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Reviewed: Legacy of Kain 2: Soul Reaver
Author: Michael "" Ahlf       Date: November 4th 1999
Page: 2

Welcome to the world of Nosgoth, home of Kain the lord of the vampires (and would-be god) and his vampire clans. This used to be your (Raziel's) world. However, as a stunning opening cinematic reveals, you were cast from favor. Your wings were shredded to uselessness, and you were cast into the Lake of the Dead to die. Now you are revived by the Elder (most likely Death), to go and retrieve the souls of your vampire brethren and defeat Kain so that the Elder can once again collect the souls that Kain's vampirism traps. You get to travel on both the spectral and material planes, and are virtually indestructible: sufficient physical damage on the material plane will throw you to the spectral, but once there healing is easy.

Actions in the game are wonderfully crafted, requiring minimal buttons while making everything fluid. Crouching is largely useless, but crouching to jump gives a larger jump. Raziel's wings, though shredded, still help him glide to reach farther jumps than he would otherwise make. His attacks are powerful, and his strength is phenomenal: any free-standing block is fair game in a puzzle situation to not only be moved but flipped and even stacked onto others. Weapons can be picked up simply with the attack button, and used likewise as well as thrown, plus usage altered for finishing moves by the choice of a different button. The view is controlled by three buttons: left rotation, right rotation, and an aiming mode which changes the movement keys to alter Raziel's line of sight instead. As abilities grow, they are incorporated into existing controls: nothing is useless at first. I couldn't find a thing to challenge in the controls, which was pleasantly refreashing considering some games which require the whole keyboard plus a mouse with _everything_ bound to some command somewhere.

Most of the game's cinematics are
in the engine itself: not bad since the
engine is so realistic.
The Elder's transportation gate --
use it to get around quickly.
Visual wonders abound -- a floating ship
guards the entrance to an
underwater maze.

The game shows a remarkable amount of polish in its level design and puzzles. The primary thing to remember is this: you get to move between the material and spectral planes more or less at will -- and the two while interrelated are NOT exactly the same. In the material world four spires may be the same height: switch to the spectral and all of a sudden they shift, forming a stairway to allow you to reach the top of a building or cliff. Jumps become easy in one while impossible in the other. Unfortunately, you must be careful -- as you can't pull switches in the spectral, you'll need to find a place to switch back. Maneuverability puzzles aren't all there is either: look for 3-D block manipulation puzzles, logic puzzles, and more to get to hidden spells and abilities or even to hunt down your vampire lieutenant brethren.

Revenge is the name of the game: once you've gotten past the puzzles you'll reach your vampire brethren, who aided Kain in throwing you to your doom. Each has metamorphosed into a more wicked form in the time you've been gone, gaining powers that you can get by killing them and reaving their souls for the Elder. You can't just beat them down, however: each boss is actually a puzzle and you will be able to kill three of the four without even touching them. Truthfully, you will have to. Use the rooms and items you have available: a blast furnace, a lever-controlled spike contraption, a stained-glass window... each proves essential to the defeat of one of your brethren. The game follows a true adventure setup, making the player think instead of relying on reflexive action to win.

Vampires, not vulnerable to water...
There's a scary thought for you.
Feed on Spectral creatures or souls to
regain your energy.
Beating down vampires is fun...
but too easy.

The most common enemies in the game -- vampires -- are ridiculously easy to defeat. Throw them into water, into fire, impale them with stakes, hit them with a spell... just about anything you feel like doing. You'll rarely be without a weapon (stakes, harpoons, staves, and torches are readily harvested from most walls) and the fighting style is simple: hold one button to automatically face them. hit the attack button to beat them down. Hit the grapple button to grab them and throw them (into spikes, water, or the nearest wall: aim carefully as only water,fire, or impaling will kill) or if you have a weapon use it to impale them right there with the same button. Then again, this isn't a game about fighting, really: the enemies prove to be nothing more than nuisances in the way as you try to finish off puzzle after puzzle to reach your vampire brethren for a reckoning.

Finally there's interactivity... and unfortunately the game has very little. Searching the world of Nosgoth, you'll find many tidbits of Raziel's past making a wonderful storyline, but as for getting items for doing good... it's not there. The best you can hope for is to not have the humans attacking you as you travel through their area to reach others or to find the items hidden within. Even the conversations with your brethren are preprogrammed cinematics and not options: it would have been nice to be able to take up offers to join forces instead of having to kill all your vampiric brethren, especially since Kain seems to be off on his own and not working with them anymore. The game shows nice elements of an adventure but very little in choice, which is very odd considering that it is the sequel to an RPG-style game.

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Added:  Thursday, November 04, 1999
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/5

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