I think Matt did a great job pointing out the good versus the bad in Soul Reaver 2, so there's no need for me to elaborate on any of that. But I would like to expound one of his points—the balance between story and game, which is Soul Reaver 2's most glaring flaw.
It is refreshing to finally see a story-driven action/adventure game deal with a complex and original story in a coherent manner. I'll concede that vampires are not the most innovative of subject matters, but if you've played these games then you know their portrayal and motivation in the plot is different from the usual blood-sucking tales. It's great story-telling. I also appreciated the inclusion of the "dark chronicles"—basically a script of the dialogue that you can review at any time in the game. Just in case you get tangled in the web the story weaves, you can always turn to this feature, rather than wait for playing the game the second time through to pick up on things you missed (which most people will probably not do with this title).
For all its wonderful story, it's a shame that the game in Soul Reaver 2 is a mindless experience. It defines "hack and slash". These kill-or-be-killed games really need to show the player that there is a point to mercilessly hacking your way through your enemies by rewarding them with things like character advancement, or the possibility of obtaining new and exciting items (think Diablo II). Raziel never truly becomes stronger or more experienced by sucking the souls of his enemies or advancing in his quest, so gamers are compelled to find ways around encounters rather than engaging in them. And by the time you've reached the Soul Reaver and start using it as a weapon (which is near the beginning of the game), the game has already blown its wad in terms of items and gameplay additions. After that, the game is reduced to a "rinse and repeat" mentality, and quickly loses its potential. By the end of the game I was flat out bored and ready to be done with it.
Soul Reaver 2 uses up all its tricks too early. The only real draw to play this game is to find out what's next in the story. That being the case, the Soul Reaver universe would be better served in a novel or a series of movies, rather than a video game. Although it is a quality piece of software, Soul Reaver 2, as a game, isn't very fun at all.
Believe it or not, I did enjoy my experience with Soul Reaver 2. But in all honesty, that mainly had to do with my bias towards the series in general, and the great time I had with the first installment of the Soul Reaver series. When I looked at the game with as much objectivity as I could muster, I realized that Soul Reaver 2 is really only propped up by its story, which is just not enough. I'm with Matt—let's hope Soul Reaver 3 finds its balance.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
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