OKay - now this is long and complicated, so pay attention at the back!
Aim of the lesson:
1) To identify the key features of the LoK games and describe the main plot.
2) To analyse the intricacies of the plot and discuss the aforementioned key features (apart from Defiance, because I haven't written them up yet...).
(:p . You there - are you chewing gum? Spit it out now! Hmmm... you there, on the left? What did I say the objective was? Hmmm? You don't know? Well, that's because you weren't listening. Okay, settle down now and concentrate - I will be asking questions later... :D :D)
All games take place in Nosgoth. Nosgoth is kind of a typical fantasy realm.
The first game is an isometric pseudo-3D game (graphics are in the Baldurs Gate vein). You play Kain, a young nobleman who has recently been turned into a vampire. Gameplay is dated (considerably!), but the story is compelling and interesting. The nature of time plays a huge role in the plot (see below for plot, but beware HUGE FRICKIN' SPOILERS WITH MASSIVE BELLS ON!!!)
Soul Reaver - first true 3D game, very much in the vein (ho ho ho...) as Tomb Raider. You play Raziel, one of Kain's ex-henchman and now a 'wraith', searching for revenge. It plays very similar to Tomb Raider (jumping, collecting stuff, moving blocks around, being terrified by the Zephonim, traversing HUGE set pieces (this game is why I know CD are capable of ding atmospheric ;) ) and difficult terrains). It also involves hand to hand combat and some special abilities. Raziel has the ability to morph between the land of the living and the relam of the dead, which ends in some truly interesting puzzles.
Soul Reaver 2: Begins immediately after SR ends. Raziel is the main protagonist (again), hunting for Kain and for the truth about, well, everything. Time is again a huge factor in SR2. Combat is the same as in SR, as is Raziel's moveset. Raziel now has the ability to 'unlock' Soul Forges (ny solving puzzles), allowing him to imbue the Reaver (sword) with various powers. These are ESSENTIAL for solving various puzzles. The world is again a vast 3D one, and movement through is restricted by the opening of the forges (you need to use the Reavers abilities like 'keys', and so until you unlock each forge at a particular time, certain areas remain locked until you find the forges...). Some areas also become accessible during different time periods, so a tantalisingly-too-high-to-reach-ledge may have been built on in the future (or you can morph into the dead realm and see if the terrain shifts, allowing you passage...).
Blood Omen 2: An offshoot from the 'Raziel' timeline. You play as Kain in this one - much more action orientated. Kain is simply gorgeous in this (he's a lot younger and more 'human' looking... but there again, I am a horrific Kain fangirl - his voice acting alone is enough to set my heart racing!). Combat is deadly and very fast paced. Apart from that - similar to the SR games.
Defiance: End (???????? Or is it?!?) of the SR timeline. You get to play as both Raz and Kain, Kain is again more action based, Raz more puzzle based. I need to play Defiance through again, as I've only played it once (hence no plot for Defiance yet - I'm still reasoning it out!). Elemental Soul Forges play a huge role again, as does the duality of the Reaver.
Major spoilage below
But it's a kick arse plot, so I couldn't resist...
Don't read if you want to figure this out yourself!
1st game - Legacy of Kain, Blood Omen. Released 1996.
Nosgoth is dark, war-torn land, ruled by 9 Pillars - these Pillars represent 'features' important to people (initially their origins are unknown - you discover who they were raised by in a later game)
(Descriptions of Pillars copied from official material)
Death being the cycle of life, death and rebirth which the Ancients held sacred. Guarded by Mortanius the Necromancer
Conflict being the interactions of things with other things and the new things arising thereof (mainly war). Guarded by Malek the Sarafan (NB: The Sarafan are also an order of Knights, sworn to rid Nosgoth of the Vampire Menace).
States being the nature of the physical world and the ordering of the concrete, including chemicals and all the laws governing the physical world, such as electromagnetism and gravity (chemistry and physics, basically). Guarded by Anacrothe the Alchemist
Energy being the vital force which animates creation and allows for the changing of all things. Guarded by Dejoule the Energist
Time being the cyclical flow of time and the fated events to take place in order of their happening. (note that in LoK, time is neither dimensional nor directional, but it can be altered, with great difficulty, by one possessing sufficient comprehension of the nature of such a thing). Guarded by Moebius the Timestreamer (Moebius is a VERY important character!)
Dimension being the dual directionality of the fabric of existence, allowing things which exist to exist and preventing things which do not exist from existing. Guarded by Azimuth the Planar
Nature being the growth and evolution of living things, and everything which is animated or can be said to have a soul. Guarded by Bane the Druid
The Mind, being the soul itself, or the soul as it perceives itself, including all psychology, the study of the mind in relation to itself. Guarded by Nupraptor the Mentalist
And finally: Balance being the interactions of all the spheres of law, and all things which fall under the rule of more than one set of laws. It allows for the existence of things such as the aforementioned psychology, sociology, and politics. Balance governs all of existence through its governship of the laws themselves. Balance is the Pillar that holds all the others together and therefore could be argued that it is the most important. Guarded by Ariel (Ariel is also another VERY important character)
At the start of the game, Ariel is murdered by persons unknown, which sends her lover Nupraptor mad. His madness then infects the others Guardians (like a psychic shockwave), which 'poisons' the pillars, corrupting the land.
Kain is a rich nobleman who is ambused and murdered by brigands. Wanting his revenge, he is offered a choice by a necromancer called Mortanius (yes… the same Mortanius who guards the Pillar of Death!): he can have his revenge on his killers, but to do it he must become a Vampire. Why Mortanius offers Kain this choice is unclear at this moment, but in his eagerness for revenge, Kain accepts his offer.
Kain finds out a little bit about his vampire heritage, and that he can restore his health by using ‘the Heart of Darkness’ – the heart of Janos Audron: the last true ‘vampire (non human) that lived. His heart was ripped out of his living chest, and restores vampiric unlife. Janos Audren is a very important character later on.
Kain then has his revenge on his murderers (this is very early on in the game) and as a vampire, makes his way to the Pillars, where he meets the ghost of Ariel (the former Guardian of the Pillar of Balance). She tells him that in order to restore the Pillars, Kain must kill their Guardians (because they are the ones infecting them). So Kain goes off on a murderous rampage, killing the Guardians and restoring the Pillars.
Later on, Kain meets an old Vampire called Vorador, who occasionally helps him. We find out later that Vorador is also the forger of the original Reaver sword (NOT the Soul Reaver – the Reaver becomes the Soul Reaver later!), which ends up in the hands of Moebius, the Time streamer.
Moebius, however, has disguised himself as the Oracle of Nosgoth, a soothsayer. Kain goes to him (not realising who he is) for advice. There is a great War going on at this time as well, led by a force called the Nemesis – Kain finds out that this force was once a King called William the Just, and so Moebuis (because he is the timestreamer and can manipulate time) arranges it that Kain goes back in time, so he can kill William before he becomes the Nemesis and therefore stop the War.
However, little does Kain realise that Moebius has his own agenda – the destruction of all Vampires. Moebius is very old – he gave the Soul Reaver (NOT the Reaver, but the altered sword) to William in the first place, and it slowly corrupted him, turning him into the Nemesis. Problem is – William is much loved by his people when Kain kills him, and is response to his murder the people of Nosgoth go on a rampage, murdering all the Vampires they can – this all culminates with Vorador being discovered and beheaded before Kain is even born, creating the games first time paradox.
This is also where Kain first receives the Soul Reaver.
Kain then kills Moebius… but Moebius is brought back to life by a (at this time – we find out later that it is the Elder God that resurrects Raziel) strange force. However, the Time Pillar is healed.
Problem is, everyone hates Vampires now even more than they did before. In this time period, Kain then travels to the Cathedral of Avernus, only to find it besieged by ‘demons’ – later on, we find out that these are servants of the Hylden, the original foe of the ancient Vampires (when vamps were their own species and not transformed humans – Vorador was the first ever ‘human vampire’.)
Kain then continues his murderous rampage, killing the final guardians and restoring the Pillars… he then discovers, to his horror that HE is the new Balance Guardian - he was born at the moment of Ariel's murder and was always destined to replace her - and in order to restore it, he must sacrifice himself. At the Pillars, there is also a huge ‘beast’ waiting for him… it turns out that the Pillars also act as a Gateway, keeping some pretty nasty foes out. Later on in the other LoK games, we piece together that these ‘beasts’ are the Hylden – sworn enemies of the ancient Vampires who were banished millennia ago. At that time, the Vamps were a noble race – the Hylden cursed them with the insatiable Bloodthirst (Raziel discovers this in Soul Reaver 2), and to get rid of them, the Vamps banished the Hylden and built the Pillars to stop them from ever returning to Nosgoth.
Problem is… the Hylden leader, Hash’ak’gik, had found a way to extend his influence through the Pillars and was possessing members from time to time… Hash’ak’gik possessed Nupraptor, and in this guise, Nupraptor killed his love, Ariel, thus causing the Pillars to decay… and the gateway / prison door is weakened (y’see?! It was all a plot to allow the Hylden to get back to Nosgoth! Problem is, they didn’t foresee that Ariel would get Kain to kill the guardians and therefore strengthen the Pillars again – they thought the Guardians would just go mad and the Pillars would crumble, allowing them easy entrance to Nosgoth). The Hylden still can’t get through – the other pillars have been restored by Kain and therefore only the ‘demons’ (servants of the Hylden) can get through (it turns out that Azimuth, after being turned insane by Nuprator's madness, had been summoning these ‘demons’ herself from the Hylden Plane, hence the reason they were in Avernus and therefore Nosgoth – the Pillars were still strong enough to keep the Hylden and the majority of the ‘demons’ out).
Kain fights this ‘demon’ and is then given the choice by Ariel – sacrifice yourself and restore the Pillar, or abandon it and doom Nosgoth to decay…
You’re given the choice at the end of the game.
Soul Reaver Released 1999.
This game begins thousands of years after the end of the first one… and it turns out Kain decided NOT to sacrifice himself. There is still enough power (obviously) to keep the Hylden out (although this is never fully explained in the game, you assume it by the time of Defiance – other wise the whole Land would be crawling with demons and Hylden before Soul Reaver even began!), and Kain is now the self- styled Ruler of Nosgoth with his Vampire Lieutenants: Raziel, Turel, Rahab, Zephon and Melchiah. They use the defiled Pillars as the basis for their Palace, and Kain's Throne is actually at the base of the ravaged Pillars.
Kain and his Vampires have also undergone a lot of physical changes – these occur after periods of ‘hibernation’ or ‘stasis’. Kain is always the one to develop a new ‘feature’ first and then the others evolve accordingly… until Raziel turns up one day with a brand new set of wings!
Obviously miffed (!) that Raziel has evolved before him, Kain rips his wings off and casts him into the Lake of the Dead – a huge Whirlpool. Water is deadly to Vampires, so Kain figures that Raziel is dead….
After millennia of torture in the waters of the Lake of the Dead, Raziel is brought before an ancient, mysterious force called the Elder God. Like Kain before him, Raziel is given a ‘choice’ (not really… the Elder God knows Raziel will accept his offer; Raziel’s ‘choice’ is an illusion) – he can continue being dead or go back to Nosgoth as a Wraith – the Elder God’s ‘Soul Reaver’ (hint…hint…) and kill off the Vampire Scourge (remember, Moebius the Time Streamer was also a servant of the Elder God, and his mission was to kill all Vamps too… the Elder God sees Vamps as Parasites and wants them all dead – they prevent souls from returning to the Underworld, and so it is Raziel's job to ‘shepherd’ their souls back to the Elder God). In order to stay alive, Raziel doesn’t need blood – he needs to devour souls, hence his title of ‘Soul Reaver’.
Raziel also has the ability to plane shift between the ‘Spirit Realm’ and the ‘Material Realm’ – this is essential in order to solve puzzles. The spirit realm is a twisted version of the material realm – the landscape shifts and water becomes as insubstantial as smoke in the Spirit Realm.
Raziel accepts (of course!) and so goes off, like Kain, to murder his ‘brothers’, only to find out they’ve all mutated into hideous forms. He firstly hunts down Melchiah, the youngest of Kain’s ‘sons’ – he has degenerated into a mass of flesh who is able to shift from the material to the spectral realm and pass through solid forms. When he is killed, Raziel devours his soul and gains the ability to pass through locked gates in the Spirit world.
Raziel then hunts down his next ‘brother’ – Zephon. In devouring his soul, he gains the ability to climb walls (Zephon and the Zephenim are nasty, spider like creatures… they give me the creeps!)
Raziel then confronts Kain for the first time since his ‘execution’ – Kain is at his seat at the Pillars. They fight – Kain tries to talk to Raziel, but Raziel wants Kain dead. In the end, Kain breaks the Soul Reaver (the material sword) on his back…. The material sword is now destroyed, and Raziel is surprised to find that he now has a ‘Wraith Blade’ symbiotically attached to him – one that he can call upon at will in the spirit realm and when he is at full health in the material realm.
Raziel then finds out the awful truth about his own heritage… He stumbles upon a Tomb, with graves bearing the names of his brothers… as well as his own. It turns out that Kain, in a twisted fit of irony, brought back the leaders of the Sarafan Knights, a sect dedicated to the eradication of vampires (and the sect who killed Janos Audren, the last True Vampire) as his Vampire Lieutenants. Raziel is disgusted by this, and his resolve to kill Kain is strengthened by it.
Raziel then continues to hunt his brothers down one by one: Rahab has conquered water, and with his death, Raziel gains the ability to swim and Dumah is a huge, armoured fiend – with his death, Raziel gains the ability to conjure up a restricting force when he runs in circles around enemies (not so useful…). He, however, never finds Turel… the Turelim (his clan) are around, serving Kain, but Turel himself is never there. It is hinted that he is supposed to be some kind of Hylden Demon, but it is never really explained.
Raziel, having destroyed the brothers he can find, then goes after Kain again. Kain, however, has discovered a Chronoplast – a time-streaming device that allows time travel… after a battle, Kain jumps through the Chronoplast, and Raziel follows him…
Soul Reaver 2 Released 2001
After following Kain through the Chronoplast, Raziel finds himself in the ancient Sarafan Stronghold… way back in the past, before all of the previous events have actually occurred (about 30 years before the first game).
He is met by none other than Moebius, who tells Raziel that Kain is at the Pillars of Nosgoth… which are in their full glory, this being the past.
Raziel eventually confronts Kain at the Pillars, and Kain reveals he has plans to redraw the lines of history to avert the consequences of his decision. Kain previously refused to sacrifice himself to purify Nosgoth (because that would cause the extinction of the vampire race). Kain then hints at a monumental secret of Raziel's existence and disappears before Raziel can either fight him or find out what he’s on about.
Raziel continues northward, and finds himself again in the lair of The Elder God. On the walls, there are strange, mysterious murals depicting the existence of an ancient race (ancient Vampires) and pictures of the Reaver. The Elder God tells Raziel off for not killing Kain at the Pillars, and disregards the murals that Raziel has found.
Raziel presses further through a swamp (Termagent forest) and finds another area of ancient construction - a Reaver ‘forge’ adorned with murals telling the story of an ancient war. After exiting the forge, Raziel finds a peaceful Vorador, who (like Kain) hints at a profound secret, but (like the Elder God) disregards the value of the murals. Vorador reveals that the dead vampire Janos Audron knows this profound secret, and leaves.
Raziel discovers that he can imbue the Wraith Blade (the Soul Reaver that was symbiotically bound to him in SR) with different abilities – the first of these is the element of ‘dark’ (he later discovers the Light Reaver. the Air Reaver and the Fire Reaver).
Raziel, now equipped with a dark-elemental soul reaver, backtracks to a shrine he saw near the Sarafan stronghold. The Elder God says little more of the ancient race other than they were attempting to manipulate history for their own purposes. At the Light-Elemental forge, however, it becomes obvious to Raziel that they were far more benign - they built of the Pillars of Nosgoth. After attaining the light-elemental soul reaver, Raziel finds his way back into the Sarafan stronghold. Here he again meets Kain - and it is here he is destined to kill Kain. The Reaver seems to act of its own will, and Raziel is faced with a dilemma: kill Kain and submit to fate, or establish his own free will by refusing to kill Kain. Raziel refuses, allowing Kain to explain something about the nature of cause and effect, and then disappears.
Raziel proceeds further and encounters Moebius in his timestreaming chamber. Raziel forces Moebius to operate the timestreaming device and send him through time. Rather than arrive during Janos Audron's lifetime, as Raziel was hoping, Raziel finds himself flung far into the future. Demons and mutants have overrun Nosgoth due to Kain's corrupt and continued existence. Moebius at this time is dead, haunting a memorial to himself (note: because of the events in Legacy of Kain: Defiance, this is not Moebius' actual soul but an illusion to manipulate Raziel).
Raziel travels again to the swamp. Along the way he finds Ariel, the ghost of the previous balance guardian who now blames Kain for the corruption of Nosgoth and her continued purgatorial existence. He also visits the Elder God. Raziel is surprised that in the corruption of Nosgoth, the Elder God is not only alive but thriving. Elder God simply reasserts his role in the existence of Nosgoth: the hub of the wheel of life, and the devourer of death. Raziel believes the Elder God is simply a parasite, like the vampires. When Raziel finally reaches the Termagent Forest, he finds a pathway to Janos Audron's mountain retreat. The retreat itself is inaccessible for now, although the surroundings can be investigated.
Here, he again meets Kain; again Raziel doesn’t kill him, only this time because he doesn't believe the damage can be undone by killing Kain.
Kain hints to a vague malevolent "they", expressing confidence in Raziel's ability to see through ‘their' deception. Raziel has been thus far immortal, and is confident in his ability. Kain warns him that ‘they’ shouldn't be underestimated, and that when time cannot contain the changes in history, fate itself will drive out the ‘irritant’...
When Kain leaves again, Raziel continues into the Air forge. It is here that he learns that the ancient race were vampires, and had sterility and the bloodthirst inflicted upon them by their enemies (the Hylden). These ancient vampires constructed the Reaver, the Pillars, and were their original Guardians. Kain's assertion that the Pillars did not belong to the humans had been right all along. Using the air-elemental Soul Reaver, Raziel finds another timestreaming device, and with suspicious coincidence finally arrives during the time of Janos Audron.
Raziel finds a means of entering Janos Audron's mountain retreat in the time of the Sarafan (remember – Raziel was once a Sarafan Knight...). When he finally meets him, Janos recognizes Raziel immediately.
Janos is then revealed to be the tenth guardian - the keeper of the Reaver, and that vampires (and vampire guardians) are necessary for the purity of the Pillars. Janos, far from being the monster as depicted, is a benevolent and forgiving individual.
Raziel then realises - all of this was a trap. Raziel had blazed a trail for other non-winged creatures to get to Janos. The Sarafan elite, consisting of all Raziel's former brothers (Turel, Dumah, Zephon, Melchiah, Rahab, and the human Raziel himself) attack Janos. Janos' only reaction was to save the future Raziel by teleporting him to the nearby fire forge. Raziel tries quickly to solve the riddle of the forge and escape, but it is too late. Janos is dead, his heart removed, and all Raziel can do is get revenge.
Raziel breaks into the Sarafan stronghold, encountering a few outdated demons that had pursued Raziel through time and the Elder God again (who makes clear his displeasure) along the way. Raziel is ambushed in a small room by Moebius and Malek (remember – he was a Pillar Guardian in the first game, and was eventually killed by Kain).
They overhear Vorador's massacre of the other guardians (Vorador killed a lot of the original Guardians before Kain’s time in revenge for Janos’ murder - there is an FMV in the first game depicting this). Raziel's wraith blade is disabled by Moebius' magic staff, and Raziel takes up Janos' (suspiciously) conveniently placed material Reaver. Moebius and Malek escape before he can attack, though, and Raziel finds himself incapable of letting go of the weapon. Despite this setback, Raziel continues ahead and slays his Sarafan brothers in the delirium of power the weapon gave him.
After the ‘wraith’ Raziel kills the ‘human’ Raziel, the effect of Moebius' staff wears off. The wraith blade entwines with the physical Reaver and they turn themselves on Raziel and impale him. The Soul Reaver, it is revealed, was not forged to be a soulstealing weapon at all. Raziel's own soul was the soulstealing element of the blade – basically, Raziel IS the Soul Reaver (see why I made a distinction between the Reaver and the Soul Reaver?). A soul devouring its own soul created a paradox. Kain, at the last instant, pulls the soul reaver out of Raziel and saves him from the paradox that would destroy Raziel.
Although the Soul Reaver was seemingly destroyed by Kain's action, as Raziel's essence fades back to the Spectral Realm, Kain mentions something about the "Hylden" … Raziel finds himself still bound to the Spectral Reaver despite Kain's calculated plan, and realizes that Kain has not rewritten his apparently inevitable destiny, merely postponed it. Raziel's last words before the end are:
"History abhors a paradox."
Things then continue in LoK: Defiance...
NB: The Hylden are tha main baddies in Blood Omen 2.
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