Friday, 16 March 2012

Soul Reaver

Yes! This is what I was supposed to do last post but other vampires got in the way. Actually, I was planning to overview Legacy of Kain, but I decided just to focus on Soul Reaver, it having the deepest plot of the 5 games. Actually, one of the peculiar things I realised recently about the first two games in the series is that they are both technically revenger's tragedies, interesting considering I'm studying Hamlet at the moment.

Soul Reaver itself is a mess, that's what it is, it's unbelievably messy. Between the beginning and the end nothing spectacular really happens, other than maybe Raziel's discovery of the the tomb of the Sarafan. However, one of the most spectacular things about the game is that it can be looked at in two ways, the way it was intended, or the way it was finished. Soul Reaver is peculiar in that it was supposed to be a standalone title (which managed to spring fourth no less than three sequels,) and that everything leading up to and including its intended conclusion is actually present on the game disk. But because the story thus splits into two at its moment of completion we're left with two different ways to interpret the story.

After Raziel wakes up from the cesspool of the dead, (having been thrown there by his father, Kain,) a being which calls itself the “Elder God,” explains that he is no longer a Vampire, but an undead Wraith, and orders him to slay his former vampire brethren in order to free up the “Wheel of fate.” Raziel, stricken with revenge, agrees.  He leaves to see that the world has decayed in 500 years, and his once “noble brethren” have decayed into monstrous forms.

A quick shot of Zephon from
The quest for nobility is a constant theme throughout the game, as Raziel sees the diminished glory of his brothers he mocks their frail rationalisations of their dispositions. An interesting one is Zephon, who comments that his sanctuary, of which his monstrous form leaves him bound to, is “a cocoon of brick and granite from which to watch a pupating world...” Zephon seems to take great joy in watching the world decay around him, and sees the decay as growth, mirroring the way in which he himself has grown to consume an entire building into his body. As Raziel says “Zephon, your visage becomes you. It’s an appropriate reflection of your soul...” It is possible that Zephon seeks to tide his degeneration by morbidly consuming as much of the world as he can, as Dumah hints later on, it's not unlikely that Raziel's brothers also have a detest towards their father and wish to overthrow him; if they but could. Instead Zephon sees himself resigned to his “crevice” of cowardice, as Raziel puts it. His only form of dealing with his inability to do anything as simple as even move is to command the legion of his own vampire children to do it for him. As poetic justice is to serve, we see Zephon die in an inferno of the home is he bound to, the manner of his death is significant in that his literal inability was the flaw he was running away from, and Raziel proves to him that his power was in fact a fa├žade. Zephon's grounded nature references the fact that he is unable to deal with his loss of power (as every one of Raziel's brothers soon realise.) His death tells us that divinity or status are not things that can be achieved passively, as Zephon's aim was to grow and grow, and that such a method becomes fruitless as long as competition (and Zephon had no former competition, even the remaining humans had been bowing down to him) interferes.

Seeing as this is a hobby more than anything else, I’m not going to finish the essay here (mainly because I’m writing this paragraph on the Friday the rest of the post goes up) and the real purpose of this is to prove that video games can have the literary depth of novels. I may finish it in the new future.

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