Crystal Dynamics announcement that they were doing Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver raised a few eyebrows. They were abandoning the RPG genre its predecessor had relished in and now opted for a more mainstream third-person-perspective adventure. They touted Soul Reaver as a truly groundbreaking title for the PlayStation. It was a bold move and a bold claim. I was so sure that Soul Reaver wouldn't live up to my expectations that I was ready to pan it as soon as I played it. As it turns out, Soul Reaver is a reminder that I still need to learn to not prejudge a game.
Like Chi, I was impressed with the way the whole premise is pulled off. A dead guy that doesn't actually die. There is no need for continues or extra "lives." It got to where watching Raziel warp from the Material Plane to the Spectral Plane was like witnessing Link (The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time) light torches with twigs he collected in the forest. It was logic creeping into a video game and it was refreshing. Playing the bad guy, however, took some getting used to. Like Kain before him, Raziel is no saint. He doesn't fall under the general hero classification at all. He is evil with the addition of morals and ethics (convoluted as they may be). But I found his quest appealing and with the slick cinemas and dialogue, I was caught up in the hunt for Kain and the quest to restore Nosgoth to its former glory. The music and sound effects all fit perfectly with the Spectral Plane and the less grim Material Plane. It's just a stellar effort in that regard. Everything is pulled together providing a consistent mood and feel throughout.
Aside from the repetitiveness Chi mentioned, I found the puzzles to range from mildly confusing to, at times, exasperating. When I did find out how to solve a tricky puzzle, I was left scratching my head wondering why it was so complicated to begin with. I didn't feel a sense of accomplishment, just bitterness for it taking so long. Another beef I had was the lack of save points. Even after saving, if I wanted to load a game, I'd be placed at the very beginning of the game. If I hadn't found a portal to get me to the level I was last at, I would have to trek all the way back (to the last completed world) and hopefully this time find a new portal so I don't have to go through the whole damn thing again the next time around. It was needlessly taxing, especially in such a large game.
Soul Reaver brushes with perfection but falls short. It's got the visual and aural punch that sets it apart from other games right off the top and Soul Reaver is just an outstanding realization of its creators' imaginations. It holds the conceptual edge over most games period, but it had just enough holes in the final product to lose points. All in all, it was an excellent product and for Crystal Dynamics to come so close to getting it right is a triumph in and of itself. It is a "must-play" for any surly gamer who's "seen it all" or have been burned by the empty promises of other games.