Soul Reaver's Intro Still Holds Up Almost 20 Years Later

GIF: Square Enix

Although it was released almost 20 years ago, the opening cinematic of The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is still some of the most exciting weird fantasy storytelling in games.

I missed the Legacy of Kain games when they originally released. Other than a playthrough of Blood Omen back on release, I haven't ever touched the games, and I recently decided to rectify that by beginning at the beginning of Raziel's saga during Soul Reaver for the original Playstation.

The intro cinematic for Soul Reaver in high definition. It's a game that comes out the gate with a clear aesthetic and a serious commitment to its out-there narrative.

As you can see in the video, Raziel is a lieutenant to the vampire lord Kain, and Raziel's development of demonic wings forces Kain to throw him down into a giant vortex of swirling water that then takes him to ... a ghost zone? Some ruins? The lost vestiges of a forgotten civilisation?

The opening of Soul Reaver just dumps all of this info on you. Unlike the intros that we tend to praise the most in games (ahem, The Last of Us), Soul Reaver doesn't amp up a lot of tension, sympathy, and drama to get you invested in its world or its characters.

Instead, it gives you the tight conflict of a betrayal and an execution, and it trusts that the expansive fantasy landscape that it builds out from that place will give you a sufficient reason to get excited about this world.

Raziel gets dumped into this...zone?!GIF: Square Enix

In some ways, I prefer Soul Reaver's method of throwing you into the deep end. While it lacks the screenwriting polish of a game released in the 2010s, it more than makes up for it by having a world that is constantly luring you into it.

Every time a little piece of narrative has come up in the first hour or so of the game, my ears have perked up. There are apparently some pillars that are really important in this world? I guess I need to figure out what's up with those.


Comments

    The original Legacy of Kain deserves a HD overhaul, it was a fantastic Zelda like game. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it and spending dozens and dozens of hours, I think actually over a hundred, going through its vast world.

    Soul Reaver itself, I'd love to see someone remake Soul Reaver 1 and 2 into a whole game itself. I absolutely adored Raziel's adventures. The less said about the later Blood Omen 'sequels', the better, as they became a complete waste of peoples time...

    But, if they were to seriously go and make an open world style game out of Raziel and his world, or Kain and the time between when he trashed his world and when he established his followers? I'd be all for that...

      Vay Victus! I preferred first one to Soul Reaver. Seeing how far away you could be when sucking blood out of enemies was fun. Having streams of blood coming from one side of the screen into Kain was fantastic.

    As you can see in the video, Raziel is a lieutenant to the vampire lord Kain, and Raziel's development of demonic wings forces Kain to throw him down into a giant vortex of swirling water...The wings didn't force Kain to do anything. He was just a jealous jerk who didn't like that one of his underlings had surpassed him in his demonic evolution. In response he did what any other evil overlord would do: Throw the hero into a pit and not check that they were truly dead, giving them the chance to embark on a quest that eventually leads them to becoming strong enough to defeat the overlord.

      I don't remember the details but I think that it wasn't just Kain's jealousy but also the fact that his underlings evolution was a foretold sign that he would continue on his fated path to death, of which he had be avoiding. By doing so, the balance of that timeline was thrown out and the kingdom which he resided over is slowly degrading into ruin.

      What he didn't realise though was that the Elder God was pulling the strings behind all of this for both Kain and Raziel.

      It's actually a lot more complicated and convicted that that, but a lot of it only becomes clearer as you play through Soul Reaver 1 and 2 and Defiance.

      Kain is aware of the prophecies and orders Raziel to be thrown into the abyss not out of jealousy but out of realisation - he recognises what Raziel is when he sees the wings.

      The whole thing is way too much to put into a comment here but you should play the games yourself to understand how it all fits together or at the very least, read up on the lore in FAQs and wikis.

        Wow, just scanned over it. Shows how little I actually know about the series and how much I really need to play it through fully. Thank goodness for Steam sales.

          It's understandable given that the entire first game is from Raziel's very skewed perspective and it's only right at the end of the the game that Kain lays down some hints that there was far more going on than him getting crazy and paranoid.

        It's also kind of sad because all the other vampires evolve too. Raziel just had the unfortunate honour of doing it first. (I know the later games add more to it but I liked the simpler explanation in the first one)

    Your damn right Soul Reaver's intro hold up. The whole series from this game on is a wonderfully unique and materfully executed piece of storytelling. I can't think of any other series so full of theatrical prose that not only doesn't come off as tryhard or emberassing but genuinely feels Shakespearean at times.
    The whole confrontation between Kain and Raziel at the Pillars in the second game is a great example of that.

    Man I wish they'd revive this series. Give Raziel a Tomb Raider style reboot.

    Had never played any of the Legacy of Kain games when I first gave Soul Reaver one a go. From memory I was home sick from work and randomly stuck a demo disk from a magazine into the PS1. One of the demos was SR. I got so wrapped up in it, once the demo ended I went and rented the whole game. Finished it in a week then when and grabbed the second one and did the same. Both amazing games and excellent stories - way ahead of their time and sadly under appreciated. 10/10, would love to play again.

    Agreed. Only thing that sucked about Soul Reaver (especially 2) was you could tell they wanted to do the story in one huge game but had to cut it short because of time restraints. The way the story comes full circle with the time travel etc was a masterpiece in story telling. Shame the 3rd game felt rushed.. But that ending when Raziel sacrifices himself to be absorbed... #cryeverytime

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