Friday, 8 April 2011

30 Days of Gaming: Day 2

Day 02 - Your favourite character

Apologies for the delay, the internet’s wasn’t being kind to me.  I plan to take revenge by filling it with two lots of waffley nonsense today.  Anyway on with the blog.


So you’re probably wondering who’s that blue guy with no jaw and not enough fingers?  Why’s he so close to the moon?  What grammatically challenged nonsense will Tom be wasting my precious time with today?  Stay with me hypothetical reader, the answer to all of these questions lie beyond.

The blue gentleman with 1997 boy band hair is Raziel, my favourite video game character.  A former vampire who'll spend days worrying about existentialism, destiny and killing dozens of enemies at time, Raziel is the angsty messianic bad-ass from the Legacy of Kain series of games.  Legacy of Kain is a series of five games, Blood Omens 1&2, Soul Reavers 1&2 and Legacy of Kain: Defiance.  Blood Omen 1 was created by Silicon Knights, Crystal Dynamics were behind the Soul Reaver games and Defiance (with a different team within Crystal Dynamics to blame for Blood Omen 2).  The Blood Omen games star the Vampire Kain, the Soul Reaver games feature the whatever the hell he is Raziel and Defiance alternates between the two.  They’re not the greatest games ever, far from it, they often have pretty repetitive game play, overly long cut scenes and conform to a whole bunch of dark fantasy clichés.  But they’re brilliant none-the-less. 

Where The Legacy of Kain series succeeds is in its story.  Told mostly through brilliantly voiced cut scenes (see below) the game is not a great example of interactive storytelling, in fact if I played them for the first time today I’d probably get bored during the third or fourth five minute cut scene, go for a drink and not come back.  But when I first played one of the games (Soul Reaver 2 £5 from W.H. Smith) this was amazing.  I was used to game stories being brief “Help (INSERT NAME OF HERO) stop those generic crooks/monsters from stealing the gold/princess”.  These games weren’t like that, they had a story to tell and points to make.  Crystal Dynamics had assembled a talented team of voice actors as complex and compelling characters manipulating each other through an epic story about, destiny, time travel paradoxes and honour.  The storyline in this series of games was the first to really matter to me, I wasn’t playing for a high score or a trophy, I wanted to help Raziel save the world and take his revenge on all the villains who manipulated him.  I could forgive occasionally flabby gameplay and an awful camera.


When he first appeared Raziel was driven by revenge, he’d been betrayed and left for dead by the seemingly evil Kain and after a mysterious resurrection wanted nothing but vengeance.  As the story progressed Raziel learns about his forgotten past, realise the startling number of people manipulating him and fails to make simple jumps thanks to the ridiculous camera. 

In game Raziel has all the attributes of a great player character.  He’s got a unique look, always visible against a range of backdrops.  Raziel has the ability to become a sort of ghost and he can glide on his tattered wings allowing for a range of puzzles, these aren’t great in Defiance but the ones in Soul Reaver 2 are fun brain teasers.  The heath system constantly encourages the player to go on the offensive and fortunately he’s handy in a fight.  It’s great fun ripping apart hordes of enemies from humans to massive demons using his claws and whatever other weapons Raziel finds, including the eponymous Soul Reaver, a devastating magical weapon closely linked to Raziel’s mysterious destiny. 

Michael Bell provides the voice for Raziel, Bell is a veteran voice actor who got typecast portraying blue characters after working on the Smurfs; he’s got a rich interesting voice, which is fortunate as you hear it a lot.  Raziel loves to spend long periods of time angstily soliloquising to himself about fate like a demonic Hamlet.  Over the course of his three games Raziel becomes a true (all be it flawed and often misguided) hero.  Raziel is supposedly the only character in the Legacy of Kain storyline with free will (despite having his every action controlled by a player) but frequently finds himself tricked into doing exactly what his enemies wanted.  Ultimately Raziel redeems himself for all of his mistakes spectacularly in the frustratingly cliff-hangery conclusion to Defiance.  

Raziel is unlikely to star in his own game again, Defiance (his most recent title), released in 2003? To pretty uninspiring sales and most of the team behind the games have moved on to new projects (or died) but Raziel and Kain have appeared as downloadable characters in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light  so someone in power remembers these guys exist, who knows maybe somewhere down the line there will be an end to the storyline (or a reboot that totally misses the point) if there is then Eidos will be getting some of my money.

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