the dead and his fallen foes in order to regenerate his life force and sustain his physical being. However when Raziel's health coil is depleted he can no longer sustain his corporeal body and he’s transported to the spectral realm, a twisted mirror image of the physical realm (the world of the living so to speak). Inside the physical realm Raziel's previous foes are non existent, Raziel can then hunt the lost souls of the underworld and other wraiths in order to replenish his vitality.
The Spectral realm is also used as a (at it's time at least), very unique puzzle mechanic where upon certain obstacles can be overcome with newly twisted ledges or by reducing water to thin air; Raziel can in fact shift to the Spectral realm at will, but to return to the Physical realm, he requires full strength and a conduit point in order to return to the living.
Sadly however many of it's predecessor’s weaknesses are still present in SR2, with camera control being incredibly unpredictable at times (the amount of times I fell from great heights due to a sudden camera swerve was painful) and Raziel's loose movements make certain sections of the game irritating especially when interacting with objects or fighting.
Alas combat is still pretty basic like SR1, with two types of attacking being light attacks and heavy attacks;
however the combat is not bad per say, it is flawed with the player often having to fend more than one enemy which leads to Raziel being overpowered easily as you can only properly concentrate on one enemy at a time. This can arguably gives an odd strength to the gameplay as it's no walk in the park to defeat enemies and gives off a very well scaled perspective of Raziel as he isn't meant to be some ultimate warrior with many of his enemies being skilled vampire hunters, crusaders and even demonic creatures from beyond. At the same time combat can be incredibly tedious with the player often having to retry as the game progresses and the far more challenging enemies become rather overpopulated.
To combat this however Raziel does hold a secret weapon, gained in the previous Soul Reaver; Raziel has the, well, Soul Reaver. A wraith-
However the spectral weapon’s power comes at a price, with the Soul Reaver consuming the souls of Raziel's victims Raziel loses out on much needed healing. This is marvelous simple yet effective mechanic changes the playing field both ways giving the player an amazingly powerful upper hand against enemies but with a balanced trade off. While the Soul Reaver is ultimately the strongest weapon at your disposal, overly relying on the aetherial blade will risk arousing it (hmm, sounded funnier in my head) which results in it devouring a large chunk of Raziel's health in the process.
Where combat is arguably Soul Reaver's downfall, SR was intended to have much more emphasis on puzzle solving which it executes very well to say the least. Difficulty incrimentally transitions as the player progresses with each puzzle building on previous knowledge in order to overcome the more complicated puzzles. This builds into a challenging and fun gameplay experience that is highly rewarding as you are given new abilities and gifted with Soul Reaver's well done cut scenes.
By far one of the strongest aspects of the game is the effort put into storyline and character portrayal;
Soul Reaver 2 only has roughly four to five main characters with speaking roles, however each lend a monumentally superb impact to the game's story. Dialogue is scripted in an almost Shakespearian fashion with character interactions being filled with rich use of language and dramatic storytelling The game plays out more like a novel than a game at some points where I found myself placing the controller softly on the floor while I became enthralled with how scenes played out as Raziel and Kain interact with each other portraying themes of morality, fate and free will. Even listening to one of the many of Raziel's monologist expositions on Nosgoth's history and his perspective are a delight to watch.
Each character is well written with most, especially Raziel and Kain, having many layers to them that are unveiled throughout as the player guesses everyone's motives or hidden agendas. Along with this is the game's portrayal of time travel. Where most games aim to either make time travel as simple for the player to understand or end up making it far too convoluted, Soul Reaver gives an almost believable attempt with it (Sadly explaining this ruins a fair chunk of the plot). My point being is that the story is well written with mature and thought provoking themes as well as well researched and executed methods of themes and views that are usually otherwise downplayed.
A great advantage with the use of time travel is the way Soul Reaver goes about handling backtracking, in SR1 often backtracking to reach the next stage with your new-
Soul Reaver 2 does not have a multiplayer mode (nor does it need it) and sadly lacks replayability but is a single player journey that once you sink your teeth into is an amazing experience and possibly one of the most successfully ambitious gems of the Playstation 2 era up there with Shadow of the Colossus. However the full experience of Soul Reaver 2 can only be truly appreciated if you have previously played at least Soul Reaver which is sadly alienating to new comers.
At the same time there is little to no secrets to be found besides the story itself so an average playthrough is around 12-
Where Soul Reaver 2 hasn't aged well graphically as time has past, it's story, characters, and well put together world/lore are more than a testament to time which still holds up above most of the AAA titles of today and is easily a must play for those who loves adventure and story driven games.
Some of the best voice acting in gaming,
Balanced gameplay of puzzle solving and combat,
Excellent Story and Characters,
Well articulated animations.
Clunky camera and movement controls,
Story can be perplexing to those unfamiliar with the previous game(s),
Sudden jump in enemy difficulty on occasions,
Average quality textures,
Very poorly ported to PC when it comes to controller set up.
Final verdict ,
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 easily gets a 9.5 out of 10 and a definite recommendation by me