SPOILERS!: for the 1999 Playstation game Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. If you haven’t played it and want to, go do it. I don’t spoil much but God damn if I want people to experience the game. Also, the Intro scene is down below if you wish to watch it before reading this.
So, 1999 was pretty tight for a lot of reasons. But a recent retrospect of my life, in trying to figure out when I wanted to become a writer, brought me back to that year.
At first I thought maybe it was when I read Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker. A book that really fascinated me and one of my most beat-up paperback books as I have read it more times than any other. Honestly I couldn’t tell you what year that was. My memory seems selective. Hell I got about three dreams that my mind had decided to latch on too. (Two of which were inspiration for my novel. Maybe another post on those some other time).
But it was 1999. I was 9 years old. I can’t remeber if me and my brother rented it from a local video rental place or if we owned it. But we had Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver for our orginal Playstation.
Now the gameplay was amazing and quite something for the time it was released, but thats not what I want to talk about. I’m a creative writing blog and I want to talk about the writing, with special emphasis on the intro cinematic of the game.
Enthralling would be the best word to describe the feeling. I had never heard words placed so eloquently, described in such decisive and powerful ways. One line would pose a question and the next would answer one, pulling you into this world with one fluid motion.
Now it is worth saying that I had never played the orginal Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen. I did play the second, which was chronologically a prequel to Soul Reaver just as the first was. I was going into the world blind, and I was 9 for chirst’s sake.
I will have a YouTube link below with the intro for you all to enjoy as I am sure my descriptions will not do justice to the majesty that is that cinematic.
Looking back on it though, even showing my friends it from time to time when I was appalled they had never seen it or played it, it always lived up to the hype in my head. Still to this day, I get shivers and chills down my spine as each word is delivered with such beautiful gravitas.
That may make you wonder, “Yo, Blind Idiot God. Are we talking about the voice acting or the writing?”
Both. Because while books and the writen word is powerful, I think it gets turned to 11 when the emotion is brought forth through voice. Reading out loud is a way I used to do this at home. Giving weight to the words, feeling what I wanted to feel. And that’s why in games, I think it is so so important to have performances that really deliver on that.
Now I may be wrong, and like I said, my memory is selective, but there were no other games that brought the writing to life through voice acting as well as Soul Raver had.
Micheal Bell played the protagonist Raziel, Simon Templeman the infamous Kain, and the late great Tony Jay voiced a character simply known as The Elder God.
Now this is before I even knew who H.P. Lovecraft was. I was being set up to fall in love with cosmic horror before I knew it existed.
The game sets up the story in such a way that it leaves you needing to find out what the hell is going on. Starting the player off as an even more undead vampire, a vampire zombie that literally consumes the souls of the fallen. Moving through the spectral realm and the material realm centuries after the opening cinematic, seeing the “Divine” states of all your vampire brothers…It was so unique and the world felt built with love. Set 1500 years after the events of Blood Omen, the first game, enough time had passed that it was like having a beautiful skeleton and being able to build upon it perfectly.
I feel like this is more of a ramble than anything. That’s okay, it’s my blog I can do what I want, and I want to gush over and share what made me want to become a writer.
Again, I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but the characters themselves were beautifully written. A lot of the emotion I felt came from the performance as well. Obviously, as I wasn’t there, I don’t know if anything was off the cuff from the actors or if it was all written in stone, but Raziel wasn’t just some voiceless vessel for the player to insert themselves into. He had feelings and a very strong motivation for revenge that the Elder God was using to puppet him. It was this multi-faceted feeling. We felt bad for him. We wanted to see him kill his “family,” kill Kain, especially since all he did to “deserve” what he got was to surpass Kain, through no choice of his own. In that way, to me he never felt special, like a chosen one. He was one of Kain’s “children,” and if any of the others surpassed him then I imagine the same thing would of happened to them. Obviously, the Elder God choosing to resurrect him had a chosen one feel. But in the end, even that came from the motivation of the Elder God, which is more fleshed out in Soul Reaver 2.
It just felt like the people writing it cared. The people performing these characters cared. I think that’s why it stuck with me, why I put it on a pedestal. It’s because caring about the work you do will be noticed. You could read book after book from an author who didn’t give two shits about the books they were writing and even if they were “perfectly” written, it wouldn’t be good. It would feel hollow. False.
Looking back to what made me want to be a writer, it was a video game that came out when I was nine and felt as though it was a product of love. It was enough to stick with me as I broke into my 30’s and decided to follow my dream to become a writer, and I want to emulate the love that I perceived in that work and put it into mine.