Posted on 22 Nov 2018 by L Coulsen

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2

The Defence

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: No data.

As we’ve already covered, the Legacy of Kain series has more than earned its reputation as gaming classics. Each of them, at the time and even since (for the most part) has set the bar extremely high, holding up beautifully against the best the industry has to offer. And Soul Reaver 2 is no exception to that reputation. Improving on its predecessor in almost every way, I’d go so far as to say it’s the second best of the franchise. Though that’s not to say it is without its flaws. No game is perfect, but it would be sophistry to claim that Raziel’s second outing was one that came as close as possible. However, it is hardly one that falls short either.

Being released early in the life cycle of a new generation of home consoles, and being the first of an established IP for the new hardware, it falls into the same trap that many such titles do. Pushing the new tech to show off crisp, new visual options, but somewhat sacrificing its best elements to do so. This is only really noticeable during the game’s cinematics, which do at least run using in-game assets. There’s a clear push to show off how pretty the characters and textures are, without quite as much attention to the animations. Lip syncing is solid for the time, but facial animations are somewhat lacking. Shifting from one expression to the next, but lacking much of the nuance that makes such changes genuinely impressive.

Drrrrrrrrrr.

Having said that, animations as a whole are superb. The way characters, most notably Raziel himself, move around is taken pretty much wholesale from Soul Reaver, which still stands as one of the best set of animations in gaming history. Having flacid facial expressions is a comparatively minor complaint. And with that being its largest, that should go a very long way to demonstrate just how good the game is. And it does look genuinely stellar in pretty much every way. Environments are, sadly, smaller than the game which came before, but the story is also more linear and focused, making it a logical compromise to keep everything on track.

Then again, all of the Legacy of Kain series has been primarily a linear experience. Even the first two, which did have a lot of openness to the world, were clearly constructed to lead directly from one plot point to the next. They simply allowed players to explore for extras and go back to previous areas to reach previously unreachable, well, extras. To be honest, as good as that was, keeping it more like a straight line is a better way to do it. Because let’s be honest, the story and, especially, dialogue has always been the true stand-out point. Something which remains fully consistent in this entry. The voice acting is absolutely top of the line. The verbal fencing between Kain and Raziel, and Raziel and the Elder God, are positively sublime. Making Soul Reaver 2 just as infinitely quotable as its predecessor

'Sup duder?

The music isn’t quite as good this time around, but it’s still well worth a listen and the audio quality is much improved. Making full use of the far more generous space available on the then-burgeoning DVD format. It cannot be understated just how much difference the jump from around 700mb to almost 5gb made to media as a whole. The completely remade ending of Soul Reaver, which serves as this game’s opening, does a beautiful job of demonstrating just how true that statement is. Really bringing out the dulcet growl of the titular Kain as he lays that verbal smackdown on his wayward progeny.

One of the best things, is that controllers actually work this time around. Mouse and keyboard controls are perfectly fine too, but a controller is definitely the intended way to play here, so it’s a relief to see everything working as intended. Pretty impressive actually, considering how old the game is now. Even my Steam controller worked without a single issue, showing correct button prompts and all that jazz. There were also no issues running on newer software, performance was perfect and there were no bugs to be seen. Making this, all in all, a damned fine game that has more than stood the test of time.

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