Level Up: Soul Reaver
If there’s one series from the Playstation era that’s deserving of a new installment, it’s Soul Reaver. Originally a side story of Silicon Knights’ Legacy of Kain series, Soul Reaver is the full-realization of a badass vampire universe. A vast history of vampiric wars, time-traveling warlocks and Lovecraftian elder gods are uncovered through the exploration of an open, Zelda-like adventure.
The game begins with Raziel approaching his ruler, Kain. Raziel unfolds some gnarly looking wings which Kain promptly rips apart. As if this isn’t enough, Kain proves he’s a real jerk by throwing Raziel into a giant whirlpool. While you’d expect a plummet into infinite nothingness to mean certain death, Raziel doesn’t go down easy. An elder god made of tentacles and eyeballs awakens Raziel as a wraith. After quickly explaining your new soul-eating spectral form he sends you on your way to kick Kain’s ass.
Released in 1999, Soul Reaver borrowed gameplay devices from games like Tomb Raider and Zelda The Ocarina of Time. You explore a 3D world solving puzzles, battling foes and gaining powers as you learn the mythology of the land of Nosgoth. The gameplay shows its age these days; the controls seem slightly unresponsive, the camera system is archaic, and it has a slow frame-rate. In short, you’re not going to forget that your playing a game from the ’90s
But those who can look past some clunkiness will be impressed with the cohesive world Soul Reaver presents. Great voice-work, art-direction and music come together for an exceptionally spooky atmosphere. Despite out-dated graphics the thoughtful art-style really shines through; a palette of purples, greens and blues colors a world of ancient structures and warring factions. Amy Hennig (director, producer, writer) gives a unique take on vampire lore that cemented her place as one of the most intelligent story-tellers in the medium. She’s currently the head writer and creative director for the Uncharted series.
Soul Reaver was a very ambitious game for its time and it pulled it off admirably. Despite the aforementioned shortcomings the game still holds up. You can download the game on PSN or track down copies on eBay. If you have Dreamcast I’d recommend that version for its smoother graphics and gameplay. There are currently rumors of a Soul Reaver reboot from Crystal Dynamics. This is a series that was always at the forefront of technology, so it would be amazing to see it running on today’s hardware.