Saturday, 3 February 2018

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice Review

Celtic warrior Senua is embarking on a treacherous path to save her beloved from death. Accompany her on this journey to find Senua's true self!

Do you go through this as well? After finishing a game you feel empty. You want more, but you know that repeated playthroughs will never be the same as the first time. I think I felt like this after finishing SOMA and more recently, Talos Principle. Both games make you think about things which you do not stop and ponder about on a daily basis. What is consciousness? In Hellblade, Ninja Theory got together with professionals and doctors to show us how mental health issues can affect an individual. The game offers a bleak, but interesting insight upon a psyche of a suffering person.

We learn who Senua is and where she comes from as the game goes on. At the beginning, we witness how she tries to reach Niflheim on her little raft, the land which is the entry to Helheim, her final destination. In Viking hell it is Hela, the ruler of death, who is the only one capable of returning a lost soul back from the Underworld. Getting to Helheim will not be easy. The bridge is guarded by a giant door with two large emblems and in order to unlock it, Senua needs to delve deep into the domains of Viking gods Surtr and Valravn. It is up to you which you go through first but both offer a very different experience. If you know about Surtr and what he is, you can already guess that this path will be like walking through inferno. He is the god of fire and Senua has to step a foot on the scorched ground, which still bears the screams of the people which burned to death there. To get through this fiery place, Senua must activate Surtr's signs scattered across the land. Touching one will materialize the moment when the fire consumed everything and you have a short time to get out of there and avoid choking to death. 

Luckily our heroine is not helpless, she is a skilled warrior after all and knows how to handle her sword. Later on, she will even master slowing down time as certain enemies can only be damaged in that state. You have one button for a light attack, second button for a heavy attack, one for dodging which is very important, and last one is for blocking. As I have been playing the Devil May Cry series for several years, this felt a bit too simplified to me and while you can lock onto enemies, you cannot really chain combos too much. The battles do not happen often and are usually spaced in between puzzle sequences. On higher difficulties the enemies get a lot tougher and dodging is something you have to master. I definitely recommend a gamepad, though, a keyboard might not be too comfortable.

Second boss is Valravn, the master of illusions and will drag you through a dark forest, where nothing is as it seems. If you ever get stuck, know, that looking at things from a different angle can help a lot. The way forward is blocked by raven insignias and to do that, you have to align the correct three symbols. If you persevere and kill Valravn, the way to the bridge will be open. It is not, however, the end of your journey, but merely a beginning to understand Senua's past. The game has some interesting mechanics up its sleeve but you have to discover that on your own.

All of this is merely a vehicle to express Senua's true feelings. Those, who are going or went through something similar, will understand. It is best to describe as being lost in hopelessness and fear, to know nothing will make you happy. Just like Senua, who lost everything. You will just know that something went horribly wrong in her past, something she chose to block out. Something which will never fully heal and caused other personalities emerge in her mind. She is not alone on her journey – there are others, voices of encouragement, cowardice and fear, but also of bravery. They are always present, just like the darkness which sleeps within our heroine. You will hear their whispers, quiet or loud. If you are unsure on where to go, some will mock you. Others will doubt your abilities. It is something I had not experienced it before in a game and it hard to explain and better to hear on your own. Besides your own voices in your head there are also other characters, which emerge over time. Druth is a mysterious ally, whose purpose is to guide you. His stories tell you more about the Viking gods and their customs. Throughout the game you'll also find rune stones and if you find them all, you´ll receive an extra scene at the end. Senua is not by any means ordinary and sees symbols and faces everywhere, where normal people see mundane objects. Sometimes it´s just a play of shadow and fire, but it's enough for the symbol to appear. The search gets progressively harder, but there are indicators on the screen if you are close enough to one.

The graphics are beautiful and the game supports 4K resolution as well, if you have a good enough pc to run it. The sunset views above the bridge leading to Helheim, the fiery paths of Surtr, or storms in the dark forest are just a few environments which you will keep pressing F12. Senua's own character model has been made with the slightest details and sometimes it is hard to believe, she is not real. I must applaud the developers here, because it gives Senua more credibility and she also has a natural face mimicry. How she looks at you, the player, feels unique, like you are there with her all along. It is hard to not feel the oppressive uneasiness together with her. That is the price which is worth to pay because Hellblade is an experience which no other game can give you.

The sound engineering is done exceptionally well and it is recommended to play only with your headphones on, otherwise you might miss a lot. The voices, which haunt Senua throughout the game, have various volume and are important part of the game. The voice acting is professional and particularly Senua's voice actor sounds impactful (she received an award for it) and she did a great job on portraying Senua's pain. She definitely belongs to one of the best video game characters introduced to us in 2017. The music is more atmospheric and changes dynamically, depending what is happening on the screen. It will reside in the background when solving puzzles, other times it rumbles when you are slicing through your enemies. Sometimes even you are not sure if the developers are just playing you, or there are legitimate reasons to be alarmed. The biggest minus is that some mechanics are being repeated maybe too often (especially the puzzles which consist of lining up the symbols) and the fights can get a bit taxing over time. However, as the game is only about 8-9 hours long, which passes quite fast, these faults do not interfere too much.

You should know the least before playing this game. Do not watch the videos, maybe look at a few screenshots. Play this with your headphones on and best at night. Leave yourself to be dragged into the dark world and engulf yourself into darkness together with Senua and her alter egos. Stand against her worst nightmares and grab your sword tightly into your hands. Only by witnessing the truth you can overcome the hardship which awaits you. There is no way back, the raft is gone and the world of unknown stands before you.

Score: 8,5/10
(PC version)
+ exposure of mental health problems
+ great atmosphere
+ believable characters
+ beautiful visuals
+ audio
- repeated puzzles
- fights can get repetitive after a while

Upcoming game reviews

It´s been a while since I posted frequently but that is about to change. I have decided I will start posting game reviews for new and older games in English. I have been a review writer for ten years now but it was always exclusively in my native language, Slovak. Many of them are published here. It is time to change that and while I still write the reviews in Slovak first and then rewrite them to English, it is not a mere translation. I find myself changing few things here and there, so it´s not an exact copy of the text. 
I was on hiatus from writing for like a year but the recent games which I got to play gave me inspiration to start writing again. It´s notably Shadow of the Colossus remake for PS4 and Hellblade: Senua´s Sacrifice. I might write reviews for some of the other games I have played recently too. Since the original reviews are all in Slovak, I felt it is time to broaden my reader base and make it possible for them to be read by wider audience. I hope you´ll enjoy reading these reviews as much as I had fun writing them.

London Comic Con October 2017

I have been postponing a round up of last year´s MCM Comic Con for a while and it is time I have shared a blog post about it as well. I have posted the photos on my Ancient´s Den facebook page but have not really shared my experience.

This time, we bought priority weekend tickets and got a hotel nearby to avoid going backwards and forwards between the days. I must say it was still quite exhausting but worth it. The first two days I have cosplayed as wraith Raziel again. I have used the wig from my Lt. Raziel cosplay and it was a bit better but I still ordered another a new, shorter haired wig afterwards. Again, I was battling my cowl falling down constantly so I´ve put on a rubber band, but that proved too painful after a while. Luckily, my contact lenses did not fall out this time!

Friday was very casual and I have really enjoyed myself. Lots of people recognized me again, so it made me happy and we have seen lots of amazing cosplays I have never seen before! I´ve never been to MCM on a Saturday and I think I´ll avoid it from now on. The sheer volume of people in comparison to Friday was overwhelming. We got to see the professional cosplayers masquerade  which had fellow Slovak and Czech cosplayers taking part. I was a bit sad to learn none of them got in first three places, as their cosplays were masterfully done (kudos especially to the Predator and his well done presentation!), the act I actually liked the least won for some reason and it did not think it was too fair... We also met up with some of my friends that night, fellow Lucinvampire, Nat, Inrezairo and others. Lucinvampire had her awesome hooded Kain costume from BO2 and was the only other LOK cosplayer (besides Bazielim being a vampire worshipper) during the weekend that I had seen.

Sunday was again more relaxed but it had a lot higher volume of families in, so I think I´ll stick with exclusively attending Fridays only from now on. It can be challenging if you have large wings or tail to fit in places. I had my Regina cosplay on, which did not suffer from being bulky but had its own discomforts - my heels had to be patched up so I could endure the pain of slightly tighter boots and the "wetsuit"-like overal I had on was not too flexible in certain places either... We still had a good fun, though, and I would have gone again. It was a good experiment to see if I can last three days of cosplaying and certainly having a hotel nearby helped a lot. We slept well and were just 15mins bus ride away from the venue. Also, the looks on people´s faces and driver´s heads turning as they pass you are hilarious.

However, few weeks ago MCM Comic Con was bought out by a new company and one of their first moves was to massively increase the prices, which I think is outrageous. For October 2017 we payed £50 for a priority weekend entry per person, this year it was increased to £65, which is 30% increase in price! No reason for this increase was given so far and I am not sure anything will actually change, so sadly, I have given up on going anymore to MCM. Luckily, I have discovered that there exists a lot more affordable option at London Film and Comic Con which takes place in Olympia. Friday afternoon entry is only £12, which I think is really good price, so for £26 I can have 2 Friday tickets, while at MCM that would only be for 1 ticket. It will be my first time there, so I am curious and excited to see the venue. See you there!

(on Imgur with captions)

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Raina’s top ten games of 2017

Hello there!

I primarily want to stress these are the games which I have played or finished during 2017, not games published during that year. I still have a big back log of older games I need to go through. I really want to play AC Origins but still need to finish AC Syndicate which kinda bores me, unfortunately. I have been introduced to a new series, however, and I do not regret it. I see the "YOU DIED" screen too many times per day now, I must say. Dark Souls are something you start playing and think this sucks or that you suck as a player but you keep going and going and then suddenly 30h have passed and you wonder where did the time go. It reminds me back to the days when I was trying to beat the Dante Mut Die mode on DMC3 and DMC1. I am hoping the upcoming remasters for pc will be improved ports, those games deserve it. My next one on the play list after that is probably DS2 and 3, with Bloodborne awaiting me on ps4 as well. One of my other to do lists is to finally record a full playthrough of Soul Reaver 2, which is long overdue and I should start on that shortly, hopefully.

1. Persona 5


We had to wait for almost 10 years for another Persona sequel and damn, it was well worth the wait. Easily the most fun I had in an jrpg in a long while and enjoyed it thoroughly. P-team listened and improved the things from P4 and overall, P5 is a masterpiece with excellent story, fun mechanics, catchy songs and improved combat. It took me 160h to finish this beast of a game and was the sole reason I got a PlayStation 4. The only gripe is that the affinity to elements is not present (like it was in SMTIV:A) and Hama/Mudo skills are back to being chance based (SMTIV had them damage based), luckily the new curse/bless attacks remedies that. Overall, Persona 5 deserves its place on the top of my list. Who wouldn´t want to be a Phantom Thief? You´ll never see it comiiing!!!

2. Prey


I bought Prey in a sale and was only told that it is like Bioshock so I was not sure what to expect (I always got bored of Bio1 and never finished it). I was wrong – Prey delivered in every regard. The last time I got really hooked into a game this much was SOMA. Now Prey has its own tricks up its sleeves and the gameplay is very non-linear. You can kill whoever you want, even NPCs and the story reacts to your choices. Talos 1 Station is huge to explore and the Typhon enemies are formidable (hearing their footsteps and muttering is always freaky), not to mention the Nightmare enemy... It´s weird that the game got progressively easier as you went on with more powers and guns at your arsenal, but it was always a challenge to play and provided enough different settings that blasting Typhon never got boring. I happily searched every cabinet and drawer just to get more resources and craft more items. It never feels tedious in Prey and many things are optional (my final time was 33h, which is superb for an fps). Recommended to play with headphones on, I really enjoyed Prey and hope it will get a sequel.

3. Hellblade


I´ve only heard a few things here and there about Hellblade, looked at the screenshots which looked really nice but it was mostly the portrayal of mental health issues which intrigued me. Now, having witnessed Senua´s internal suffering and her resolve to fight against it resonated deep within me. We all bear our battles in our heads, against the demons clawing their way into our skulls and whispering truths and lies alike. Senua´s darkness stems from many factors, which we as players get to see as she fights her way to Helheim, the hell of her own making. All the supernatural elements feel real and when you have to face demons with giant axes, you have little time to think but to dodge and deliver a deadly blow. Hellblade is about 9h long and even though I wished for more, it gave me proper chills, not from the fights, but from the endless void which Senua is surrounded by. The game shows us that the pain and suffering within is just as real on the inside and Hellblade is definitely an experience like no other.

4. The Talos Principle


Talos Principe is a hidden gem on this list. The only thing I knew about it was that it was about puzzles in outside areas. That´s what it is on the surface. Its true value, however, lies within. In simple terms it discusses the nature of life and what is considered as being alive, but this notions has many colourful interpretations and the game lets you decide and express yourself. You can even leave messages for other players. Talos captivated me by its complexity of story, which you can actually completely skip, and is one of the big surprises on my list (and it has damn hard puzzles for which you need to erase all what you´ve known about puzzle solving and employ a fresh look). The conversations in this game are masterfully done and felt like a reward after each puzzle area solved.

5. The Last Guardian


After the troubled development of being originally a PS3 game and almost not releasing, TLG finally saw the light and was released on PS4. Having played and enjoyed both ICO and SOTC, I had to buy TLG as well, as I admire Ueda´s work in general. The characteristic landscapes and structures, the strong bonds between the characters and a mysterious story in the background, all of it is back in TLG. I am aware of the negative press given to Trico and it´s AI, however, I wanted to see for myself before I condemn the game. I must say I only experienced trouble a few times, when Trico would not jump somewhere. It´s behaviour is really lively as an AI can currently get and I got attached to the creature, just like the boy did in the game. It was a fun ride and I loved solving puzzles with Trico´s help. If you like previous games from Ueda, this one will not disappoint you. It has a few technical issues (mainly framerate drops in some areas) but nothing which badly hindered my experience.

6. RE7


Resi is back in this fresh new form of a first person perspective and it really did wonders. After a rather bland action and explosion based RE6, the series felt stagnating and in a need of a proper revivel. All this was achieved in 7 - back are the haunting close corridors and narrow pathways, puzzle solving and real fear of your character´s life. First person perspective adds a lot to the experience and being back in a mansion like environment makes me reminiscence a lot about RE1. Even the different key types are back. Well done, Capcom, for bringing RE series back on its track. Looking forward for the next one!

7. Dark Souls



People were not kidding about the games being hardcore. I never really tried it until recently and then put it down when I did like 5hp damage to a skeleton at the beginning and kept getting really frustrated with enemy respawns. I have picked it up again upon a friend´s recommendation and with the fan fix, it plays a lot better. I still die a lot and I am already almost 30 hours in, it definitely made me return to it every night. The game does not hold your hand, it just throws you into the world and you are left to fend for yourself. No map, no hints on where to go, only your resolve to kill that knight enemy again and again until you finally succeed. Repetition has usually a negative connotation, but for Dark Souls, it´s a necessity. You will die over and over, only to either throw the controller against the wall or keep trying. It is a true test in patience and of your fighting skills, but something inside you makes you want more and you´ll keep coming back to it.

8. Journey


Journey starts simple. It teaches you can walk, jump and… sing. Singing a tone is very important in the game, as you wake up pieces of cloth around the world and the more you have, the more powerful you get. It sounds really weird on paper, but the beautiful environments and fun puzzles make this game unforgettable. Primarily, it teaches it´s not the final goal, but the journey, which matters. A truly wonderful game.

9. Tale of Two Sons


This little game was gifted to me ages ago but I never took the time to try and play. I am glad that I did in the end. The controls are tricky but cleverly done – you control both brothers with a thumb stick each, which takes time to get used to but it adds to the unique experience. The game displays many emotions even though you just observe and do simple things – brotherly love, helping others with daily tasks, showing kindness, courage and ability to come to terms with sorrow… It´s a very humble experience about life which I recommend to play through.

10. Edith Finch

The steam reviews were promising one of the best story telling experiences and they were not wrong. What remains of Edith Finch is a strongly story driven game which takes only 2 hours but it is very intensive experience. You witness the final moments before the mysterious deaths of the long deceased family members and you are not there to solve them, but to learn more about their lives. Despite being really short (you can finish it in 2 hours) and more of a narrative oriented walking simulator, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas from TAD!

Merry Christmas from the Ancient´s Den to all my fans!  

Kain is already on his way to bring you all presents! If you haven´t watched yet, why not spend a cosy evening in the presence of Defiance? Complete walkthrough with modded visuals await you below:

Next year I will record and post a walkthrough of Soul Reaver 2 in widescreen mode.
Hope 2018 will be a good year for all of us!

Ho, ho, ho!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Widescreen patches for Soul Reaver 2 and Defiance

I have recently discovered that both Defiance and SR2 have already widescreen patches published by afterdyons. You can find them on the widescreen forum here. Just download the files and place them where your game is located and enjoy the fullscreen beauty of Legacy of Kain on pc!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

High quality Legacy of Kain models by the Hylden

Patrick Johnson aka The Hylden has posted his portfolio on Art Station. He features many high quality models he made himself, some of which will appear in Soul Revenant as well. Take a peek at his awesome skills and you can also download all of those images (they make for an awesome wallpaper for a LOK fan like me). If you like what you see, you can also support him at his paypal:

MCM Comic Con countdown and other news

After few months of silence, I am back. With new computer and new ideas, hopefully, will be back here more often! I needed an upgrade so instead of investing money in a laptop which could not keep up with the current trends, went for build my own desktop this time and finally can keep up with modern games (i5 6600 for win7 and gtx 1060 6GB). Also purchased mechanical keyboard and wow, that is a huge difference! Fully recommend it to anybody who types a lot.

The latest progress in Soul Revenant revealed the new sluagh and Dumahim and next on the line would be the Melchahim. At the moment we are bit of stuck as we need a new gameplay programmer to help with combat, so if you know anybody who would be interested to join our team, please let me know. Kyle Misko is also working hard and he recently is tackling the soundtrack of Soul Reaver, reimagined for Soul Revenant. His latest piece is for the City and shall be unveiled soon. More frequent updates are found at our facebook page.

In two weeks, Comic Con is back at the Excel Arena and I will be attending all three days. Last time we were super exhausting coming back and forth to the venue, so this time we are staying over at hotel which is closeby. I can announce that I will be cosplaying as wraith Raziel once again on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, I will be cosplaying as one of my favourite japanese horror ps1 videogames. Can you guess? If not, come and say hello at Comic Con, I´ll be wearing grey and black.

That concludes a little round up for now, I will photos from Comic Con once it´s over. Only two weeks to go! See you there!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Digital Foundry gets a look at Soul Reaver

The latest video on Digital foundry might interest most of you. It includes a great in-depth analysis of the techniques used to make the game and it contains loads of information on how loading, textures and audio works. They even included some of my SR1 beta footage in there:

You can read the article here.

Bonus interview with Ben Lincoln below:

Monday, 19 June 2017

Contribute your action figure photos to VGC!

Do you have any collectible figures at home? There is a new website called Videogame Collectible Catalogue which could use your help! I have already contributed some of my pictures from my collection, but if you have anything which was not put up on the website just yet, feel free to submit your photos and join in the reward system!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Is Square Enix offering up LOK to the indie scene?

SE Collective creator, Phil Elliott, wants to know whether you will be interested in LOK game made by an indie company. Show some support for our fan Soul Revenant project if you can! Show them that Legacy of Kain fans still exist and roam this land!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Help fund the Tomb Raider Suite orchestral recording!

Lara Croft needs you!

Nathan McCree wants to bring you a remastered orchestral soundtrack from Tomb Raider 1 - 3 and for it to happen, he needs our help! Donating any kind of amount will get us closer to the goal and get yourself some awesome goodies in the process like a CD jewel case or vinyl.

Help fund the project on Kickstarter!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Soul Reaver Storyboard

I have put together the official storyboard which was published in EGM 115 from February 1999. Never seen this anywhere else and it is quite easy to miss it as a strip on the bottom of the page about SR1.

                                                  Download or view the storyboard here

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Legacy of Kain DVD cases

I have recently made a collection of DVD cases for one of my LOK friends. If you ever burned dvds with all the cutscenes on and still watch them from time to time, why not print these covers to make them match your games? Thanks goes to Patrick who made a high-res version of Kain.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Tomb Raider Suite Live in Concert

Just a few weeks before the performance I was on facebook, browsing through people's posts as usual. It was then, when I saw it. I previously bought tickets for Pokémon Symphony Orchestra in Apollo on 19th of December and then when I saw that Tomb Raider Suite will be performing first time ever, I was a bit dissapointed I didn't know about it a lot earlier. About a week before the event, I got time off for Sunday as well, so thought why the hell not and bought tickets for TR concert as a Christmas present for me and my fiance.

On the night of 18th, we arrived at Apollo with quite a big crowd of Lara fans gathering around the theatre. Getting in was pretty easy as we flashed our tickets past the doors, bought the programme and made way to our seats. Surprisingly we were offered better seats as not enough tickets have been sold apparently. Indeed that was true as minute before the opening the theatre was less than half filled with many empty seats around. The darkness settled in and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra started playing the Tomb Raider tunes, then Shelley Blond made an appearance and was our elegant host throughout the entire musical journey. It is hard to describe this entire experience in word, but I'll try my best. The expert composer himself, Nathan McCree, made an appearance in an unexpected interview at the start, which made us really excited for the whole experience. Throughout the concert they were also displaying various gameplay segments from the games which made the feelings and nostalgia really strong.

Everything began with Tomb Raider 1, released in 1996, and its memorable and completely unforgettable main tune. As the orchestra started playing it, many tears were shed. It was beatifully and masterfully performed and with the crisp sound of all the instruments, the chants, everything felt absolutely right. They immersed us in most of the TR1 tracks you remember and even added a little twist. For example the T-Rex hunt theme was made longer, as McCree was finally able to realize the tracks in their full lengths, as he explained later, not being limited by the length or bit size of the individual pieces.

Then Shelley Blond narrated us the success story of TR2 and the orchestra opened with a brilliant rendition of its main theme. They even pulled the track which I thought would be really difficult to do, I don't remember the official title, but you all sure remember it when it plays as Lara sets her first steps within the temple of Xian. There I have also learned that one of my beloved TR2 tracks is actually called Vertigo, which plays when Lara tries to reach higher ground in a house in Venice. It was also prolonged and it was pure joy listening to it. Very popular was the snowmobile trick, or Skiddo, as McCree labelled it. I did not think that an orchestra coud pull successfully pull it off but it was completely the opposite and many heads rocking back and forth was the proof of it.

After that, we finally reached Tomb Raider 3 and its main theme. Again, it was masterfully played and brought so much nostalgia to me personally. TR3 was the very first true 3D game I have ever played and as such, holds a dear place in my heart. I was a bit surprised that the Jungle cutscene with the crazy scientist Tony was performed as well and it fit the orchestra like a glove. Spooky Jungle is another one of my favourites and worked well. Also the mysterious sounding Puzlle Element track made a great appearance. Of course you could not have a TR3 experience without Geordie Bob track, which was again perfectly performed and loved every bit of it. At the end, McCree made another appearance and the audience clapped and screamed with excitement. The last performance was a medley of everything we heard so far and I wished for it never to end. There were also fun parts in between where they have included one of the TR fans' reactions to the game's beatiful music which were really hilarious.

Overall, the entire experience was completely unique, deeply personal and something to witness in your lifetime, especially if you are a TR fan. Being able to see the brilliant songs made live by an amazing orchestra and its conducter, Robert Ziegler, see Shelley Blond, Meagan Marie and Nathan McCree (even Winston made a surprise fun appearance!) in person was worth every pound spent on this event. The only downside was that there were not enough people witnessing this masterpiece maybe due to not enough of promotion, which is a shame. I only hope that there will be more concerts and a CD produced from this, because such experience must be shared with everybody. Thanks to everybody involved in this project and my gratitude goes to Nathan, Shelley and Meagan for letting us see them in person and getting their autographs (asking about LOK was a joke, btw).

PS: And how did this masterpiece sound like? Have a look! Mr. McCree kindly uploaded a recording of his new track, In the blood:

He also uploaded three tracks to if you want to listen.
 More info about the concert, pictures and its aftermath also found here.

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Ancient’s Den now on Facebook

While I am still in the middle of planning to post some more updates on my blog, in the meantime feel free to join my newly established FB page where I will post more frequent smaller updates which will be not posted here. It should also make contacting me a lot easier. Hope you enjoy reading and feel free to comment at:

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

My Raziel cosplay at London Comic Con October 2016

As it just turned 20th anniversary of Blood Omen and 15th of Soul Reaver 2, I wanted to do something special. This October´s London Comic Con provided a good opportunity to do so and was my first where I have actually participated as a cosplayer. The choice what to cosplay was pretty obvious right from the start to me - what better choice than my favourite wraith himself?

My first obstacle was how to recreate muscle like tissue on top of my own body. I have seen other cosplayers do protruding muscle suits, but I have felt this would be too difficult to achieve in my first cosplay idea, so I had to find a work around. Looking around on ebay, I have discovered that there is a tank top and leggings with a muscle structure already imprinted. The issue was that they did not come in blue and painting spandex is not really possible either. However, I put a transparent blue stockings and top to make it appear blue/purple. The wings themselves were not as difficult, but it took some time to discover which kind of material would do best for them and how big should they actually be (I had to cut out like 5 pairs in the end until I was finally happy with the result).

After I had the wings done, I had to figure out how to attach them to my back without attaching them to the net top. I have decided to try and use a coat hanger held onto a belt on my chest, which turned out to work well and kept the wings posable and easily removable. For the hands I had to order custom tri-fingered gloves. I covered my arms with two wristwarmers on each side to form a string of brown bandages and for the upper part I have cut up a tube bandage into two pieces and just tied it around my arm. I´ve put the golden armbands on top the wristwarmers.

The boots were one of the bigger challenges that I had to rely solely on myself, so I have purchased cheap used boots which suited the style. The huge issue was how to create the protruding exposed double toes, which are so specific about Raziel. I have thought about it and to make the boots durable and not awkward when walking, decided to just paint a dividing line between the toes, rather than attaching something which can easily fall off. I think it came out alright in the end. Since the original boots were pure black, I purchased Angelus leather colours and applied three coats of bronze paint. The bottom part I have painted blue to indicate those are Raziel´s feet and used a lighter blue to draw the muscle going in between the toes. After the paint was sealed in, there was still a missing piece. The plates which are at the front of the boots, right above the toes, had to be cut out of the raw leather and attached with glue.

The cowl was a custom made item and was one of the most expensive items on the list. The craftsmanship of it and nice material make up for the price, though. The only problem which I faced on the convention and in general was, that while moving my head around, the cape would slide down, exposing my chin, so I have added a rubber band to the top circle of the cape so it will stay in place and I can freely move my head around.

The head itself was a challenge and I was contemplating using face paint or a mask, but a mask won because of how practical it was. I just bought a simple plain white mask,cut it up and painted it with acrylic colours. The colours were a bit damaged while I was wearing it, so a quick repaint and sealing the coat will do the trick. For the hair I purchased a black wig, which was quite cheap but fulfilled its purpose well. For the eyes I have ordered zombie eye pre-scription contacts, so I could walk around and still see sharply (I´m shortsighted). It was quite difficult to put them in at first (still takes me several tries to insert them in and out) but I got used to them. After I got home from Comic Con, I have discovered I had a balaclava, which would have been great to cover up my lower jaw, so I´ve used that for the newer shots. For the ears I have bought two pairs, one full on ears and the second pair just stick ons. Stick ons proved more practical in the end (just cut out ear slots in the balaclava so my ears can poke out and stick on blue ears can be attached).

Overal, making this cosplay was a lot of fun but even more fun was posing for people and walking around acting as Raziel, trying to do my best impression of his walking, gliding, fighting, etc (did a little "glide" down the stairs with my wings up at the end on my way to the cloak room). Looking around and breathing was a bit difficult but I knew cosplaying comes at a cost of some discomfort. Totally worth it and thanks goes to all the fans who took a picture of me and appreciated my cosplay, you made me really happy! I´ll definitely attend another comic con next year.

Cape: 40
Wig:  8
Ears: 3
Contacts: 30
Armbands: 2
Boots: 10
Raw leather: 15
Angelus paint: 30
Bandages: 3
Gloves: 15
Wrist warmers: 6
Mask: 2
Aquarel colours: 3
Belt: 4
Coat hanger: free
Wing fabric: 10
Blue leggings+top: 8
Muscle suit: 10
Torch materials: 8

Total estimate: 200 pounds
Time needed: 1-2 weeks

Thursday, 11 August 2016

New footage of SR2 Dreamcast version and BO1 Saturn version

Thiago Paulino just reported to me an exciting new find! The playable Dark Forge Dreamcast Demo of Soul Reaver2 and trailer for Saturn version of Blood Omen. Too bad the player playing SR2 demo could not figure out the shifting mechanic and in the BO1 video you can see the slightly different hud made for Saturn version. Thanks Thiago!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Modding in Blood Omnicide

Since Blood Omnicide supports modding, it is possible to swap out textures or even build new levels by using the tools provided with the game. With the help of Vortex, we have created a small patch for the Pillars which includes SR2 style symbols. Installation is simple, just drag and drop the files into your Kain folder. If you do not want to use the mod anymore, simply delete it from the folder. If more mods are created for the game, this post will be eventually updated, so check back here in the future.

Blood Omnicide v0.1 released!

Blood Omnicide has released its newest version 0.1 and now includes gameplay from the beginning until Nachtholm. It includes all the cinematics and gameplay features. It also contains a handful of modding features such as a map editor. You can also choose from a new style of soundtrack or the old one. For the full experience it is recommended to own a CD or an image from PC/PS versions of Blood Omen, but you can still play a shorter preview version if you do not owe them. There are certain things which are still buggy but it is overall an amazing experience to see BO1 in full 3D setting. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Print your own Swindlestones

Swindlestones are a very addictive minigame from Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy series called Sorcery. I have recently reviewed the first three parts for pc and found the games highly engrossing. I have never played any other text adventure before, but this one exceeded my expectations! If you too are a fan or just would like to try this minigame out, I have included a template which you can print out and play with 8 sided dice just like you would in the game.

Finished paper Swindlestones

You can even play with regular 6 sided dice, just the combinations possible will be much higher. If you have never heard about this game before, the rules are pretty simple. You and your opponent need to get the same amount of dice each (2,3,4,5, etc.) and throw them on a table. You both cover the numbers you got on top with your hands and then you take turns to try and guess the total amount of certain dice quantity, for example two ones, three fours, etc. Your opponent must raise the bet by saying a higher amount/quantity each time. If you think that your opponent does not have what he claims to have, you can say "call" and force them to reveal his hand. You then count the amount of dice present on the table from both of your hands and if the player guessed less amount of dice than they are on the table or it was a false call, they automatically lose one of their die. You keep playing until one of you has no dice left. It is not very dissimilar from poker but a  more simplified version, yet tons of fun! When playing Swindlestones in Sorcery, each bet is accompanied by a line of dialogue you can use to taunt or confuse your opponent and it can add an extra layer of fun trying to roleplay in real life.

Swindlestones in Sorcery part 2

Put the following template in a word/otp document, crop it to 83% (worked best for me) both vertically and horizontally and print out on a thicker paper. It will take about 30 minutes to make 10 set of dice.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Soul Reaver OST v7

I have went back and refined the last version of the soundtrack and produced a much more compact, "mini" version, if you like. This version is half the size of the v6 OST and contains only single looped tracks as opposed to the double looped versions in the previous one. The reason behind this was, since the Necropolis appeared to have two loops which are slightly different, it seemed all the rest had the same setup. However, after doing some research, I have come to a conclusion that this was not the case for the rest of the tracks, whose second loop was identical to the first and thus redundant. These new single looped tracks can be easily looped within the same family (Underworld, Necropolis, etc.) or just looped flawlessly on their own. There are also some other slight changes which you can find in the read me file. Hope you enjoy!

Note: You need 7zip to open the archive. 

Update: There was a typo in the back cover, thanks to Benoit Smith for alerting me.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Raina's Legacy of Kain Figure Collection

As long as a single one of us stands, we are legion.

After many years of hoping I will own at least one Raziel figure one day, me and Bazielim collected all nine published figures. With each new one we got, there was an excitement to be finally able to hold them and pose them to take some pictures, we wanted to find the remaining. As all the figures are collected now, I have decided to write the differences between thems for anybody who would like to own them or just to know their specifics. Ben Lincoln already wrote his impressions of the figures found here. Rarity is judged on how likely you are to find one on ebay, not in comparison to figures from other franchises.

Rarity ratings:
*: Common
**: Uncommon
***: Semi-rare
****: Very rare
*****: Extremely rare

BBI Kain
Height: 22cm
Reaver length: 18cm
Accessories: throne, Soul Reaver, purple bolts
Packaging: Box (first series) or blister pack (second series)
Overall Rating: 6/10 - Most accurate Kain figure you can get

BBI Kain was based on Kain as seen in SR1 intro and is very accurate in many regards. He is made out of a durable plastic and has lots of joints. Both his legs and arms have 4 joints each and the head and torso can also be rotated. His left hand is in permanent clutching position to hold the Reaver and his left hand is semi-opened. Kain´s face has a big angry grin, which is a bit over the top. Kain is also wearing Vorador´s earring, which looks like the incarnation from Blood Omen and is blue. His hair is plastic and sticking out in the lower middle part, as if blown by the wind and held together by a golden band at the end. The scar on his chest is present, but vaguely visible. The cape seems a bit short and is bearing the early double prolonged Razielim symbol as seen on one of his concept art and early model. The boots are especially well done, with lots of tiny details and the correct colour scheme. However, his toes are unnaturaly prolonged for some reason, but at least he has gaiters at the bottom of the feet, which hold the open boots in place.

Kain can be stood up on his throne with the Balance Pillar behind him (though it is torn off too early, so no symbol) and the purple bolts can either be attached to his hands or the throne. They fall easily out of the throne stand though, so be careful.

The Soul Reaver is made out of a very light material. The blade itself curves nicely, but it does not have any details on the surface, is missing the greenish tint in the middle and the middle line is not black like it should be. The fangs are incorrectly fused to the beginning of the blade, while they should be protruding outwards instead. The nose has a bit thicker opening than it should. The crossguards have stripes only on one side.

Note: The box is incorrectly labeled and contains pictures from the Raziel BBI figure.

 Kain standing on his throne.

Razielim symbol on his cape

BBI Raziel
Rarity: *
Height: 20 cm
Staff length: 21cm
Accessories: Underworld stand, Razielim staff, torch, souls, removable cowl
Packaging: Box (first series) or blister pack (second series)
Overall Rating: 7/10 - Affordable and accurate figure which can be commonly found

This version of Raziel was modelled directly after the Raziel renders as seen in the SR1 intro. It is the most accurate version of him in that regard. His skin colour and overall bones and muscle structure are very precise to the render. His arms and legs both have four joints to turn around but only his upper torso can be rotated (only horizontally though). Otherwise the quality is on the same level as on BBI Kain with the joints. His boots are also very detailed and matching colour. The straps on his hands lack a bit of material detail in comparison to the NECA Raziels.

Raziel comes equipped with the staff and a torch, so you can pose him to hold them in his iconic style or both at once. He has holes in both of his hands to make holding easier and his right thumb is posable. Holes in his feet make it possible to insert him on his Underworld stand firmly. The souls which come only in the boxed version can be put into the stand.

The biggest minus of this figure is the hard plastic cowl, which can only be inserted one way (comes in two parts which fit into each other). Unfortunately, it causes Raziel to have a fixed look and he is unable to move his head as a consequence. I´d suggest swapping it out for a cloth one (if you can sow or just use a substitute). The wings (claimed to be „life-like“) are very close to the original render, look good and are made out of soft rubber. However, they are very loosely attached to Raziel and can easily fall out. I´d recommend glueing them into the holes on his back so you can do some cool poses with him.

Note: The blister pack does not come with either the stand nor the souls.

 The yellow bits are the souls

 Wings detail.

 No cowl on.

BBI Lieutenant Raziel
Height: 20cm
Sword length: 16cm
Wing length: 18cm
Accessories: Removable wings, sword
Packaging: Blister pack
Overall Rating: 9/10, Very accurate face detail, must own for vampire Raziel fans

Lieutenant Raziel figure is one of the best LOK figures. He has high quality detachable wings and a cloth cape with Razielim symbols. He is accurate in terms of his armor (except that the knee pads should be silver, not golden, and his fingers should be red not white), but other than that his face looks similar to the render FMV. He carries a sword adorned with runes which was specifically designed for this figure. This figure seems to be based on the concept art of Lt. Raziel, which explains the inclusion of his nipple and right shoulder pad being slanted.

Note: Despite what the picture on the back of the packaging shows, this figure does not come with a scythe and shield. It seems that was part of the prototype which did not make it into production as a boxed version was never released and a more economic blister pack was mass produced instead.

BBI Spectral Raziel Limited Edition
Height: 20cm
Reaver length: 17cm
Accessories: Underworld stand, wraithblade and a coil, set of hands casting the Fire Glyph, Melchahim staff
Packaging: Limited edition box
Overall Rating: 8/10 - Extremely rare figure with unique accessories

The limited BBI Raziel was sold during Comic Con 2003 and only 3000 were made, so if you own one, consider yourself very lucky. The figure itself is nearly identical to the regular release of BBI Raziel, except that his claws are brown colour, not white, and his cowl is in the soul sucking revealing pose. Unlike the regular BBI version, however, it has some really cool looking accessories. You can swap out Raziel´s hands for the ones „holding“ the flames of the Fire Glyph, which does look really good. There is also a green wraithblade included, which does look like the in-game one but is being held like a saber. It even has the coil on Raziel´s arms, with one end being able to be attached to Raziel´s thumb. The last accessory is a very accurate looking Melchahim staff, which is much more sturdier and heavier than the Razielim staff found in the regular version. The wings are a bit more stiffer and thicker than the normal BBI Raziel and it comes with an Underworld stand as well.

Note: This is the only Raziel figure which does not come with a torch.

Fire Glyph!

NECA Material Plane Raziel
Rarity: ***
Height: 18cm
Reaver length: 14cm
Accessories: Material wraithblade and coil, torch, replacable hands
Packaging: Blister pack
Overall Rating: 7/10 - Good, exceptionally done cowl!

This figure is a mixture of Soul Reaver 2/Defiance Raziel. It features a very well done cowl which can be removed by popping his head off. For some reason, the head does not pop back into the neck joint though and frequently falls off, which makes posing him difficult. He has some strange white highlights on his legs and pelvis and was given white toes nails which should not be there either. The wings on his back are attached via a ball joint which makes it easier to pose than BBI Raziel, however, when they are down, they must overlap each other (like bee´s wings). I am not a big fan of the material he is made out of as it feels too rough on touch. The wraithblade is attached on to his finger and is made out of bendable rubber material (you have to be careful not to lean it too much otherwise it might stay bent). The figure has replacable hands – one set with movable fingers with holes in them for attaching the torch and the other pair is static for attaching the Reaver. Overall, however, it is a nicely done figure and very articulate.

NECA Spectral Plane Raziel
Height: 18cm
Reaver length: 14cm
Rarity: ****
Accessories: Spectral wraithblade and a coil, torch, replacable hands
Packaging: Blister pack
Overall Rating: 10/10 - Must own! The see-through plastic material is top-notch

You might have expected that the spectral version of the NECA Raziel would mostly be the same, but this is not the case. He is made out of entirely different half see-through material which adds a really nice effect (including the wings), especially when posed against the sun. The material is nice and soft to touch as well. The figure is tinted green to represent the spectral realm and his cowl comes in a stretched position for soul devouring. The torch is half see-through as well, though they forgot the flame should be blue, not orange/red. The Reaver comes in green and is basically the same as the material version. His head does not pop off this time, which is really good and you can easily pose him into quite a lot of positions. Possibly the best Raziel figure you can get.

Rarity: *
Height: 18 cm
Reaver length: 20 cm
Accessories: removable right hand holding lightning bolts, Soul Reaver
Packaging: Blister pack
Overall Rating: 4/10 - The worst out of the released LOK figures, but worth it if you are trying to collect them all

One of the most common found figures along with BBI Raziel is NECA Kain. Labeled as „the good (Lara), the bad (Hitman) and the ugly (Kain)“ in the slogan of the first NECA Player Select series figures, he surely fits within this description. The figures was based on the in-game Kain from Defiance and was painted in the same colours as the 3D Kain model. First thing which stands out is that he is green, while he should be golden yellow instead. The second thing is his face has a very over the top grin, which I assume was a try to mimic one of the official posters for Defiance. However, it does not make him look menacing, but rather goofy and the prolonged ear/crown pieces give him almost troll like visage. The figure does not have many joints (his arms have joints only on his shoulders) with his legs fixed in place and overall gives an impression of a statue. The cape is plastic and shaped to appear to be blowing behind him. Unfortunately, Kain´s symbol on the cape is upside down and the cape´s size is overexaggerated. At least the scar placement is correct. His right hand can be swapped out for a one holding a bolt of lightning. The left hand is folded in a grip where the Soul Reaver can be inserted (the cap on top of the hilt must be unscrewed first). The Soul Reaver itself appears to be very well made, with lots of nice details but the colouring seems off (the hilt is brown instead of being golden and is too long) and the skull itself is too small.

BBI Dumah
Rarity: ****
Height: 25cm
Weight: 650g
Accessories: Removable helmet, glowing eyes (requires batteries)
Packaging: Box
Overall Rating: 10/10 - This figure towers high above the others – it´s huge and very detailed! Get him!

Dumah is indeed grand in size and weight (not even BBI Kain is his equal in this regard). This is a pretty hard to find figure, so if you come across one, you won´t regret buying it. It´s attention to detail is great in every regard – from the decorated armor plates, shoulder pads and knee pads (he is missing his clan symbol on the back of his hands, though). He has quite a few joints too, so is pretty well posable. The removable helmet uncovers his war painted face and dreadlock like hair beneath, both details which were impossible to spot on the low resolution textures of the original 3D model. The hair part includes the light up eyes and can be removed in order to insert/remove the batteries. The switch can be set to two modes – lights are continuously on when holding the button on top of Dumah´s head or stay on once you press the button until you press it again (better option for taking pictures). Note that you can´t press the button while he has the helmet on, you have to remove it first. Due to his size he does not come with any other accessories or a stand.

Note: His box differs from the other boxed BBI LOK figures - it´s much taller and promotes the limited edition Spectral Raziel on its sides.

Raziel statue by Studio Oxmox
Rarity: *****
Height: 29cm
Weight: 2kg
Accessories: Spear, wings
Packaging: Box
Overall Rating: 9/10 - This statue is the rarest one on this list and usually very pricey, recommended to the hardcore fans!

This rare statue is made out of polyresin. The box itself does not state who is the manufacturer was but only that it was made in China. The box features a unique Raziel render with a winged shadow behind him (found only in German ads) with a cathedral for a background. The statue comes in with two detached wings which need to be glued into place and a wooden spear (both very delicate and fragile). Raziel is standing on a coffin with the Reaver engraving on top of the lid and has the Soul Reaver logo on one of the sides. The statue itself is pretty accurate, though Raziel´s skin colour is green and his toes are too far apart which looks weird. Other than that, details are very good and it is an excellent addition to anybody´s collection. The spear must be handled with care so it does not break and the wings, once glued in, prevent the statue from being transported in its original box, so bear that in mind. It is unclear as to how many of these have been produced in total but it is the rarest item on this list. The Oxmox website lists the client as Eidos Interactive, Germany and that it was made by Studio Oxmox, sculpted by Marc Klinnert. Other website claims the statue´s retail price was €52,00.

Here are some shots with all the figures compared:
Battle of Kains, who shall succeed?

 NECA figure face off

 Material plane Raziel vs Spectral plane Raziel

BBI spectral Raziel vs NECA spectral Raziel

We shall test your thesis, Raziel.