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LONG BLOG

The Edge of the Coin - A Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 Retrospective

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This is Part 3 out of 5 in the Legacy of Kain Retrospective. Start with Part 1 or read Part 2 if you haven’t already!

Life is a mystery. One can never truly know what tomorrow brings, and even the most laid out plans can crumble for seemingly uncontrollable factors. But what if one day, you found out that your every move, every thought and decision, was already planned out for you? To know that your fate is inexorable and inflexible, regardless of your actions and whims? If such a day were to come, what would you do? Would you still try to find meaning in your existence? Or would you rebel against the tyrannous stars? Could you even do it? And now that I got you all confused, no, you didn’t click the wrong link, this is still a blog about video games. These are just a few of the questions that you’ll need to answer to get into the mood for the next game in our retrospective.

The original Soul Reaver was a product of unfulfilled ambition, and thanks to its complicated development, the series ultimately went off its original course. One can imagine the bitter taste it left in the mouth of its creators, but like grandma used to say, “there’s no bad that doesn’t bring with itself a good or two.” Soul Reaver was a critical and commercial success, and thanks to that, a sequel was but a matter of time. But with so many things left unfinished, Crystal Dynamics had their work cut out for them. The next game needed not only to improve upon the weak gameplay elements of Soul Reaver 1 but also to chart out a story that, in theory, shouldn’t even exist. With growing ambition, they set out to work on a game worthy of their dreams. But history is a cruel mistress whose favorite trick is to repeat itself right under our noses.

Nosgoth would prove to be no exception.

Installation

Soul Reaver 2 was surprisingly easy to get running. I didn’t even have to do anything at all, other than installing the Steam version. It ran outta the virtual box on Windows 10, complete with support to widescreen and HD resolutions. That said, this game is not future proof! There are two very important things you must know before playing it. First: do not alt-tab. There’s a 50% chance the game will stop working when you try to go back. 2nd: Soul Reaver 2 likes to randomly crash. The reason for that is that the game hates to run on multiple CPUs, aka pretty much any modern rig. This is bad in itself, but it's aggravated by the fact that you cannot skip cutscenes, and without the ability to save at any time like in Soul Reaver 1, a crash at the wrong time can see you losing anything between 30 minutes to 2 hours of progress. Fortunately, that can be fixed by setting the game’s affinity to only the “CPU 0.” You can do that by opening the task manager, finding the game, right-clicking it, select “go to details,” then right-click again, and go to set affinity. Make sure only CPU 0 is checked and you’re golden. Do keep in mind that you will need to repeat this process every time you launch the game. Also, controller support is awful. You better download a profile on Steam’s Big Picture mode to fix that. With all of that said, let us begin!

Making of a Sequel

Much like its predecessor, Soul Reaver 2 is a product of circumstance. By the time the first game shipped, the team already knew that they would be working on a sequel, but by Amy Hennig’s admission, there was “no master plan,” no ultimate goal to work towards. As you can imagine, that’s hardly ideal when your previous game—a commercial and critical success—ended on an unplanned cliffhanger. Here, a curious thing happened. During the development of Soul Reaver 1, there was already work being done on the game that would eventually become Blood Omen 2. Thanks to the reception the former got, it was then decided that the franchise would split into two distinct but connected series: Blood Omen would focus on Kain, and Soul Reaver would continue Raziel’s journey. Thus, Blood Omen 2 was put on the back burner—still in development, but with a smaller team—and Soul Reaver 2 was given an accelerated development cycle of 18 months. Much less time than the 2 and a half years of the first game, but considering that the game was targeting both the PlayStation 1 and Dreamcast (two consoles the team was familiar with) and that the engine was already created, this was an entirely achievable goal. So despite not having a plan, they had a general idea of where to go next: fix the weak elements of Soul Reaver while expanding the story and adding concepts that had to be cut due to time constraints. All in all, a fantastic goal for any sequel. At least, that was the plan.

From what I can gather, the development of Soul Reaver 2 wasn’t as bumpy of a road as any of the previous games. No lawsuits, delays, or creative differences this time. It was, however, crunch town incarnate. In an interview with Gamespot, Amy revealed that after putting together a proof-of-concept for E3 2000 (holy shit, remember E3?) they got approval from Eidos to switch to the PS2 in May of that year. Side note, this interview with IGN in January 2001 talks about the game as if it were still launching on the Dreamcast. Not sure what’s up with that. Having to scrap all the work they had done on the PS1 version, development started from scratch all over again. Reading that gave me some major flashbacks to Blood Omen, namely, that a new and ambitious game was being developed very early into a new generation’s life cycle. To cut to the chase, Soul Reaver 2, as we know it, was developed in 17 months! I do believe that was fairly standard at the time—and if memory serves, the original Devil May Cry had a similar development period—but if the final product is any indication, it was far from enough to realize the game’s ambitions. To call it a heroic effort would be an understatement, and the fact the game turned out as well as it did is a testament to the skills of everyone involved. Unfortunately, because history is repeating itself here, Soul Reaver 2 did not make it to the other side unscathed.

To Right The Wrongs of the Past

Soul Reaver 2 is a much better experience than its predecessor, but I hesitate to call it a better game. Rather than falling into the trap of trying to be “Soul Reaver 1 but bigger,” Amy Hennig and her team decided to play to their strengths while addressing the weaker elements of the first game. Namely, they would focus on the story and voice acting that got the original game so much praise. This creates a completely different rhythm from any other title in the series, much more cinematic and story-driven than its processors, for better and for worse. This game sets a lot of things in motion, so it makes sense that the world and its inhabitants take the spotlight here. Nosgoth’s past is explored, characters are given depth, and many events and concepts from the Blood Omen era are revisited and put under a new context, challenging our understanding of the plot and forcing us to reevaluate what we thought we knew about the previous games.

Flat out, love this. It brings back the shades of gray that Soul Reaver 1 was missing, giving us a much more interesting Kain and making the connection between Blood Omen and Soul Reaver 1 much clearer. This game also makes Raziel a much more interesting protagonist, on the account that he has an actual personality now beyond “imma kill Kain.” He was very straightforward and simple-minded in the previous game, and while that isn’t necessarily bad writing, for the story that’s about to be told, it would’ve been the wrong choice. This game turns that weakness into a strength by highlighting just how naive he is, and how little he actually knows. Things in Nosgoth are rarely what they seem, so Raziel learns to distrust everyone he meets, playing into the themes of lies and manipulation from the very first game. I do wish the transition was smoother though. It’s a big change in his character that can feel like it comes out of nowhere, especially in his interactions with the Elder God—Raziel goes from just silently listening to him to actively antagonizing the dude. It makes perfect sense, it just feels like one or three scenes are missing that would’ve led to that point.

Speaking of changes, the switch to PS2 did wonders for the game’s overall presentation. Cutscenes are still rendered in real-time, but lip-synching technology and the increased number of bones for character models mean that everyone is incredibly expressive and emotive during conversations, giving nuance to some scenes that voice acting alone couldn’t. No longer will models stay in their idle animations while discussing the deep philosophical implications of the deterministic universe they inhabit. There’s no need to rely solely on the quality of the voice acting—which is still as phenomenal as ever—body language now can work in tandem with the acting to sell a scene exactly how the writers intended it. We take this for granted today, but the start of the 2000s was when the industry started to take notice of that. It’s not a coincidence that titles like the haunting Silent Hill 2 and the eternally relevant Metal Gear Solid 2 came out around the same time: people were starting to crave these more complex, thought-provoking stories, and Soul Reaver 2 was a game at the right place, and the right time. All it needed to be considered one of the pioneers was to back up its substance with some good gameplay.

Unfortunately, that same focus on the story that elevates Soul Reaver 2 into greatness is also the thing that pushes it down into mediocrity. First, I’d like to issue a formal apology to Soul Reaver 1 for saying it had the worst gameplay in the series. I was wrong. Despite its flaws, the game managed to keep me engaged, whereas playing the sequel was borderline lethargic. Soul Reaver 2 ditches the Metroidvania genre in favor of a more traditional action-adventure style. While it’s still mechanically similar to Soul Reaver 1—go to a place, solve a puzzle, get a new power, backtrack—the map is bland, uninteresting, and aggressively linear. Not that the previous games were bastions of open-world design, but they hid their linearity well. Blood Omen had so many secrets to find that Doom would tell it to tone it down, and they all served the purpose to make Kain a force of nature. Soul Reaver 1 made its world interconnected in a way that was internally consistent and logical: each new location told me a little more about how Nosgoth used to be, with the environment playing a part in both combat and puzzle-solving. 

In both titles, the gameplay served the underlying themes of the story. Soul Reaver 2 doesn’t have a map as much as it has a piece of level design. The whole affair is a corridor, there’s no getting around it. This Nosgoth builds its paths like we build highways: plain, functional, and full of artificial turns. No, seriously. Keep a mental map in your head while playing and you’ll notice that there are a lot of turns that eventually lead back to the straight line you were in just a moment ago. Progressing through the story doesn’t open new paths, or reveal new areas (despite the multiple instances of time-travel) instead, new obstacles just appear where there were none before, and the near absence of landmarks meant that I somehow managed to go backward on a straight line a couple of times. It’s blatantly “video-gamey” in the worst possible way, existing mainly outside the story in a way that isn’t engaging and can hurt your suspension of disbelief if you’re an overthinker like me. You hold forward until a cutscene tells you to stop, creating a weird rhythm where my brain is off 90% of the time, kicking back on only during cutscenes and maybe during the few puzzles here and there.

The Spectral Realm still looks dope as hell.

The game also ditches the option to save anywhere from the previous game in favor of fixed save points. Not a problem by itself but the distance between each save point is very inconsistent, and not necessarily in a geographical sense. You can go anywhere between three minutes to an hour and a half without being able to save your progress, and there’s no way of knowing beforehand. The very start of the game is a great example of this: it takes about 40 minutes for you to reach your first save point, half of which you’ll spend watching unskippable cutscenes. The story completely dictates the pace of the gameplay, rather than working in tandem with it, something that becomes obvious in the very first hour.

"Just a Matter of Time"

Soul Reaver 2 picks off right where the previous game left off. A CGI cutscene recaps the final battle of the last game in a more condensed matter, after which we get our first in-game cinematic. Raziel arrives in the past, greeted by Moebius, who immediately establishes the duplicitous nature of his character. Seriously, Richard Doyle just nails his delivery, switching from a "frail old man” to “dangerous chess master” in the blink of an eye. It gives Moebius a formidable screen presence, which is fitting since he is the closest thing this title gets to an antagonist, even if we don’t know that yet. After Moebius explains that we’re 30 years before the events of Blood Omen, he tips Raziel to Kain’s current position—the Pillars of Nosgoth—and sends him on his merry way.

This scene goes on for about six minutes, but it is dense with great exchanges, foreshadowing, and world-building. You can expect all the others to follow suit, which is a big part of why the story of this title is still so fondly remembered. I do have a small pet peeve in the fact that they try to explain gameplay mechanics into the narrative, like checkpoints and save points. It’s harmless stuff, but listening to Raziel explain how this big statue can “create a copy of my soul at that moment in time” just weirds me out. It’s a necessary evil, given that the Elder Squid isn’t here to spoon-feed us info anymore. Anyway, gameplay! Raziel retains most of his powers from the previous title, which is good for both continuity and puzzle design. Not much has changed when it comes to controls, but there are a couple of tweaks that improve the overall combat. The addition of a block and heavy attack that knocks foes away gives you a little more control over your enemies, and 20 minutes into the game Raziel gains the ability to summon the Soul Reaver at any time! The catch is that the sword eats souls when it kills, so you can’t heal if you’re using it. Not only that, but the more it kills, the more aroused it gets, and if it gets too excited it will drain Raziel’s life instead. It’s a cool idea for a risk/reward combat system, but the sword takes so little of your health compared to an enemy attack that any loss is pretty much negligible. 

There’s also little reason to put these skills to the test. Like in Soul Reaver 1, the only thing you get out of combat is the health you probably lost during the fight, to begin with. Not only that, but there are no vampires to face in this game—a cut feature, judging by interviews and information compiled by The Lost Worlds—and without that uniqueness from the previous game, the combat in Soul Reaver 2 gets downgraded to a generic slog. Unless you’re locked in a room, you’re better off just running away from everything, but when the game does force your hand, here’s a free pro-tip: run and slash. You’ll thank me later.

Before we continue, I need you to watch this scene. No excuses, just do it.

I couldn't find a high quality recording of this scene, so I did it myself. You're welcome!

I think I speak for everyone when I say that this is the best moment in Soul Reaver 2, maybe even in the entire series. This scene works on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin. Raziel finds Kain, still tunnel-visioned in his vengeance, ready to kill. Kain, ever the magnificent bastard, calmly walks Raziel through his train of thought, making him see that something far greater than the two of them is at stake. Without showing remorse or making excuses, he recaps and elaborates on the events of Blood Omen, explaining his fateful dilemma at the end of that game, which he compares to a two-sided coin where either result is unfavorable not only to him but to Nosgoth itself. The game is rigged, he argues, and both he and Raziel are merely pawns of history, drawn to that very moment by forces neither of them can control. But if that is true and fate is inexorable, then this is all pointless, and Raziel calls him out on this. Kain, of course, has an answer: “Suppose you throw a coin enough times. Suppose one day, it lands on its edge.” This statement would prove to be the thesis of the entire series going forward, and I love how the camera pans upwards as he says it, as if to signify that his coin has been cast, and now, we eagerly await the outcome.

This is where Soul Reaver 2 cements itself as a worthy sequel. We’re not just revisiting the previous chapter, we’re expanding it. The writers take advantage of things that the audience doesn’t know or that weren’t explained at all, sliding comfortably into that informational vacuum, building upon the thematic elements of Blood Omen without contracting it. Betrayal, deceit, manipulation, and the idea that evil is a matter of perspective; those were all things that the audience had to ponder themselves as Kain trailed his bloody path of revenge. This game hits many of the same notes, but adds the themes of destiny and fatalism that Soul Reaver 1 failed to develop, throwing into question whether one truly even has a choice, to begin with, and getting the main conflict underway. It puts an end to a story about revenge and starts one about redemption. Raziel walks out of the Pillars with a newfound resolve to unearth Nosgoth’s mysteries and see the truth of the matter for himself. This moment, perhaps more than any other in the franchise, is delightful to revisit. You start to catch on to particular word choices, lies become truths (and vice-versa), arrogance becomes ignorance and so many more details that take on new meaning once you have the full picture. It’s a story that just begs you to revisit it and piece together the truth. Shame that the gameplay doesn’t.

This is the Light Forge. I hate it!

The big gimmick Soul Reaver 2 has going on for its gameplay is an increased focus on its namesake: the Soul Reaver sword. One of the many cut features from the previous game was the ability to imbue the Reaver with different elemental forces, like water or stone, and each would’ve made the blade more than just a glorified stick. The Sunlight Reaver, for example, would’ve been able to blind enemies. However, only the fire element made it into the final cut, and even then, it was completely optional and didn't even offer that much of an edge. To rectify this, Soul Reaver 2 makes that feature the primary form of gameplay progression. Rather than gaining new movement abilities, the game has Temples that—to bring the Zelda comparison back—serve as big puzzle dungeons that reward Raziel with a new element for the Reaver. To give credit where it is due, these are already miles better than the millions of block-pushing “challenges” from the previous game. Each temple is themed after its associated elemental power, both visually and mechanically, and their completion usually precedes a major story development. Solving them isn’t complicated either, but much like the act of traversing the map, they tend to overstay their welcome. The Light Forge is a noteworthy offender, having stupidly long corridors that you have to traverse. Twice. All of that for a shiny new color for your Swiss knife of a sword and a little increase of your health bar.

As I said, this is how you progress in the game, but that word might not be entirely accurate. Acquiring these elements doesn’t change the way you play the game, and the health increase is pointless because enemies start hitting disproportionately harder (fuck those late-game demons). Except for the Air Reaver—which allows you to move through the swamp without slowing down—these cool elemental blades are just puzzle pieces and not much else, as they don’t offer any other benefit. Many doors can only be opened by certain elements and figuring out how to bring the correct Reaver to said doors is half the battle, but that’s all that they’re good for. The Reaver is a literal key, and in my playthrough, Raziel shoved that pointy thing into more keyholes than living beings—and side note, the sound effect reminds me of the Witch in Left 4 Dead for some reason. 

So in terms of gameplay, the Soul Reaver is a bit of a moot point. Now, story-wise, this is where the Reaver becomes fascinating.

You Can't Because You Didn't

Although Soul Reaver 2 features several time-traveling events, the act of traveling itself is, for the most part, meaningless. The way time-travel works in this series is similar to Terry Gilliam’s classic sci-fi movie, 12 Monkeys. If you’re unfamiliar, the movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly virus wiped out almost all of humanity,  rendering the surface of the planet uninhabitable. James Cole—played by Bruce Willis—is sent back in time to gather information on the group believed to have released the virus, the titular 12 Monkeys, but he finds out that trying to avoid his future is ultimately the thing that creates it in the first place. Both Nosgoth and the movie abide by Novikov’s self-consistency principle that can best be summarized like this: “you can’t go back and change history because you didn’t.” Any potential trips to the past have already been accounted for. They cannot change history because they’re part of it, and thus, the past is immutable. Under normal circumstances, that is.

In this universe, history itself is a force of nature that will do everything in its power to make sure what’s supposed to happen, happens. It’s a deterministic universe that has already set every event in stone, and will not admit any other outcome. Now, if you’ve been following along, you’re probably asking yourself: "What about the events of Blood Omen?” Don’t worry, Kain also has an answer for that. During their second meeting in William’s Chapel, Kain compares the continuum of history to a rushing river: even if you cast a stone somewhere upstream, the water simply courses around, as if the obstruction were never there. Like the river, time will only allow for the slightest of alterations. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to change history. You just need a really big rock.

Can you tell the Reaver is going to be important?

In this case, our big rock is a time paradox. But not just any paradox. To alter the history of Nosgoth, one needs a rock so immense that the time-stream can’t possibly accommodate it. You need the Soul Reaver. More specifically, you need two incarnations of the blade to meet in time. Since there’s only one Soul Reaver, history doesn’t know what to do when that happens and becomes “vulnerable” for lack of a better word, thus, giving our characters the loophole they need. This one rule is absolute and definitive, and it goes without saying, but consistency is extremely important when you’re trying to tell a story about time travel. It keeps the story logical and consistent, but my favorite thing about it is how Amy used it to set up a plot twist worthy of a fucking Greek tragedy.

A Liar's Currency

Okay, this is your spoiler warning. If it wasn’t clear already, Soul Reaver 2 kind of lives and dies by its story, and I’d hate to spoil that for you. So either go play it or watch the cutscenes on YouTube and then come back. Don’t worry, I can wait.

During his journey, Raziel meets with people who think he’s a prophesized being of some description, although none seem to agree on what role he’s supposed to play. Not that he cares, he’s determined to carve a path for himself, but in a subversion of a typical hero’s journey, his story is one beset by lies and manipulation from all sides. Raziel doesn’t uncover truths as much as he stumbles upon non-lies, and that is usually because everyone else is lying to him, intentionally or not. The way Legacy of Kain tells its story is that every new piece of information either contracts or debunks a previous fact we thought to be true. This would get predictable and boring fast, but the unreliability of those accounts keeps the audience guessing. Some characters are actively trying to use Raziel, while others think they’re telling him truths, either because they misinterpreted the facts or are themselves being manipulated by someone else. Do you see how this can get complicated? It’s a metaphorical yarn ball of lies and gambits, but while the story is indeed complicated, the way it is delivered isn’t. Characters talk and the plot walks forward. There is no unreliable narrator spilling cryptic bullshit or long-winded metaphors that can mean anything or nothing. It keeps everything digestible, even if it can take a while to do so.

In this universe, information is power, and Nosgoth is running a very capitalistic system. The poor struggle to survive and the rich want it to stay that way because it keeps them in power. Moebius, being the guy that can literally see the future, is unsurprisingly the man behind pretty much every ongoing conspiracy. This is part of the reason why Raziel travels to so many periods of Nosgoth’s history: certain secrets died with their keepers, so time travel becomes necessary. Towards the end of the game, he travels 500 years into the past and meets with Janus Audron, the last of the ancient, original vampires, and voiced by the late René Auberjonois. Raziel finally gets some answers, but their meeting is interrupted when the Sarafan invade Janus’ keep, using the path that Raziel created in a nice bit of gameplay and story integration. After a transition that just screams “shit, we ran outta time,” Raziel solves the Fire Forge puzzle and returns to Janus, just in time to witness his past human self rip out the heart of a defenseless Janus. Angry with his Sarafan past he idolized not so long ago, Raziel goes back to the Sarafan Stronghold to wreck the place, get the Reaver back, and recover Janus’ heart.

Revisiting different time periods of Nosgoth should be more exciting than this.

The climax of the game manages to be simultaneously the most mind-blowing and mind-numbing part of it. The plot drops a carpet bombing of revelations while the gameplay drops the ball into the Grand Canyon. Raziel gets tricked by Moebius into picking up the physical Reaver, only to find out he cannot let go of the blade and that it has made him virtually indestructible. What follows is a gauntlet of “bosses” that are nothing more than beefed-up versions of regular enemies you’ve been facing the whole game, and also you literally cannot take any damage. I don’t think I can adequately describe how stupidly boring the final moments of this game are from a gameplay perspective. It’s bad enough that the combat stays the same from start to finish, but when you remove the chance to even fail, you might as well be reading a book at that point. The fact it still ends on a ridiculously high note despite this blunder stands as a testament to Amy Hennig’s skills as a writer. The game might’ve become a book, but at least it’s a damn good one. Enraged by the actions of the Sarafan and empowered by the Reaver, Raziel hacks and slashes his way into the stronghold, killing his Sarafan brothers that millennia would later be revived by Kain, inadvertently creating the future he came from. Throughout the game, the imagery of the ouroboros is a recurring symbol, and the reason why becomes obvious once Raziel creates the last corpse: his own. He revels in his victory, only for a terrible realization to hit him seconds later.

Notice the Ouroboros on the ground.

At that moment, the spectral Soul Reaver reawakens, now that Moebius’ magic is far away, and coils itself around the material Reaver. The blades go berserk and impale Raziel, draining his soul into the weapon. This is when it finally hit him: the soul-eating entity inside the Reaver was, always had been, and always will be, his own soul! With this, all the pieces fall into place. Raziel is the embodiment of the loophole everyone wants to exploit: a soul walking with a future version of itself around its arm. He’s a walking paradox, the one person whose actions nobody can predict! This is why the Reaver shatters in Soul Reaver 1—it couldn’t devour itself—why Janus didn’t call it the Soul Reaver—as it was not yet able to eat souls—and why Moebius had to manipulate him—there was no guarantee of what actions Raziel would take. Additionally, this also adds some serious weight to Moebius’ schemes! You have to respect a man whose plans not only include, but extend way past his death! The dude’s a formidable opponent and this game is ten times better for it.

At last, we reach the bittersweet tragedy of this story. Despite being the embodiment of free will, Raziel is destined to end up as the soul-eating entity inside the Reaver, playing a purgatorial cycle without beginning or end. There is simply no other outcome, no matter what he does, his existence is defined by this event. He spends the whole game trying to “cut the strings” but the irony of the situation is that he was a puppet long before the game even started. The champion of free will is himself a slave to fate. It’s worth noting that this event takes place during the opening cutscene of Blood Omen, bringing the story full circle in both themes and timeline. Now, that would be a pretty miserable (but still tonally appropriate) note to end things, and in a different timeline, it’s exactly what happened. But this timeline has something the others didn’t: future Kain is alive. When Raziel refused to kill him in William’s chapel he changed history one more time, and now that he’s here to witness this moment, his coin is about to land.

Kain changing history a little too much, 2001, Colorized

When Kain judges the moment right, he removes the material Reaver, freeing Raziel, and stopping the creation of the Soul Reaver. But history needs that sword and trying to avoid the creation of the thing that allows the entire series to happen can, and will, have unforeseen consequences. And indeed, as history struggles to accommodate such a drastic change, we see a look of dawning horror in Kain’s eyes, as he gains memories from a new future that’s actually his past (isn’t time travel fun?). He claims that they’ve fallen into a trap laid by the Hylden—the ancient vampire’s enemies. More on that when we talk about the next game—and warns Raziel that Janus must stay dead.

But Raziel is too weak to remain in the Material Realm and slips back into the Spectral Realm. And there, waiting for him as always, was the Wraith Blade, and he realizes that he hasn’t escaped his fate at all, he merely postponed it. His last line echoes the series’ major theme: “history abhors a paradox.” And thus ends Soul Reaver 2.

The Elder Squid will play a bigger role in future games, don't you worry.

Out of all the Legacy of Kain games, I think Soul Reaver 2 is the one that suffers the most when looked at with the benefit of hindsight. From a gameplay perspective, its issues only became more pronounced over time, making it even less replayable than it was back in 2001. It doesn’t help that, once again, the game suffered during development, with yet another batch of features needing to be cut so deadlines could be met. The things it did accomplish, however, are still worthy of praise. Crystal Dynamics created an unplanned plot that managed to one-up both of its predecessors, with a story that’s equal parts prequel and sequel. Not only that, but the events of this title actively make the previous games richer, adding depth and complexity to where previously there was little to none. Nosgoth’s world and mythology come into their own here, establishing strong characters and setting up a chain of dominoes whose ending no one can predict. Yes, it ended in a cliffhanger much like Soul Reaver 1, but unlike that game, you can tell that the story built up to that finale, and there are enough hints for an attentive player to call it ahead of time. It truly is a fantastic ending, going off on a note high enough to completely overshadow its weaker elements.

Despite its flaws, Soul Reaver 2 set a high bar for the series and although it was less successful than Soul Reaver 1, it was still critically and commercially well-received. It wasn't everything the team hoped it would, but by Neptune's glorious beard, it was a step in the right direction. And now that the story was set in motion, fans were eager to see where it would go next. But much to everyone's surprise, the next game would be neither a sequel nor a prequel, but something in between. It would also prove to be one hell of a monkey wrench for the series. Is it canon? Does that even matter? Who knows.

Join me next time for a revisit of the most divisive title in this franchise: Blood Omen 2.

- Wine, videogames and top hats.


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About Niorone of us since 5:29 PM on 12.15.2014

Writer for fun, professional amateur and 16-bit dreamer.

Brazilian man born and raised, under the hot sun where I spend most of my days. Currently working on a series dedicated to the documentation of the local gaming culture and landscape, that I call Brazil Of Games. I took the name from an old TV series that aired a long time ago here but no trace of it exists on the Internet.

The Brazil Of Games:

[*] The original blog about Nintendo's departure from my country that planted the seed for everything that's to come, all the way back in 2017.

[*] The first real installment, where I explore the origins of the world's first digital-only console, the Zeebo. And why it failed.

[*] Meet the Locadora, the parlors where we got our first contact with gaming!

[*] A follow up of sorts to the previous blog, where I explore Brazil's most revered game: Top Gear!

[*] The SEGA Genesis might have been born in Japan, but it was Brazil that made it its home! Here's how it happened.

[*] It's no secret we love soccer games. So here's a brief history of the Mod that forever changed how we played them!

[*] Folklore is not something many games explore. Here's a game based on a local folk tale from my hometown.

[*] Everyone knows that gaming really started in the days of the arcade parlors. Brazil's history with them was a very curious one, thanks to legendary company Taito and their many, many bootlegs!

[*] Every story has a beginning. Here's to the game that created our whole gaming industry, AmazĂ´nia! May your legacy be remembered for all eternity!

[*] Happy 20th anniversary PlayStation 2! This one is dedicated to the console that changed everything!

[*] A mini review of the cute little indie platformer Out There Somewhere.

[*] What do you get when you mix history, culture, and Metroid? You get the little hidden gem that is Dandara!

[*] On December 2000, one RTS almost put Brazil in the Triple-A gaming market. This is the unfortunate story of Outlive.