Full Review: A vampire without its fangs is easily as cool as one still with them.
Years ago, in the early days of the Sony PlayStation, there lied one title that while lackluster, later proved to be worthy enough to turn around and spawn an entire new franchise. Originally published by Activision, and developed by Silicon Knights, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was redeemed by the good people over at Eidos Interactive and Crystal Dynamics to shape the way a true series should be wrought. Eidos and Crystal together produced an additional story to the first Blood Omen, titled Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Three years later, in the midst of today, the series is now revisited once again with the long awaited and most anticipated sequel, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2.
At the very end of the last Soul Reaver title, players watched Kain as he leapt forth into a time warp back into the past, only for the questions of the story to be unanswered, and begged for. Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver 2 acknowledges that call. The new story develops as Kain heedlessly has plunged back through time, and you, playing as Raziel -- a vampire without a jawbone and shredded wings -- pursue him until his demise is finally at a closing stage. Through a series of deep narrative story telling in and out of the life and death realms, it's up to you to put an end to the misery Kain the vampire plagues the world with to exact your thirst for revenge upon him, as you are the chosen one to do so.
For a better turnout than the last game, Soul Reaver 2 packs much more action in its gameplay rather than the first, which mostly consisted of backtracking to solve puzzles and fight enemies that repeatedly emerged. Similar to the first game, Raziel's motions consist of a set of abilities that allow him to leap high up to grab onto ledges, crawl, peer in a first person view, glide, and even climb up walls using your bare claws. The combat system also returns, which allows you to attack with your arms or weaponry, and block attacks with either your arms or weaponry you may have in possession at the time. Some enemies carry with them blades and giant axes that you can obtain by defeating them. Once enemies are low on health, the best part of using weapons are the final blows, enabling Raziel to jab the staff -- or whatever he's carrying -- straight through the chest of the opposition.
One thing though about the combat system is that enemies vary in difficulty, and even have a set of their own abilities Raziel has to confront against. Each of the enemies with different characteristics uses a different method of attack pattern. Some are even smarter than others. With Raziel, you can defend, and dodge attacks, but if you are to avoid enemy blows too much during the game, they can learn your pattern, and then in effect turn it against you, as some figure out to block that particular attack method. Others, knowledgeable about your defense operations, will begin to find ways to strike at you differently. For example, if you are to crouch too often during battle, the enemy will cease swinging with high attacks, and switch to low positioned ones instead. With a more improved combat system, the gameplay remains interesting throughout.
Unlike in the first Soul Reaver, Raziel now possesses the power to activate the shimmering Soul Reaver weapon that engulfs his arm at will any point in time during the game. The Reaver not only substitutes as a powerful weapon that can lessen the advantage of the enemies quicker, but it also serves as a means to pass through certain doorways that can't be unlocked any other way. But, while the Soul Reaver is being used in the Material Realm, it drains Raziel's soul meter quicker than normal, which causes the meter to disappear and eventually send him to the Spectral Plane; the land of dead. In order to keep Raziel alive throughout the living realm in the game, once an enemy is defeated, their soul will unearth from their carcass, and Raziel can then open his cloth to suck the soul in him. It's not only necessary to do so throughout the gameplay, but it's also cool to look at.
Although Soul Reaver 2 relies more on its combat strategy this time, the game still involves a round of puzzles that need to be solved in order to get any further. The last game's puzzles mostly centered on the pulling of large blocks that would help Raziel climb to higher ledges, or activate switches in the ground to raise locked doors. Soul Reaver 2 still possesses the last game's mainstream of enigmas, but also has a new breed of its own. Particularly, one of the new puzzles has to do with opening doorways with a large mirror device. The object is carried by certain enemies, and can only be obtained through force -- resulting in their death. Another kind of puzzle involves you switching from the Material Realm into the Spectral Plane just like the last game did. Sometimes you may come across a barred gate that if only you were in the Spectral Plane, you can pass through by simply pressing up against it, leaving Raziel to automatically seep through like as if he were the T-1000 from the second Terminator movie, made of liquid metal. Amongst a set of other obvious puzzles, like using revolving switches to open paths up, the game is intuitive and shouldn't bog you down too much with its brainteasers.
With some puzzles turning out to be really bewildering, and even the camera angles slightly off scale, the graphics of Soul Reaver 2 also has its ups and downs. First, Soul Reaver 2 isn't the best looking game on the system. Even with largely scaled temple areas brimming with finely constructed computer craftsmanship, outdoor swamps with realistic splattering mud and moving plant life, and also underwater areas with an aquatic look so lifelike and engaging, the game's character models amongst other moveable game objects look great but still don't redefine what the power of the system can really accomplish. However, each of the game areas does reach a unique look and bustle with interactivity. For instance, you may find screeching rats through the inside interiors, and outside, frogs leaping about. Just enough to look at and compliment greatly, the graphics are on a good level, but could still be so much better looking.
Lighting and shadow effects aside from everything else are rather amazing throughout the game, though. If you are to grab a torch off the wall, and just run straight through any dank corridor, you can just glance at the walls as they adhere to the light stream emanating from the minuscule fire source in your hand. The same goes for the game's character animations, which of course are mastered to their full effect, and couldn't have been done any better. Raziel's movement within the game is perplexing and yet neat to look at. When you take a staff and ram it through an enemy's chest, the action affects the character that appears to be in pain as their blood splatters against the wall, dropping to the ground with the object still inside of them. While gruesome, such instances as this are executed well to the point that they probably can't get any finer.
What works for the graphics does the same for the game's sound department. Since Soul Reaver 2 is largely made up in portion of storyline, there is a number of character speaking roles for the main cast. Returning to the Soul Reaver sequel is the original cast from the first game. Including Michael Bell, who plays Raziel, and Simon Templeman, playing Kain, the voice actors get into their roles and stay there with great work and artistry talent. Aside from the main cast, the expendable human enemies talk just as well, albeit only one or two lines from certain type of characters. Overall, the dialogue used throughout the game not only sounds great, but is also well acted out by each of his or her own playing the part.
In such an existence of strange environments that Soul Reaver 2 delves into, the music and sound work justifies itself right. Noticeably, the in-game score is everywhere. From Raziel's pounding footwork against the many stone, dirt, mud, and even watery surfaces, it all is enabled like it should be realistically. When switching into the Spectral Plane, the shift between the worlds changes with a hint of surrealism in the air, kind of sounding like wind blowing through a pipe. Even the clashing of weaponry against humans and creatures alike is also there and true to what the nature may be. As for the game's music, it streams through silently, but readily tones faster when approaching a set of enemies and gives off the continuous sense of adventure throughout the game, again and again.
A true sight to behold is Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2's repertoire of bonuses that only add up more so to the overall replay value. Considerably, a lot of the bonus items are locked from the start of the game. To open the case up on these, you must finish the game. The list of features included consists of the parts from the making of Soul Reaver 2. Early character art sketch designs, 3D character models in action, and even the voice actor outtakes are just some of the parts from what you can enjoy. To add to that, there's even a group of trailers from a number of Eidos's games already in existence, including Wave Rally, Project Eden, Thunderstrike: Operation Phoenix, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2, and even the recently released Blood Omen sequel, Blood Omen 2. It's a real treat when a company like Eidos goes out of their way to piece together not only a very enjoyable game, but also many extras to go along with it.
As I've said earlier, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 isn't the best-looking PlayStation 2 title. Hell, it's not even the best of show in gameplay. But, the game does have a whole bunch of bonus materials, and even an original storyline that continues the popular PlayStation title Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, with a more improved gameplay system that's altered a little, and works even better than the first's. Those who endure in satisfaction with battles and blood, but can't stand puzzle solving that will happen often at times within the game...Soul Reaver 2 is most likely not for you. If you were a huge fan of the first title, though, or are just interested in becoming a part of the Soul Reaver series, then the direction definitely lies within this well put together game of many good but not all great qualities. Buy the sequel today if the soul lust is what you crave.