Raising Kain: The Truth About Soul Reaver at Next Generation Online
In the original game Kain was the hero, now he is the enemy. How did that happen?"Well, if you recall how the first game ended, Kain was confronted with two options. He could sacrifice himself to the Pillar of Balance, consigning himself to oblivion, and in that altruistic act, heal Nosgoth's decay. Or he could refuse the sacrifice, and in so doing, establish himself as a dark god ruling Nosgoth's decline. If the player opts for the second choice (as Soul Reaver assumes he did), the final cinematic portrays Kain as an arrogant overlord, seated on a throne made of bones, surrounded by a fiery, blood-red sky. So he was pretty twisted by the end of the first game!
"Even so, we preferred to interpret that final cinematic figuratively, rather than literally (for example, the Pillars aren't literally surrounded by a lake of lava in Soul Reaver). In deciding to embrace his vampire nature, Kain sets a series of world events in motion which culminate in Soul Reaver's storyline. In classic mythological terms, Raziel is the protagonist, and Kain his adversary - but Kain is still very much a complex, sympathetic character. We haven't painted him as some blackly evil, two-dimensional villain."With the change in gameplay and the story twist making Kain the enemy, how will Soul Reaver appeal to fans of the original?
"When we set about to make a sequel, we analyzed what it was about the first game that attracted so many gamers. And in the end, we determined that it wasn't about specific things like camera perspective or 2D versus 3D graphics, but instead about the 'spirit' of the game, all the intangible things that defined Legacy of Kain. I think players were attracted to the idea of being a more complex and ambiguous hero than we usually see in RPGs, to the duality of the character, the darkness and realism of the game environments. All of these elements are retained in Soul Reaver."Crystal Dynamics is very invested in, and attached to, Kain as a character - Kain fans shouldn't despair that Kain has been turned into some demonic, 2D caricature of his former self. In my opinion, he's an even more complex and interesting character in Soul Reaver than he was in Legacy of Kain.
How does the current version of Soul Reaver differ from when you first began development?"The ideas always evolve over time. New artists, designers and programmers who join the team bring their own interpretations to the project, and their input and ownership of game elements always evolves the design in positive, new directions. Of course, there are always practical compromises that have to be made (based on time, or technical constraints), but that's just the nature of the industry. I think we've been amazingly successful at bringing the game to life as we originally envisioned it."
How did the Soul Reaver story come about?"We did spend time steeping ourselves in vampire mythology and literature, to get in the mood, and also to see which ideas were overused and tired. We began playing with various ideas as Legacy of Kain was wrapping up - the concept for a plane-shifting character (Raziel), and a world divided into physical and spectral realms, began germinating early on. There wasn't a single brainstorming session that spawned Soul Reaver's story. We worked and reworked the ideas over a long period of time, and developed the characters and story further as more people joined the team."
How is the story integrated into the game?"Soul Reaver's story is an integral part of the game. We establish the game's back-story in a rendered opening FMA, and continue the story exposition throughout, via in-game, real-time cinematic events. There are no text screens in the game - the monologues and dialogues are all conveyed using recorded voice."
So what makes Raziel so powerful?"As a physical (albeit immortal) being, the vampire Raziel was weaker than Kain, his master. Reincarnated as a spectral creature, Nosgoth's first reaper of souls, Raziel no longer suffers the vulnerabilities that all vampires endure. Now truly immortal, he can be wounded, but never really destroyed. He has a suite of attacks - he can slash at enemies with his powerful claws, use objects in the environment as weapons, cast powerful spells, and eventually wields the soul reaver against his enemies. His main weakness is that he retains his vampiric hunger, but it's been transmuted into a hunger for souls, not blood. To maintain his manifestation in the physical world, he has to continually devour the souls of his victims, otherwise his energy will eventually drain and he will be shunted back to the spirit world."
From a technical standpoint how hard does Soul Reaver push the PSX hardware?"We're doing some very ambitious things with the PlayStation hardware. Most significantly, we've built the game engine so that the entire world is linked together in a contiguous stream of geometry. In other words, once you're in the game, you never have to wait for a loading event, or fade in and out from black to transition from one level to another. Every game area is linked logically and seamlessly to its neighboring areas, so you're never pulled out of the game fiction. This was no easy feat, and is a major technological achievement since we've got a massive game world, and we're constantly streaming all the game data off of the CD as you play.
"Secondly, one of the defining features of our game is that the material and spectral realms (two dimensions of the same reality, essentially) exist simultaneously. Raziel, as a spectral creature, must shift back and forth between the two planes of reality to accomplish his objectives. This was always part of the game design, but we only wanted to do it if we could actually show the world morphing around Raziel in real-time; not a trivial technical task, but we achieved it. When you morph back and forth between the material and spectral planes, the geometry, lighting, and textures all morph in front of your eyes. Also, the enemies fade in and out based on their planar affiliation."How many hours will it take to finish Soul Reaver?
"It's hard to say, since it will depend on how a particular player tackles the game. I think that even a player who races through, ignoring secrets and bonus areas, will get at least 40 hours of gameplay out of Soul Reaver. Gamers who work to find every power-up, glyph spell, and secret area can expect to get many more hours out of the game."So what other secrets are set to be included?
"There are tons of secret and bonus areas in the game. The whole game design flow is built around the idea of having a world that blossoms out as the main character acquires new abilities. So at any one time, the player may have as many as four options open as to what area to tackle next. Every player will likely complete the game in a different order. Much of our design philosophy has been inspired by games like Zelda and Metroid, with their non-linear worlds, where the character's growth dictates the flow of the game."Who are the voice actors in Soul Reaver?
"Crystal Dynamics takes a lot of pride in the quality of its writing, voice acting and directing. All of the characters in Soul Reaver are portrayed by professional, respected voice actors. Many of the same actors who voiced characters in Legacy of Kain have returned to reprise their roles, or portray new characters, including Simon Templeman (as Kain) and Tony Jay. Michael Bell, who's got a list of voice credits as long as your arm, is the voice of Raziel."Shot 1