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Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was released in America for the Sony Playstation on August 16, 1999 with an ad campaign featuring the tagline "the game where your enemies don't just die; you eat their souls!" ...how lovely.

Kain is deified...

The game opens with the absolute greatest FMV intro ever created. (Yes, it's a little choppy on the then-aging Playstation, but a DVD-quality version is in the hidden extra section of the Soul Reaver 2 disc.) A thousand years after the events of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Kain has conquered the world and rules as its vampiric king, setting his throne at the very pillars that he helped corrupt. At the beginning of his reign, he snared six souls from the underworld and reanimated their corpses, creating vampire lieutenants.

The narrator is the first "born" and strongest of the lieutenants, Raziel. He explains the current situation of Earth(?) and why he has come before Kain today. After hundreds of years of vampirism, Kain, Raziel, and his "brothers" became progressively less human and more demonic. Kain would always transform first, with Raziel second and the other lieutenants following in order of rank. That's how it always was until the day that Raziel had the audacity to transform before his king...

Raziel kneels before Kain and spreads his new batlike wings. Kain inspects them for a few scant seconds before ripping the bones from them as the other five brothers watch. Minutes later, Turel and Dumah, the second and third strongest lieutenants, respectively, cast Raziel into the Abyss at Kain's order. The Abyss is a huge swirling vortex that glows eerily even in full daylight. As a vampire, the water instantly melts Raziel's flesh as would acid. He is reduced literally to skin and bones as he falls for what is forever to him. Finally he drifts to the rock bottom of the Abyss and regains full consciousness. The odd flag that all the lieutenants wear on one shoulder with their clan symbol on it is the only scrap of clothing he has left, so he tosses it 'round his neck to create a nifty bandit mask to cover his missing jaw...

One of the creepiest voices ever heard by man calls out to Raziel from the ceiling... which looks as if it were covered in octopus tentacles. Raziel, Raziel, Raziel, what have you gotten yourself into this time...

From here on in, the game starts. Boy, let me tell you, it is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Maybe not a barrel of monkeys with big red asses, but a barrel of regular monkeys? Oh yeah!

The voice introduces himself as the Elder God and explains what has happened to Raziel. He then leads Raziel through a training area where tiny dialogue boxes silently glide up and disappear from the bottom of the screen. (The game's main playing screen is blessédly uncluttered.) Here Raziel learns the basics of jumping, high jumping, combat, soul eating, and gliding. Finally delivered, from the underworld, Raziel is instructed on how to use his Shift Glyph.

As he approaches a circle of pillars (no, not THOSE pillars), he is guided toward a swirling blue portal on the ground. By feeding up to full energy in the Spectral Realm (where he has unknowingly been since he woke up), Raziel can step up to the vortex and shift into the Material Realm, where he existed as a vampire. It's a bit of a shock to see the leaning pillars and gnarled floors stretch and morph into more normal shapes. The two-world concept crops up hundreds of times through the game.

From there on starts the real meat and potatoes of the game, which I'll not spoil for you. Moving along now...

Weapons:

  • Staves - Hands down the most fun weapon in the entire game. After smacking your prey around a bit until it's stunned, you can simply impale him!!
  • Torches - Really just sticks with fire on one end... these aren't as much fun since they burn out after you finish your prey off by immolating it. They can be recharged by sticking them inside large flames in cauldrons or bonfires.
  • Raziel's own claws - Alright, so Raziel isn't yet powerful enough to kill with his bare han--claws. After stunning your prey, you'll have to find some kind of environmental hazard such as a spike on the wall, a shaft of sunlight, a bonfire, or a pool of water at which to throw it.
  • The Soul Reaver - I'll try to avoid spoiling this as much as possible, but the ancient sword is shattered, unleashing the wraith sword within it. Raziel is then bonded to it and can call it up anytime he is at full power in the physical world, and anytime in the spectral world. It is the only weapon (besides claws) that Raziel can take into the spectral realm. It is the "best" weapon in the game and can stun vampires in just a few hits. The finishing move for it is simply exploding the vampire, leaving the soul right there for the taking. The finishing move is slow, though, and leaves you open to attack from other enemies for several seconds.
  • The Fire reaver - Originally there were several upgrades planned for the soul reaver which were removed, leaving only this one. The fire reaver is created by finding the Fire Forge. In the material world, pass the Reaver through a large flame to turn it into the Fire Reaver again. It goes out anytime you jump in water or shift to the spectral realm.

Enemies:

  • Dumahim - Bah, these are the easy ones. After all, they're the ones that the game designers use to teach you combat in the physical realm! They are the clan of your brother, Dumah. They are the generic enemy of the game and are found most everywhere, but especially in Dumah's fortress.
  • Melchahim - These things can barely even keep their skins from falling off. They are little threat besides their digging ability. They are found only in Melchiah's area of the Nosgoth.
  • Zephonim - They are the clan of your brother Zephon and have evolved like him into spider/insect-like creatures. They are very difficult if only because weapons are scarce during this portion of the game... They are found exclusively in the Silenced Cathedral with Zephon himself.
  • Rahabim - These are fairly difficult as they will attack you with telekinetic projectiles from the water where you cannot dive until you have absorbed Rahab's soul. The swimming system of the game is geared mostly towards flight rather than fight. They are confined to the waterways of Rahab's area.
  • Turelim - These things are giants. They look somewhat like a cross between a satyr and a Minotaur. They are the clan of your omitted brother, Turel, and carry his symbol on their backs. They also fire projectiles and are extremely aggressive. I recommend always using a staff against them, as they will likely get in a few licks before they go down, leaving you without enough energy to sustain the Soul Reaver. Since Turel was cut out of the game at the eleventh hour, his area of Nosgoth was also deleted. His clan is found in the hidden "bonus" areas and the very last caverns of the game.
  • Vampire Hunters - These come in two types: the ones with crossbows and the ones with flamethrowers. There are only a few to be found near the human city's gates, and even fewer elsewhere. If you attack the first one you encounter, news of his death will influence the other humans' behavior for the rest of the game. If you don't, they actually fall down on their knees and worship you! It's worth doing, especially since the worst they can do is send you to the spectral realm, anyway. ;)
  • Vampire worshippers - The suck-ups of the game. They have chosen to become slaves and, if necessary, food for their vampire masters. They are dressed in flowing red robes and will always attack, regardless of your behavior. If memory serves, they are found only in the Silenced Cathedral.
  • Sluagh - These are the wretches in the Spectral realm with the claw-arms and giant teeth. They are weak even in packs and will flee if they see their own kind getting whipped. Their auras go through the spectrum to represent how much health they have. Once they turn semi-transparent, eat them just as you would a soul.
  • Vampire Wraiths - If you fail to eat a soul before it fades away, it turns into a giant floating cloak with glowing red eyes. They can fly and are tougher than Sluagh, but with similar auras. If the wraith re-inhabits its body, a Super Vampire is created.
  • Super Vampires - Any breed of vampire can become one of these after existing as a Vampire Wraith. They have blue flecks of energy floating about them and are much tougher than they were previously.

Bosses:

  • Melciah - The last-born and weakest lieutenant, he has mutated alone into a huge beast that, like his children, can barely keep from falling apart. Melciah exists weakly in the physical world and weakly in the Spectral Realm as well. He can pass through the gates and bars in the room in which you battle him and passes this power along to Raziel once his soul is absorbed.
  • Kain #1 - Obviously you don't kill him this time, but some plot points are introduced and Raziel gains the Soul Reaver.
  • Zephon - Zephon has evolved into a huge spiderlike creature and the Silenced Cathedral is practically his body. Defeating him is more of a puzzle than a test of fighting skill. His soul gives Raziel the ability to climb certain walls which are painfully obvious once you recognize how they look.
  • The Morlock - Ok, this is not really a boss. He doesn't even have his own 3D model! He's just a Turelim super vampire! He can be done in with the Soul Reaver or the low-order weapons of the game. His soul is no different from the average vampire soul, but, once defeated, a relic appears which gives Raziel the ability to fire telekinetic projectiles.
  • Rahab - Rahab and his clan have developed an immunity to water and thrive in it. Rahab himself is not much bigger than ever, but his legs have fused together into a large fin. Read the manual carefully for a hint on how to defeat him. He passes on the immunity to water.
  • Dumah - Dumah, confident of his safety from the vampire hunters in his fortress, was defeated centuries ago. Countless Dumahim vampires lie about still impaled on human staves. Even Dumah himself is run through on his own throne. If you approach it in the spectral realm, you will have a short chat with Dumah as a vampire wraith. Yes kids, that means that when you pull out the staves, you're going to be fighting a boss super vampire. He gives Raziel the ability to create constricting bands of energy after running around and object or enemy.
  • Turel - In order to change the plot and leave room for sequels, Turel was cut from the game. The miniboss put in his place, merely a Turelim vampire, provides the same new ability as Turel's soul would have, presumably.
  • Kain #2 - This time you fight him in Moebius's time chamber, which is much bigger than his throne room, giving him more time to charge up his magic. You must use the Soul Reaver to strike him this time; anything else will just get you a laugh. ;)

It is worth noting that almost every new power deserves another trip through Nosgoth, as you will be able to reach new bonus areas and powerups!

Glyphs: Glyphs allow Raziel to use magic. He enters the game with the Shift glyph, which uses no energy. The other six glyphs are hidden throughout Nosgoth. If you ever find yourself solving a huge block puzzle without advancing the plot much, chances are good that you're going to be rewarded with a new glyph. The Glyphs are not necessary for beating the game, but make combat a lot easier when you're blindsided by two Super Turelim projectiles and there's not a staff in sight... In order of increasing strength they are as follows.

  • Force glyph - Nearby enemies are simply blown away from Raziel, hopefully into a shaft of sunlight, a spike, or some water.
  • Stone glyph - Raziel creates a small earthquake and turns nearby enemies to stone temporarily.
  • Sound glyph - Almost every new take on the vampire concept adds something new. This game's is their weakness to music. Raziel creates deafening sound waves which incapacitate/kill vampires.
  • Water glyph - Raziel detonates a burst of water all around him. Obviously ineffective against Rahabim...
  • Fire glyph - A personal favorite, this glyph instantly kills any species of vampire within range.
  • Sunlight glyph - The strongest spell, Raziel creates a field of light all around him that burns all vampires within range to dust.

Remember kids, using magic takes energy. Little tufts of glowing blue and red cotton candy scattered throughout Nosgoth are called Eldritch energy points. They sometimes appear when you defeat super vampires. You can only hold so much energy at first, but you can hold more by finding the five Eldritch energy powerups. They are floating diamonds with eyeballs on them.

Other Powerups

  • Health Powerup - These are floating golden pieces of a pie. Every time you get one, the pie floats onscreen and 1/5 of it is filled in. You get nothing until you get all five pieces. After you accomlish this once, twice, and thrice (a total of 15, kids), you will have a very large energy meter in the Physical realm, though the Spectral health meter never changes.
  • Eldritch energy powerup - Er, I covered this already. They look like floating octahedra with eyeballs. Whee. Get these to carry more magic energy.

Ahh, how I have rambled on. Anyway, kids, this is one of the best videogames I have ever played. The rich plot, voice acting, technical sidestepping of load times, and music all combine to create a game with more atmosphere than you'll know what to do with. After finding myself playing in a dark room, stomping around Nosgoth with a torch being attacked by vampires 'round every corner... well, I'm not embarrassed to say I had to turn the game off a few times. It helps, though, to turn up the brightness on your TV set. Heh, I almost made it to Melciah blindly poking around in the dark...

Unfortunately, Soul Reaver, like another Eidos game you might remember, relies far too heavily on block puzzles. Be prepared to slide blocks, blast blocks, flip blocks, spin blocks, stack blocks, climb on blocks, make love to b--wait, no. Anyway, you will play with boxes to reroute airflow, you will stack boxes to get to high places, and you will use blocks to complete murals on walls. I mean really, it's hard to keep up the image of twice-dead ghoul hell-bent on revenge when you spend a quarter hour here and there flipping blocks.

Ok ok, so there are a few drawbacks and an... abrupt ending. If only they hadn't deleted Turel and the mysterious Priestess characters, they'd have wrapped up everything by having Raziel repair the Silenced Cathedral and play a deadly hymn over all of Nosgoth. Having played and beaten Soul Reaver 2, however, I'm confident that we've gotten off with a better deal.

Hats off to you, Eidos.

Voice Talent:

Stuff about how the game works with PSX peripherals:
  • 1 player, baby!
  • Memory card - Three blocks of memory, baby!
  • Analog control compatible, baby.
  • Vibration function compatible, also, baby.
  • Rated "T" for "teen," baby.

Psst, hey kids. If you search around the internet for a program that can play *.xa audio files, you can listen to some of the omitted material that was mysteriously left on the disc! This includes Raziel talking to Turel (who does not respond, unfortunately) and the Priestess. There are 30 huge files which contain several sub tracks apiece. They seem to include all of the regular in game dialogue as well as all the omitted material.

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