Wednesday, June 1, 2011

LEGACY OF KAIN: SOUL REAVER



Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Developer - Crystal Dynamics
Publisher - Eidos Interactive
Release date - November 19, 2009

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is an action-adventure game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive. It was released for the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows in 1999 and for the Dreamcast in 2000. As the second game in the Legacy of Kain series, Soul Reaver is the sequel to Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Soul Reaver was followed by three games, one of which, Soul Reaver 2, is a direct sequel.

Taking place 1500 years after the events of Blood Omen, Soul Reaver chronicles the journey of the vampire-turned-wraith Raziel, lieutenant to the vampire lord Kain. Raziel is killed by Kain, but is revived by The Elder God to become his "soul reaver" and to exact revenge. Raziel shares this title with Kain's sword, the Soul Reaver, which he acquires during the game.


Story

Soul Reaver takes place within the fictional world of Nosgoth, where the health of the land is tied to the nine Pillars of Nosgoth, and each pillar in turn is represented by a guardian. Before the events of Soul Reaver, the guardians became corrupt, and, after Kain killed eight of them, he discovered he was the final one. Refusing to sacrifice himself to restore the Pillars, he doomed Nosgoth to eternal decay and proceeded to raise his vampire lieutenants, including Raziel, to besiege the land. By the time of Soul Reaver's introduction, the vampires are now the land's dominant species and apex predators, the humans have been decimated, and the vampire tribes have each claimed a region of Nosgoth and turned their attention to internal matters. Unknown to the vampires, beneath Nosgoth lurks The Elder God, an ancient and powerful entity. The Elder God controls the Wheel of Fate, a cycle of reincarnation of souls that circle the Wheel in a loop of predestination; however, because vampires are immortal, their souls do not spin with the Wheel, causing the land to decay as the Wheel stalls. By the time that Raziel is revived centuries after the game's opening cinematic, Nosgoth is on the brink of collapse, little more than a wasteland wracked with cataclysms and earthquakes.

Characters

The protagonist of Soul Reaver is the vampire-turned-wraith Raziel, whom Kain casts to death at the beginning of the game. Although Kain is the protagonist of the previous game, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, he is the primary antagonist and final boss of Soul Reaver. The Elder God resurrects and assists Raziel, explains the game's controls, and describes previous events in the story. Ariel, who preceded Kain as the guardian of the Pillar of Balance, appears as a spirit and offers Raziel advice on occasion. During his quest, Raziel meets his brothers—Melchiah, Zephon, Rahab and Dumah—who serve as the game's bosses. Each has developed different powers that Raziel partially gains by killing them and devouring their souls. A fifth brother, Turel, was omitted due to time constraints on development.


Gameplay

The player controls Raziel, a disfigured and ghostly vampire. Gameplay relies largely on shifting between the material and spectral planes of existence to progress through areas. Although interaction with objects is limited in the spectral realm, this can be advantageous, because Raziel can phase through otherwise impassable gates there, and water is insubstantial, allowing him to walk on lakebeds; however, blocks, doors, and switches can be manipulated only in the physical realm. Many puzzles are based on the differences between the two realms; for example, platforms and environment features in one realm may change form to open new paths in the other. Block puzzles are also common and require the rotation, flipping, and moving of large blocks to progress, often with a time limit and while avoiding enemies.


Combat in Soul Reaver is a hack and slash system, involving the use of combinations of various different attacks before a finishing move. Raziel's enemies are grouped into humans, spectral creatures, and most commonly, vampires. Human enemies include peasants, vampire hunters and vampire worshippers. In the spectral realm, players fight minor enemies called Sluagh and the souls of dead vampires who have become wraiths. Each brood of vampire enemies has unique powers reminiscent of their clan leader. Human and spectral enemies can be killed with Raziel's claws or any weapon, but vampires must be bludgeoned into a stunned state and then destroyed by impaling them, lighting them on fire, or tossing them into a hazard such as sunlight or water. When killed, enemies leave behind souls that replenish Raziel's health, which automatically decreases in the material realm and increases in the spectral. Possession of the Soul Reaver sword stops automatic degeneration of health in the physical realm, but Raziel loses the sword instantly if he sustains damage and can regain it only by restoring his health to full.

At first, Raziel can jump, glide using his torn wings, move blocks, and pick up and throw objects and enemies. Initially unarmed, he fights using his claws, but can alternatively use weapons such as rocks, torches, spears and staffs, and the Soul Reaver. Raziel can freely shift to the spectral realm, but can return to the material realm only through special portals when at full health. Raziel automatically shifts to the spectral realm if he runs out of health. As the game progresses, Raziel gains the powers of his clan brothers after defeating them and becomes able to phase through gates in the spectral realm and climb walls in the material realm. Initially vulnerable to water, he overcomes this weakness and learns to swim. He also gains the ability to constrict objects and enemies with a band of energy, although this feature was one of the few abilities not to feature in future games. Players can find an ancient relic that gives Raziel the power to fire bolts of telekinetic energy, which cause little damage by themselves but can knock enemies into hazards and push objects from a distance. Baptism in holy flame can transform the Soul Reaver into the Fire Reaver, which can set enemies aflame and adds fire to Raziel's telekinetic bolts. Players can also find magical glyphs that allow Raziel to expend magical energy to attack groups of enemies simultaneously.


These glyphs typically involve vampire weaknesses such as sunlight, fire, water, or sound, as well as additions such as telekinetic force (available well before the normal telekinesis becomes available) and the causing of earthquakes to temporarily stun enemies. Glyphs are acquired through finding glyph altars, specific locations in Nosgoth where the skills can be learned, and solving a puzzle before being granted the magical ability. However, Raziel begins the game with access to the 'Shift' glyph, granting the ability to shift between the material and spectral planes, with no glyph altar necessary.


Development

Soul Reaver entered development alongside Blood Omen 2 in 1997 and focused on puzzle solving instead of Blood Omen 2's action. During design, the development team created larger areas that could be explored more thoroughly as Raziel acquired new powers, avoiding the "shallow[ness]" of Blood Omen's layout. Crystal Dynamics based Soul Reaver on Silicon Knights' research of vampire mythology for Blood Omen. Other aspects of the game, such as the idea of a fallen vampire who devoured souls, were inspired by the epic poem "Paradise Lost". The staff aimed to develop gameplay similar to Tomb Raider and used an upgraded version of Gex 3's game engine to generate the three-dimensional game world. Before Soul Reaver's release, the relationship between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics dissolved. Because their research was used, Silicon Knights filed an injunction to stop further promotion of the game. Other delays pushed the release date from October 1998 to August 1999.

These delays forced Crystal Dynamics to cut significant game material, including additional powers for Raziel, a third battle with Kain, and an expanded Glyph system which would have given elemental powers to the Soul Reaver. In an interview, series director Amy Hennig stated that the development team split the original, much larger plans in two after realizing that they had "over-designed the game", given the constraints on time and data. This decision explains Soul Reaver's cliffhanger ending and the appearance of originally planned material in later games. Despite the split, Hennig explained that the team left unused components—such as extra power-ups and enemies—in Soul Reaver's game engine to avoid unforeseen glitches that might have arisen from their removal.


Audio

Kurt Harland composed most of the music for Soul Reaver; Jim Hedges handled the remaining audio. Harland remarked that, under Amy Hennig's direction, he programmed music to change based on the current gameplay situation—for example, combat or swimming. This variation was accomplished through a custom Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) driver, which altered music based on signals from the game engine. Each vampire tribe had corresponding music; one tribe of vampires was associated with a slow, thumping theme to convey a sense of working machinery. To further fit the music to the environment, the sound team consulted level designers regarding layout and appearance. Music from both Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2 was released on a promotional soundtrack in 2001.

For the game's voice acting, Raziel was voiced by Michael Bell, and Tony Jay, who had provided the voice of Mortanius in Blood Omen, voiced The Elder God. Anna Gunn, Simon Templeman and Richard Doyle reprised their roles from Blood Omen as Ariel, Kain and Moebius. Bell, Templeman and Jay also provided the voices of Melchiah, Dumah and Zephon, respectively, and Neil Ross voiced Rahab.

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