I’ve had a few weeks break from #ThrowbackThursday since completing my Final Fantasy IX playthrough and thus it’s time to get back up and running again. I decided to stick with the same era but go with a completely different genre and fancied tackling the Legacy of Kain series, now why have I started with Soul Reaver when Blood Omen is the first of the series? Well, it’s the only one I’ve actually played before and so I wanted to stick with something I had nostalgia for. I tried a couple of different versions, the Steam one just wouldn’t load beyond the developer credits, the PS1 version (via ePSXe so I could capture screenshots) didn’t like my controller (I’m using a Rock Candy Xbox One controller and it wouldn’t let me use the analogue stick or hold down L2+R2 to look around) and thus have landed on the Dreamcast version of the game (courtesy of ReDream). Screenshots in this initial post are taken from the PlayStation version of the game as I was having trouble capturing images from ReDream.
I suppose I should add that I do own versions of the game on both the Dreamcast and the PlayStation and actually played through a good chunk of the PlayStation version back in the day, whilst I watched a friend play the Dreamcast one.
Things open with a CGI cut-scene that looks rather ropey now, in-fact it’s mostly a pixelated mess so I’ve not captured any of it. Raziel, the game’s protagonist, the titular Soul Reaver, narrates, he tells us that Kain rules over the vampires, but has now lost most of his human form, this he’s probably okay with as he detests humanity, and amongst the vampire race, he’s become deified. His hatred of humanity has led him to create his own group of lieutenants to enact his war, Raziel is just one of them, he also happens to be the oldest.
One day he comes before Kain on his throne, something has changed, he’s evolved wings. Full of jealousy over Raziel becoming more than Kain is, he breaks Raziel’s wings and instructs the rest of his lieutenant to throw Raziel into the Lake of the Dead, this is a punishment usually reserved for the weak and traitors.
As he falls to the bottom of the lake his flesh scorches away, his jaw seems to disintegrate and his wings become tattered rags. He lays there for millennia but is eventually awakened by a voice. Surprised by his appearance, he covers his missing jaw with his cloak.
“Raziel, you are worthy.
I know you, Raziel.
You are worthy.”
Raziel: “What pitiful form do I inhabit?”
“You didn’t surivev the abyss, I have spared you, the choice is not yours, you are reborn.”
Raziel’s body may be ravaged, but his soul still inhabits it, he is told that to redeem himself he must become the voice’s Soul Reaver and redeem himself by returning balance to Nozgoth, this, the voice says, could be his revenge on Kain.
First, though, Raziel has to escape the Underworld, returning to the land of the living. One way in which he can do this is by taking advantage of gates, or “Planar Portals”, these allow him to travel across great spans, though he has to find each gate first. Standing on one side will allow me to choose the location on the other side of the gate, thus offering the ability to jump back and forth between locations as the game progresses.
The next stage of this tutorial, though it’s well disguised, is to introduced Raziels life system. He no longer has a thirst for blood, his hunger goes much deeper, the only way to keep him “alive” is to devour the souls of his enemies. A little earlier I mentioned Raziels newly evolved wings and how they lay in tatters, fortunately, they’re not completely useless and by jumping and grabbing them, pulling them out to his sides, Raziel is able to glide across gaps that are ordinarily too large for him to jump across.
Our first set of foes are easily dispatched, they are the scavengers of souls. The voice explains that they are souls consumed by the “Sluagh” and are forever lost, beyond redemption, they cannot enter the “Wheel of Fate”.
Next are blue swirls that appear in certain locations, these allow Raziel to switch from the Spectral Realm to the Material Realm. He can only move in this direction at these spots and if he has a full health bar, however, he can switch back from the Material Realm to that of the Spectral at will (or if his health bar fully depletes, which it does slowly whilst in the Material Realm, he can prolong his time there by devouring more souls). By switching from one to the other the landscape changes, allowing Raziel to solve puzzles and progress through the environment, foes may or may not change too and he can manipulate physical properties such as blocks or pick up weapons.
This comes with the caveat that there is more that can harm him, being immersed in water or light can see his health deplete quicker, and force me to have to devour more souls or switch back to the Spectral Realm.
Our first genuine enemies are encountered shortly after, these are the sons of Dumahim, one of Raziel’s brothers, another of Kain’s Lieutenants. Despite their appearance being drastically different to how Raziel remembers other vampires looking, he believes they have similar weaknesses, and thus we’re introduced to one of my favourite aspects of Soul Reaver: its combat. It’s actually pretty simple, you only really press the X (on Dreamcast)/ Square (on PlayStation) button until they appear kind of staggered, you then pick your partially defeated foe up and throw them in one of three directions: into the water, into a pillar of light or onto spikes on the wall, this prevents them coming back to life and releases their soul, which Raziel can then consume.
A quick and easy block puzzle to show the mechanics of moving obstacles around (think Tomb Raider) is dealt with and Raziel progresses through a corridor until he finds the Sanctuary of the Clans. This was once the pride of the vampire realm, it now stands in ruin and Raziel questions how long he has been “dead”. The voice explains that a lot of time has passed and with it, the world has slowly decayed. hastened by Kains refusal to perform some kind of sacrifice. There’s no way of entering the Sanctuary right now, but after defeating more of Dumahim’s children, he finds the next gate.