Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver II Preview

Not a company to leave gamers pouting, Crystal Dynamics is hard at work on Soul Reaver 2, a sequel that will tie up loose ends, unite the story of prior Kain titles, and set the stage for new tales to come.

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Taking the basic idea from Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and running with it, last year's Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was a five-senses assault on gaming. Bloodsucking vampires, a world in tatters, and a character in torment were just the tip of a ten-ton gaming iceberg. However, despite its 3D glory, wonderful plot, and excellent character design, something was missing - an ending! You see, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was in development so long that the final level and a few key plot points met with the ax. These alterations didn't hurt the game per se, but seeing Raziel and Kain slip into a time vortex subtitled by the phrase "to be continued" was inelegant enough to dismay more than a few gamers.

Fret not, as Crystal Dynamics will soon be back with a sequel, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2. Thankfully, contrary to most people's fears, the game isn't only going to be a way to tie up loose ends from the first Soul Reaver. This time around, Soul Reaver 2 will take you on a journey through three key time periods in the Kain universe. In the first portion of the game, you'll encounter budding vampires and a prehistory Nasgoth that's unsullied by tyranny or waste. As you progress, you'll find yourself experiencing the key moments that came to pass in Blood Omen, most notably Kain's fall from grace. The latter time period takes place between the first two Legacy of Kain titles, giving you a chance to save Nasgoth from the clutches of the savior turned dictator, Kain. Of course, making things interesting, you're still going to find yourself greatly outnumbered, as the poor, unsuspecting citizens of Nasgoth won't exactly embrace your mission with open arms. Furthermore, you'll have two Kains to contend with, one the uberdemon from the second game, and the other who is mere footsteps away from beginning his reign of terror.

While Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 takes place where the original left off, replete with Raziel's earned assortment of weapons and spells, this new game will put forth a variety of new challenges. For example, the Reaver isn't just going to be a tool for killing. By seeking out Reaver pools, you can use the Reaver to gain access to a variety of new powers, such as grappling, invisibility, and illumination. In all, there will be nearly 40 skills you can gain via the Reaver, allowing you to constantly re-explore new areas and rooms within each of the game's main locations. Thankfully, unlike the previous Soul Reaver, which required a collection of glyphs to open doors, this next incarnation merely asks that you learn a specific spell to reach an area's exit. In short, everything you acquire and do in this game will have a use, and you won't find yourself searching in vain for items you'll never reuse. Furthermore, unlike the first Soul Reaver's simplistic kill-and-finish gameplay, the sequel will require a more intelligent approach to destroying your enemies. Want to impale a skeletal vampire or decapitate an elemental? Good luck. Each enemy will require just the right finishing move to vanquish, lest you find yourself on the receiving end of one peeved, headless vampire.

The first Soul Reaver was a game deep in planning and short on development time. Crystal Dynamics isn't out to re-create a similar situation this time around. With most of the same team returning, CD's goal is to once and for all tie Raziel and Kain's histories together, while firmly tying Blood Omen and Soul Reaver into a cohesive story. Highlighting this attention to spit and polish, the team has made one important decision already. Originally intended for a PlayStation release in addition to its next-generation counterparts, the game is now slated for only two platforms: Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. With this reaffirmed focus comes another important change: increased visual quality. The polygon and texture counts for both titles are going up, way up. When all is said and done, expect Raziel, Kain, Vorador, and Turel to ooze with 2,000-plus polygon splendor. If your idea of ambience is Gothic cathedrals, spooky lighting, and bad mamma jamma vampires, Soul Reaver 2 may just burn a hole in your shorts that would make Howard Stern envious. Forget cliffhangers, Kain's Legacy ends March 2001. At least, until the next sequel, that is.

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