- Oct '99
- By Amy Hennig and PSM
Our goal from the beginning was to provide a seamless, immersive game experience – an epic adventure set in a relatively non-linear game world, that rewards players' exploration and problem-solving skills. Soul Reaver is an action-adventure game with an intuitive set of player mechanics, an innovative combat system, lush visuals, and RPG-type elements like character growth, ability acquisition, and story progression.
What are the most compelling aspects of the game?
The first thing that comes to mind is the data-streaming technology – this allows us to provide a seamless, interconnected game experience, eliminating artificial divisions of the game world (and the annoyance of load times). Once the player begins a game, we never want to disrupt the immersion of the game experience, or pull them out of their willing suspension of disbelief.
Besides providing a seamless experience, this technology also allows us a greater variety of creatures, sounds, music, and environments in a much smaller area. Most games have to keep an entire level resident in memory (thus the load times, and the often apparent lack of graphic variety in levels); by streaming the data off the CD, we only have to keep a very small, localized area in memory at any one time. Run down a hallway in Soul Reaver, and the environment can change drastically – without the player ever having been aware that data was being dumped and loaded.
Second, our world-morphing technology provides something players have never seen before. As Nosgoth's first "angel of death," Raziel can shift at will (more or less) between the spirit realm and the physical world; when he loses all his energy in the material plane, he is automatically forced back into the spectral realm. In the game, these two realms exist simultaneously, the spectral plane being an eerie, expressionistic, "twilight" version of the physical world. During these plane-shifting events, the entire environment morphs in front of the player's eyes – the architecture twists and distorts, the lighting changes, and the denizens of the area fade in or out, depending on their planar affiliation.
Third, Soul Reaver offers an innovative combat system, which allows players to easily interact with enemies in a full-freedom 3D environment. By holding down the "autoface" button, the player can engage with and maneuver easily around enemies, sidestepping around them while planning an attack, and dodging and lunging easily to evade or launch attacks. Because Raziel's primary foes are vampires – and therefore only destroyable by impaling, sunlight, fire, or water -- the game also requires the player to formulate a plan of attack, to find weapons or use potentially-fatal elements in the environment to his advantage.
Finally, behind all the action is a complex storyline, conveyed primarily through in-game cinematic events and voice-over. I think players will be impressed by the quality of the script and the voice-acting in Soul Reaver – the voices are all provided by talented, experienced actors (most of whom are reprising their roles from the first game), and the voice direction and casting were provided by highly-respected industry veterans.
Geographically, the game is huge – but Raziel moves at a pretty good clip, and the placement of Warp Gates allows the player to teleport across the game world fairly easily. In terms of hours of gameplay, it will depend on how a player approaches the game. Players who proceed from one major goal to the next, without revisiting previously-explored areas to find bonus levels, will probably get 35-40 hours out of the game. For players who take the time to find all the bonus items and hidden glyph spell levels, the game should provide over 65 hours of gameplay.
Any tips for playing the game?
Secrets or hints?
Mainly, players should remember that the game is all about freedom of exploration – each time Raziel receives a new ability, the player should explore areas previously visited to discover power-ups, spells, etc. The player can charge right to Raziel's next goal, if desired – none of these bonus areas are required to finish the game – but the player will have a richer (and longer!) gaming experience if they revisit previously-explored areas with new abilities.
So keep your eye out for locations that seem suspicious, and areas that you can't get to yet – make a mental note of these, so you can return later when Raziel earns a new ability. Each of the new abilities opens up previously-inaccessible areas – so if there's a gate you can't get through, an unreachable opening high up in a wall, a suspicious-looking window, an area that you can't reach without swimming, or some odd apparatus that you can't operate yet, it probably means there's a bonus item, or a new area to be unlocked, nearby.
Secondly, don't forget to autoface those enemies! Soul Reaver's combat is built around the autoface system – you can fight enemies without using it, but the experience is much richer if you take full advantage of the autoface button. And finally – when in doubt, shift to spectral. If you think you're stuck, the twisted architecture of the spectral realm may provide the clue that you need to progress.