Soul Reaver 2 Review

Most games include something of a background story, something to help absorb players in the game.  Some of these are mere background stories that are quickly forgotten once the game begins, while others are integral to the game itself.  A good story will keep the player enthralled, playing as much to see the story unfold as to enjoy the gameplay itself.  Bad stories, however, can break a game, completely destroying the player's enjoyment of it.  Soul Reaver 2 is one of those games that is very heavy on story - so much so that the background story was told by an entire game, Soul Reaver, and Soul Reaver 2 picks up exactly where the previous game left off.  Those who did not play the first game, however, can read the story so far from the game's manual.  Soul Reaver 2's storyline is advanced through its many cutscenes.  There are such an abundance of story-telling scenes, that it sometimes feels that the game exists merely to take the player from one cutscene to the next. Players who enjoy a good story won't mind this too much, as they will be easily swept up in the game's compelling storyline.  Even players who aren't too keen on complex game plots won't be put off by the cutscenes, since they are all very well-done, with quality voice acting and mesmerizing actions and animations.  

In Soul Reaver 2, you assume the role of Raziel.  Raziel was once a Serafan, a powerful guardian of good who protected the world of Nosgoth.  Betrayed and nearly destroyed by the vampire lord Kain, Raziel was rescued and given new powers by an elder god.  Now an undead warrior and devourer of souls, Raziel tries to balance his debt to the elder god with his deep-seated desire for vengeance against Kain.  Raziel is a complex character, and the game does a good job of capturing his internal struggles and complex relationships with the other key figures of Nosgoth.  Each of these figures has their own motivations and secret agendas, and it is a lot of fun making your way through the game and trying to determine who is on Raziel's side and who his enemies truly are.

Gameplay in Soul Reaver 2 should be quite familiar to those who played the prior game, except that Raziel is no longer required to burn or pierce the hearts of the vampires he encounters in order to vanquish them.  Soul Reaver 2 is basically an action game, with a heavier emphasis on puzzle solving than combat.  The combat is pretty straightforward - Raziel has light and heavy attacks, and can throw weapons at foes.  Once a foe is vanquished, Raziel can feed on the escaping soul to replenish his own health.  There is not a large variety of weapons, mostly swords and staffs that Raziel can take from the vanquished or find mounted on the walls of the various temples and fortresses he visits.  He also carries the Soul Reaver, a special magical blade that he can summon at will.  The Soul Reaver feeds on souls and becomes stronger and more powerful as it does so, but since it eats souls, there aren't any for Raziel to consume to restore his health.

Raziel is a spectral being, and can only maintain his presence on the physical plane as long as his health is not depleted.  Once depleted, he shifts back to the spectral realm, which is a dark and twisted version of the physical plane.  Raziel can feast on the souls in the spectral plane until he is at full strength, and then find a portal point to shift back to the physical plane.  The spectral plane adds two important aspects to gameplay in Soul Reaver 2.  The first is that it is difficult to completely die in the game, since loss of health results in a plane shift.  Should Raziel be killed on the spectral plane, he is restored at the last checkpoint passed.  The second aspect is that the spectral plane figures into a lot of the puzzles encountered in the game.  While in the spectral plane, Raziel can pass through gates blocking his way in the material plane.  The spectral plane also is a twisted and shifted version of the material plane, so shifting planes can reveal new passageways or make others accessible.