Souls were important in the Legacy of Kain series. Most creatures were seen to have them them, and they appeared to fit the traditional interpretation: a soul was the eternally-existing non-corporeal spirit of a being, which separated from the being's physical body upon death.
Throughout the series, souls have been represented in different ways. Their changing appearance across the games can be explained away as a design decision, rather than a plot-based one. However there was also some variation in the nature of individual souls: only a few manifested as self-aware spectres who were capable of communication.
Raziel was one of these exceptional souls. His execution at the beginning of Soul Reaver destroyed his physical vampiric body, but he continued to exist as a wraith: his soul retained self-awareness and shape. The Elder God took credit for 'sparing' Raziel from "total dissolution" in the Abyss, but its claim was later questioned.[1,2,3]
As a wraith, the souls of other beings became Raziel's sustenance. In Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2 and Defiance he devoured the souls of vampires, humans, Hylden and various other creatures to maintain his strength. Through its agents - Raziel and the Archons - the Elder God also fed upon the souls of Nosgoth as part of the birth, death and rebirth cycle souls underwent according to the the Wheel of Fate.[4,5]
Souls were more than just a food source for Raziel and the Elder, however. The corruption of Kain's soul - caused by Nupraptor's madness - was a crucial plot point in the series, and ultimately certain special souls would provide the means to restore Kain's rightful destiny as an uncorrupted Guardian of Balance.
Possession requires its own article to cover in sufficent detail. It was an individual's ability to project their soul into another's body and seize control, suppressing the will of the host. Possession occurred several times throughout the Legacy of Kain games, and some instances formed an important part of the story. For example, Blood Omen's plot was initiated by the possession of Mortanius by the Dark Entity.
Souls in Blood Omen
Blood Omen introduced Ariel, the spectre of the murdered Balance Guardian and an important supporting character in the series. Also, Malek's "spirit was fused to a hellish set of magical armor", causing the armour to effectively become his body: the vessel for his soul.
Blood Omen featured the souls of dead humans and creatures as ghosts that resembled the deceased, wandering around the area where they were killed (by Kain). He could consume their blue 'blood' to restore his magical energy.
In Avernus Cathedral, Kain found the Soul Reaver sword and described its purpose: to feed on the souls of any creature it struck. The Wraith Smiths inhabiting the Spirit Forges [BO1] forged their items with "forfeit souls", and Kain's Wraith Armor - "spawned in the most impure of Spirit Forges" - was "tempered from the seething agony of tortured souls". He also obtained spells that acted upon souls (Control Mind, Spirit Death and Spirit Wrack).[8,9,10,11,12,13]
Souls in Soul Reaver
At the very beginning of Soul Reaver, Raziel was a vampire. In the Background Story Raziel explained how Kain had 'snared' the souls of his lieutenants to reanimate their corpses as vampires. Kain's method of passing on the Dark Gift required him to 'donate a portion of his spirit' to draw the souls of his lieutenants back into their bodies. Unfortunately, the corruption of his soul caused their eventual devolution into monsters.[15,16,17]
After Raziel's execution in the Abyss, he became a wraith, a creature of the Spectral Realm. At the bottom of the Abyss, the Elder God spoke to him about the Wheel of Fate. Kain's vampire empire was made up of corpses, only animated by souls unnaturally trapped in the flesh. This, the Elder said, meant the souls could not be spun in the Wheel of Fate, and could not complete their destinies. The Elder appealed to Raziel's desire for vengeance, and instructed him to "free" the souls of Kain and his former, vampire brethren. Raziel would become the Elder God's 'Soul Reaver'.[2,18,19]
Raziel no longer felt a hunger for blood. The Elder God told Raziel that, in his new form, he had "become a devourer of souls". Raziel had to devour the lost souls of the Underworld, and the souls of his enemies, to sustain his strength and manifestation in the Material Realm.[4,20]
Souls unfettered from their bodies floated through the air as green balls of energy, with a 'tail' trailing behind them so they looked like small comets. Raziel held his clan shoulder-cape - which was usually wrapped around his neck and shoulders to obscure the fact he had no lower-jaw - away from his face and sucked the souls into his maw.
When a body gave up its soul in the Material Realm, the soul remained there for a short while before fading into the Spectral Realm. In the Spectral Realm, Raziel had some competition for the soul, in the form of Sluagh and Vampire Wraiths (vampire souls whose predatory nature had adapted to the Underworld). Vampire bodies could be reanimated if the cause of fatality - e.g. an impaling spear - was removed, as their soul would return. In Soul Reaver, vampires were only permanently destroyed if their soul was consumed. When that happened, the body disintegrated. Vampire Wraiths that re-inhabited their bodies were 'Revived Vampires' and retained their long-range soul-sucking ability in the Material Realm.[21,22,23,24]
In Soul Reaver, Raziel devoured the souls of Melchiah, Zephon, Rahab and Dumah, as well as the souls of many other vampires descended from Kain. He also fed on the souls of Vampire Worshippers, and (depending on the player's choice) optionally devoured the souls of Vampire Hunters and humans in the Human Citadel. If Raziel avoided killing humans, except the Vampire Worshippers, they regarded him as a saviour. Raziel could still 'sip' at their souls - which were less deeply-rooted than those of the vampires - to replenish himself a bit without damaging his reputation.
The souls of Melchiah, Zephon, Rahab and Dumah granted Raziel with new abilities when he consumed them (see Earned Abilities).
When Raziel confronted Kain in the Sanctuary of the Clans, Kain was armed with the Soul Reaver. Raziel re-iterated Kain's description of the sword from Blood Omen - that it devoured souls - but he also said the blade was actually possessed. The soul-devouring entity trapped inside the Reaver was released upon the destruction of the corporeal sword, but retained the shape of its former prison. When Raziel grasped it, it bound itself to Raziel as his wraith-blade.[8,26]
Souls in Soul Reaver 2
In Soul Reaver 2, human souls were depicted as yellow balls of energy, still with a trailing tail. Non-human souls - those of demons, Thralls and mutants - were blueish and human skull-shaped, with a tail that looked like a spine.
In this game, following 'The Reaver Convergence', the wraith-blade competed with Raziel for its victims' souls. If Raziel killed with it, it would automatically consume the released soul. If Raziel initially used the wraith-blade against a foe, then switched to another weapon to finish them off, a faded, damaged soul would be released upon their death. Raziel would receive less energy than normal from consuming it.
Towards the end of Soul Reaver 2, Raziel killed the Sarafan elite: Melchiah, Zephon, Rahab, Dumah and Turel. He also slew his Sarafan self. As they were destined to be resurrected by Kain as his vampire lieutenants a thousand years after their deaths, it was not possible for Raziel to consume their souls. They were shown to be blue-coloured (unlike the other human souls in the game), rising up swiftly out of the Sarafan bodies and vanishing with a flash. Had Raziel been able to devour them, he would have introduced a massive paradox, and possibly one that would have resulted in his expulsion from Nosgoth's history. It could be argued that fate had somehow made the souls of the Sarafan different, in order to avoid that potentially devastating historical contradiction.[28,29]
Soul Reaver 2 established that two incarnations of the Soul Reaver sword meeting in time and space caused a paradox: "a temporal distortion powerful enough to derail history". Soul Reaver 2's ending clarified the reason for this. Raziel, finally realising that he was the soul-devouring entity trapped within the physical Soul Reaver, understood that the Reaver could not devour its own soul. That was the cause of the temporal distortion: two copies of his soul mutually trying to consume each other.[30,31]
Souls in Blood Omen 2
Souls didn't really feature in Blood Omen 2. When Kain killed Faustus, Marcus, Sebastian and Magnus, it may have looked like he absorbed their souls to gain their Dark Gifts, but technically he was supposed to be absorbing "their veins". Maybe he was fully draining their bodies of blood.
Souls in Defiance
In Defiance the appearance of souls changed once again. We saw human and Hylden souls; in this game the demons did not release their souls upon death, for gameplay reasons.
Human souls were blue and human-shaped. Hylden souls were green and Hylden-shaped: humanoid, but with bony wing-like structures upon their backs and different shaped skulls.
Throughout the events of Defiance, Hylden projected their souls from the Demon Realm, where they were trapped, into Nosgoth's Material Realm. Their disembodied souls possessed some living humans - and the evolved vampire Turel - but most often long-buried corpses to create Revenants. The strongest Revenants were those created when a Hylden soul managed to find and reanimate a Hylden corpse, due to 'the perfect resonance of host and soul'.
Raziel encountered the spectres of the original, Vampire Pillar Guardians in the Reaver Forges. They resembled their living selves - although they were deformed and corpse-like - and they appeared to remember their identities and faith (in the Wheel of Fate) when speaking to Raziel. When he defeated them in battle their souls entered a vessel, and Raziel used them to imbue the wraith-blade with the elemental properties of Fire, Air, Water and Earth. The souls of Ariel and her Balance Guardian predecessors imbued the wraith-blade with the final element: Spirit.[35,36,37]
The blood-drinking Reaver sword, carried by Kain during Defiance, became the Soul Reaver when Raziel allowed himself to be drawn into it at the game's climax. The wraith-blade, revealed by Soul Reaver 2 to be a future copy of Raziel's soul, and now enhanced by the Spirit element, dispersed into Kain, healing him of the corruption he had borne since his birth.[31,33]
Some players of Blood Omen wondered what Kain's Pillar Token was, as it was never mentioned in-game. Warp's answers from Amy at the Eidos Forums said that the soul of a Balance Guardian bound them to their Pillar. This may explain why Ariel's spirit was trapped at the Pillars after her death and their corruption: her soul found its way there, but perhaps the tainted Pillar of Balance was unable to accept and absorb it, keeping her trapped there instead.[16,38]
An early video preview of Soul Reaver shows Raziel devouring a humanoid-shaped soul, rather than a 'green ball' (which is how souls were depicted in the released game). It's unclear why the developers settled on the latter, only re-introducing the humanoid shape in Defiance.
Shades - common creatures in Soul Reaver 2 and Defiance - were 'formed by the fragments of half-devoured souls that cannot find their rest'.
- [SR1] The Elder God: "You did not survive the Abyss, Raziel. I have only spared you from total dissolution."
- [DEF] The Elder God to Raziel: "You serve me adequately as a wraith, and a wraith you will remain."
- [SR2] Raziel to the Elder God: "Did you truly resurrect me, or were you simply there when I awakened from my torment in the Abyss?"
- [SR1] The Elder God to Raziel: "You are changed. Your blood-thirst is replaced by a deeper need - you have become a devourer of souls.
To sustain your strength, you must hunt the lost spirits of the Underworld, and consume the souls of your enemies."
- [DEF] Raziel (referring to the Archons): "Like these mindless hunters, I existed only to fuel him with souls, siphoning their energy to feed him and his Wheel of Fate."
- The Blood Omen Game Manual
- [BO1] The Oracle of Nosgoth to Kain (referring to Malek): "For his failing, his spirit was fused to a hellish set of magical armor."
- [BO1] Kain: "Time fades even legend, and the origin of the Soul Reaver has been lost long ago. But its purpose remains - to feed on the souls of any creature it strikes. Kindred, this blade and I."
- [BO1] Kain: "The Wraith Smiths forge their items with forfeit souls."
- [BO1] Kain (referring to the Wraith Armor): "This armor was spawned in the most impure of Spirit Forges; tempered from the seething agony of tortured souls."
- [BO1] Kain (referring to the Control Mind spell): "This spell allows me to enslave my enemies, giving me control of their bodies. When I release my grip, their bodies will shrivel and die, as I displace their souls, and replace them with my own."
- [BO1] Kain (referring to the Spirit Wrack spell): "With this spell I can tear a creature's soul from its body, leaving its vacant flesh mine to control!"
- [BO1] Kain (referring to the Spirit Death spell): "'Tis a spell worthy of the Necromancer himself. This allows me to dissect a creature's soul from its vessel of flesh. For these poor wretches, only oblivion awaits."
- [BO1] Kain (referring to Elzevir's doll): Elzevir imprisoned the girl's soul in a small fabric doll. The old man's intentions I shall never know.
- The Background Story, as given in the Soul Reaver Game Manual (UK and US versions)
- The Warp's answers from Amy at the Eidos Forums
- The second Defiance Q&A page at The Lost Worlds
- [SR1] The Elder God: "The birth of one of Kain's abominations traps the essence of life. It is this soul that animates the corpse you 'lived' in. And that Raziel, is the demise of Nosgoth. There is no balance. The souls of the dead remain trapped. I can not spin them in the Wheel of Fate. They can not complete their destinies."
- [SR1] The Elder God to Raziel: "Redeem yourself. Or if you prefer, avenge yourself. Settle your dispute with Kain. Destroy him and your brethren. Free their souls and let the Wheel of Fate churn again. Use your hatred to reave their souls... I can make it possible. Become my Soul Reaver, my angel of death..."
- [SR1] The Elder God to Raziel: "Sustain your strength to prolong your manifestation in the physical world. If you fail to feed, or absorb too many wounds, this fragile matter will dissolve."
- [SR1] The Elder God: "Unfettered from the flesh, a creature's soul fades swiftly into the Spectral Realm. Draw it in quickly, Raziel, or you will be compelled to follow."
- [SR1] The Elder God to Raziel: "Sluagh, the scavengers of the Underworld. Their feral hunger has claimed countless souls - spirits who now shall never find their rest."
- [SR1] The Elder God: "Beware, Raziel. These wraiths are vampire spirits, fettered too long in the Spectral Realm. When their vampire natures adapt to this plane, they become eaters of souls. Do not allow these spirits to reinhabit their corpses..."
- The Soul Reaver Game Manual (UK version)
- The Soul Reaver Game Manual (UK and US versions)
- Soul Reaver Dialogue: The Pillars at Nosgothic Realm
- The Soul Reaver 2 Dark Chronicle (Chapter 2 - The Reaver Convergence)
- [SR2] Raziel (referring to the Sarafan Dumah and Rahab): "For it was I who put these bastards in their tomb, thus providing the corpses for Kain to raise as his vampire sons a millennium from now."
- [SR2] Kain: "And remember, Raziel, we are irritants in this regard, as well - history will not allow the introduction of a paradox."
Raziel: "And if events cannot be reshuffled to accommodate the change?"
Kain: "It is the irritant who's expelled."
- The Soul Reaver 2 Dark Chronicle (Chapter 8 - History And Destiny Collide)
- The Soul Reaver 2 Dark Chronicle (Chapter 20 - Full Circle)
- [BO2] Umah to Kain (referring to his forthcoming encounters with the traitor vampires): "You would be lucky to survive one such encounter until you grow stronger. But should you prevail, then you will be able to absorb their veins and thus gain new abilities. To our kind, these are called the Dark Gifts."
- The Defiance team FAQ at the Eidos Forums
- Defiance: Prima's Official Strategy Guide (ISBN 0761544674)
- Mind Guardian to Raziel: "In winning all, we lost all... In winning what we thought mattered, we lost what truly mattered..."
- Time Guardian: "All upon the Wheel are blessed..."
Energy Guardian: "Rejoice in the turning of the Wheel..."
Time Guardian: "It does turn, though we cannot see it..."
- The Defiance Script (Dialogue) (Dark Chronicle - The Transformation Of The Reaver)
- [SR2] Kain (referring to Ariel): "Her spirit is just now tearing free, lost in the ether, trying to find its way here.
You have already seen how she comes to haunt these Pillars -"
Raziel: " - bound here by your refusal to die."
- The Soul Reaver: Salvation, Revelation, Deceit page at The Lost Worlds