The first game in the series, created by Silicon Knights of Eternal Darkness and Too Human fame and the only one to play as a top-down action RPG in the style of The Legend of Zelda: The story begins with Kain, a then-unknown nobleman, being assassinated by a group of thugs on the way home from a pub. Mortanius the Necromancer offers him a chance for vengeance by resurrecting him as a vampire, and as soon as Kain avenges his own death, he begins to seek a cure to his own vampirism. The ghost of Ariel, the former Balance Guardian, points him to the direction of the Circle of Nine, the Guardians of the Pillars of Nosgoth and her former colleagues, who have all been corrupted when Ariel's former lover, Nupraptor the Mentalist, went mad with her death. As long as the Guardians remain alive, their corruption infects the Pillars that govern the world's well-being and so the world is doomed. Only if Kain kills them and brings tokens of their power to their Pillar will he be cured and the world saved.
In his quest, Kain also finds himself in the middle of a war between the noble King Otmar and the cruel Nemesis (formerly known as King William the Just), and with the Soul Reaver blade in tow, travels back in time with the use of Moebius the Timestreamer's witchcraft, and defeats the young King William. However, upon his return he discovers that his round-trip in time triggered a genocidal hate-campaign against vampires helmed by Moebius, who tricked Kain into killing William so he could begin his anti-vampire war. He returns in time to watch Vorador, the oldest living vampire and in this alternate timeline their last besides Kain, be decapitated before a cheering crowd. Kain continues on and finds that Mortanius was the one who killed Ariel and set the Circle's corruption in motion. He fights Mortanius, who transforms into a monstrous demon called "Hash'ak'gik", and kills him. At this time Ariel reveals she has deceived Kain—the final Guardian he must kill is himself, for Kain is the next Balance Guardian, born to take her place. Thus Kain is given a choice—sacrifice himself to purify Nosgoth, but as the last living vampire their race will be extinct. Or, remain alive and rebuild the vampire race at the cost of Nosgoth's damnation.
The first game to be developed by Crystal Dynamics, who went on to handle the rest of the series. The game starts roughly a millennium after Blood Omen, after Kain refused the sacrifice and instead chose to rule Nosgoth as its vampire king, wiping out the human race with the help of his six vampire lieutenants. Over time, Kain and his fellow vampires began to evolve, with Kain evolving first and the other vampires following suit, until Raziel, Kain's first-born lieutenant, surpassed his master by sprouting a pair of wings on his back. For his disobedience, Kain has Raziel thrown into the Lake of the Dead, where he was burnt to death and laid for centuries, before being unexpectedly resurrected as a wraith. The Elder God then makes his presence known to him, and tells Raziel that the widespread reproduction of the vampires has stalled his Wheel of Fate, a cycle of souls critical to the world's health—as their souls are immortal vampires stall it. The Elder God grants Raziel the inability to ever be destroyed in return for killing Kain and his brethren and allowing the Wheel to turn again.
Raziel travels through the land of Nosgoth, facing his former vampire brothers, and eventually Kain, who shatters the Soul Reaver blade on Raziel's head in the heat of battle, and disappears, with the apostate soul previously trapped in the Reaver joining itself with Raziel's, granting him the Soul Reaver as a "wraith blade" of spectral energy. Quickly afterward, Raziel discovers the Tomb of the Sarafan, where he finds a series of empty coffins etched with the names of his vampire brethren and his own, realizing that he himself was a Sarafan vampire hunter in life. Fuelled by this revelation, Raziel chases Kain to Moebius' grand time-streaming chamber, where Kain vanishes into a portal back in time, with Raziel following suit.
Soul Reaver II
Raziel chases Kain through a portal into the past, 30 years before Blood Omen. He appears in the middle of the Sarafan citadel, which in this time period is occupied not by the Sarafan, but by Moebius, the Time Streamer and Guardian of the Pillar of Time from Blood Omen. In this time period, William the Just has been recently slain by Kain, Ariel is about to be killed by Mortanius (thus corrupting the Pillars), and Kain is just about to be born as a mortal. With the fledgling vampire Kain having recently traveled to this time period and killed William the Just, Moebius is leading an army of mercenaries against the vampires of Nosgoth. When Moebius and Raziel first meet, Raziel learns that Moebius's staff, which is capable of incapacitating vampires, has no effect on Raziel personally, but does cause the Soul Reaver to dissipate. Moebius then shows Raziel a vision of Kain waiting at the Pillars, and sets him on the trail.
As Raziel progresses through the citadel of the Sarafan (now inhabited by Moebius's vampire hunters), he comes across the enshrined remains of William the Just, whose death is relatively recent in this time period. Laid atop his sarcophagus is the broken Soul Reaver. As Raziel touches it, the wraith blade bound to him is once more able to manifest. However, when it meets its "twin" in the broken blade, the wraith blade goes berserk, and it takes all Raziel's strength to tear himself away from the physical blade (which has, meanwhile, made itself whole once more upon contact with its wraith twin). When he does, the wraith blade is now "quickened"; it can be summoned in the physical world at will, but will begin to consume Raziel's own life force if used too much.
Upon reaching the Pillars, Raziel does encounter Kain, but is talked down from killing him. Kain explains his intent to Take a Third Option, dodging the destiny that has been set for both he and Raziel since before their birth, and posits that the corruption of the Pillars has nothing at all to do with his choice — that neither his sacrifice nor his choice to rule caused the corruption, and further intimating that the "game" is rigged in any event. Neither choice, the vampire maintains, would have averted the corruption, and Kain has been every bit as unfairly used as Raziel. Kain, it seems, is now biding his time, waiting for the right moment to undo the carefully planned destiny set before him and Raziel, and indeed all of Nosgoth. He gives the analogy of a coin being flipped over and over, until one day it comes up neither heads nor tails, but lands on its edge. Raziel remains skeptical, but spares Kain for now.
As he travels beyond the Pillars, Raziel has his first encounter with the ruins of the Ancient Vampires of Nosgoth. Far from being monsters, he discovers them to be a race of blue-skinned, winged humanoids, practically angelic in appearance (aside from the three-fingered claw hands that Kain and all other sufficiently aged vampires seem to possess), at least if their murals are anything to go by. Said murals depict an ancient battle against an unknown foe, and feature the Soul Reaver prominently as a weapon of almost holy significance. The ruins lead further underground, ultimately coming to a chamber below the Pillars. In fact, the "roots" of the Pillars extend below a platform and into the water below, where the tentacles of the Elder God itself are coiled about their base.
It is unlikely that this is the whole of the Elder God, but rather a part of it. It becomes apparent that Raziel's late "patron" seems, perhaps unsurprisingly, to perceive time in a non-linear fashion; he clearly remembers all of Raziel's past deeds, despite these occurring in the future. Raziel also discovers that Moebius is a servant of the Elder God. The Elder God expresses its disappointment in Raziel's refusal to kill Kain, and makes vague threats, but ultimately takes no action against Raziel. It does, however, describe the events shown in the mural as lies and delusions of the Ancient Vampires.
During his journey beyond the Pillars, Raziel senses that his actions in this time period are being watched, and finds the observer to be none other than Vorador, Scourge of the Circle, and one-time mentor to the fledgling Kain. In his pursuit of the ancient vampire, he finds shrines that grant the Soul Reaver Elemental Powers, and these shrines are decorated with more murals of the Ancient Vampires. These murals show the Ancient Vampires to be the original builders and Guardians of the Pillars of Nosgoth, which function primarily as a sort of lock, keeping the Ancient Vampires' enemies sealed away in another dimension. The murals also continue to show the Soul Reaver venerated as a holy relic.
When Raziel finds Vorador, the ancient vampire implies that Raziel is more than he realizes, but that he is also "too late" — the one who awaited his prophesied arrival, Janos Audron, last of the Ancient Vampires, died centuries ago.
Empowered with elemental enhancements to the Reaver, Raziel returns to Moebius's base of operations, where these enhancements will allow him to re-enter the Chronoplast Chamber, and travel through time once again. First, however, he passes by the sarcophagus of William the Just once more, where he again encounters Kain. As the two speak, Raziel takes up the physical Soul Reaver, which once more causes the wraith blade to go berserk. This time, it seems to exert a physical pull, impelling Raziel to kill Kain, while Kain himself implores Raziel to fight the impulse, to defy his destiny. For it is destined that this is when and how Kain dies. Raziel, less from any liking of Kain than from a desire not to be used, narrowly averts the killing blow. History is changed, and Kain and Raziel watch as their memories shift in accordance with the alteerd flow of events. Kain reveals that change is possible due to the presence of the two Soul Reavers — the physical blade and the wraith blade — being present together, creating a paradox. This same paradox was what allowed the fledgling Kain to kill William the Just, as they both were armed with the Soul Reaver. That paradox having been recreated, Kain and Raziel's destinies are once more rewritten.
Raziel leaves this encounter even more determined to seek out Janos Audron for answers to his destiny. To this end, he finally corners Moebius, and compels him to send Raziel to the past. However, rather than traveling to the past as he desired, Moebius has instead set the Chronoplast Chamber to send Raziel into the future, in the time of corruption shortly after Kain refused to sacrifice himself. Once there, he is confronted by Moebius's supposed ghost, who claims that the deception was necessary for Raziel to understand the true horror of what will happen if he fails to kill Kain. Raziel, however, isn't buying it. He argues that killing the future Kain will not prevent the corruption, as it is the fledgling Kain who refused the sacrifice, not the future Kain who everyone insists that he kill. If that initial refusal is supposed to be what caused the corruption, then killing the master vampire Kain from a millennium in the future will change none of that.
Raziel begins to suspect that it is the future Kain that is the true danger to the carefully laid plans of Moebius, the Elder God, and every other entity that seems to want him dead, not the fledgling Kain. This suspicion is confirmed when Raziel runs across the physical manifestation of the Elder God once more, now grown in size and strength since Raziel encountered it in the previous time period. It's also in this time period that Raziel begins to encounter powerful, demonic beings who materialize out of thin air, apparently due to the further corruption of the Pillars, which were the lock upon the seal which kept them apart from the world.
Although answers are in short supply in this age of corruption, Raziel does find the means to access a different Chronoplast Chamber (separate from the one in the now-abandoned citadel of the Sarafan which Moebius had been using) and uses it to travel through time again, this time hopefully into the past.
Against all odds, he makes it. Raziel exits the chamber some five hundred years before the events of Blood Omen, and theoretically just in time to finally meet Janos Audron.
Janos's retreat was built with winged beings in mind, and reaching the top where Janos dwells is no easy task, and requires Raziel to force a path. Yet he does so, ultimately reaching Janos's inner chambers. Upon meeting, Janos reveals that although there were nine Pillar Guardians, there is also a tenth Guardian, for the Reaver, who has kept it safe through the long years. Raziel is strangely drawn to the Reaver when Janos reveals it to him. Stranger still, the temporal distortion he felt when he took up the Reaver against Kain is not present, causing him to be suspicious.
Suddenly, the Sarafan storm Janos' home, using the path Raziel unwittingly opened for them to infiltrate the otherwise impenetrable retreat. Janos teleports Raziel to safety, where Raziel must find the last elemental enhancement for the Reaver in order to return to Janos's chamber. When he does, it is just in time to see none other than his human self cut out Janos's heart. This is the fabled Heart of Darkness, without which Janos of course cannot live. Janos dies in Raziel's arms, urging him to reclaim the Reaver, which the Sarafan have stolen.
Raziel infiltrates the Sarafan stronghold, intending not merely to reclaim the Reaver as Janos implored him, but also the Heart of Darkness, which he hopes to return to Janos's corpse and thus resurrect him. He is stopped by Moebius, who is accompanied by Malek; Moebius once more uses his staff to negate Raziel's spectral Soul Reaver, forcing him to instead take up the material Reaver. At this moment, Vorador storms the citadel of the Sarafan, and begins slaughtering the Pillar Guardians who are gathered there; thus Raziel's attack coincides with the events shown in the prologue of Blood Omen. Raziel is too slow to stop Moebius and Malek from departing, but is able to use the material Reaver to hack his way through the Sarafan. On his way through the citadel, he cuts down each of his Sarafan brothers, finishing with his past human self, thus setting the stage for their eventual resurrection by Kain some centuries hence. And as Raziel exults in his moment of victory, the spectral Soul Reaver reawakens and coils around its material self. Once more, the twin Reavers go berserk, and this time, they impale him. He begins to feel his soul being drawn into the blade.
At this moment, Raziel realizes that the soul-devouring spirit dwelling in the Soul Reaver that bonded to him when the material sword broke is none other than his own soul. This was why he felt no distortion when he took up the Reaver in this time period, and why it was not referred to as the Soul Reaver until this point. Until now, there was no soul in the weapon. This is how the Reaver gained its soul-stealing ability. This was why Raziel was able to defy Moebius's plans, and those of the Elder God. When Kain broke the Soul Reaver on Raziel in the future, and Raziel absorbed the energy of the sword, he was absorbing his own future soul as a separate entity. He is two Soul Reavers together, and thus he is a walking embodiment of the exact sort of time paradox that occurred when Kain faced William the Just.
As Raziel struggles to avoid having his soul drawn completely into the Reaver, Kain emerges from the shadows, and watches. When he judges the time is right, he draws the sword from Raziel, saving his life and changing history yet again. But as history reshuffles itself to accommodate these changes, Kain's look changes to one of horror as he sees how history will now play out, and realizes that both he and Raziel have stumbled into a trap laid by the Ancient Vampires' foes, a race of beings known as the Hylden. He tries to warn Raziel of this, and warn him also that Janos must stay dead, but his warning falls on deaf ears. Weakened from his latest ordeal with the Soul Reaver, Raziel loses his grip on his physical form, and slips into the spectral realm once more, unaware of any of Kain's warnings, knowing only that he has failed Janos, and that he has not averted his destiny at all, but merely postponed it.
History abhors a paradox.
Blood Omen II
A midquel, taking place a few centuries after the end of Blood Omen, and showing the results of the newly altered timeline from the end of Soul Reaver 2. In the process of conquering Nosgoth, Kain's army is destroyed by the newly formed Sarafan Order, and their leader, the Sarafan Lord, defeats Kain personally and claims the Soul Reaver as his own. Two centuries later, Kain re-awakens to find that Nosgoth has become vastly different, and he himself has little recollection of his past self. Recruited by Umah, Kain joins a Vampire resistance to the Sarafan lead by Vorador to fight the Sarafan, who are also aided by several of Kain's lieutenants turned traitor. After rescuing Umah from the Sarafan she tells Kain that she saw the Nexus Stone, a stone used to open portals between dimensions, under the use of the Sarafan. The stone also grants the wielder immunity to the powers of the Soul Reaver, so Kain tracks it down and claims it.
With the knowledge gained from Sebastian, Kain learns of a powerful device beneath the city the Sarafan plan to activate and heads there to stop them. He finds a beast there being drained of energy to fuel the machine, and with its aid finds the builder of the machine who tells him it can destroy all life in Nosgoth except for what its masters decide may live. Kain shuts the machine down, and the beast powering it transforms into Janos Audron. Janos reveals that the leaders of the Sarafan are Hylden, and the Sarafan Lord is actually the Hylden General (revealed in Defiance to be the same "Hash'ak'gik" entity from Blood Omen). The Hylden are the enemies that the Ancients sealed in another dimension using the Pillars of Nosgoth, and have now broken free and see to control Nosgoth. Kain and Umah go to close the gate between worlds, which will kill all the Hylden in Nosgoth, but Kain is forced to kill Umah when she steals the Nexus Stone, believing his rule will be just as oppressive and tyranous as the Hylden's. Kain, Vorador and Janos infiltrate the Hylden City and Kain battles the Sarafan Lord over the portal. Janos is thrown into it when he intervenes but allows Kain to reclaim the Soul Reaver. The Sarafan Lord is struck down and the portal closed when the Nexus Stone is thrown into it.
A direct sequel to Soul Reaver 2, and so far the last game in the series. Kain's story continues immediately from the end of Soul Reaver 2, where Kain is desperately seeking to find Raziel, having seen the disastrous consequences of the time paradox he engineered. At the same time, he seeks to fulfill his destiny as the self-assumed Scion of Balance, a figure destined to return Nosgoth to vampire rule. Meanwhile, in the Future..., Raziel has been held trapped in the Elder God's realm for five centuries, refusing to submit to the Elder God's will for fear of his destiny finding him again. Relenting when he realizes he cannot hide forever, Raziel emerges during the time of Blood Omen. Though the Elder God does not allow him access to the portals to shift between realms anymore, Raziel discovers he can manifest in the material realm by possessing corpses. As the two travel they discover murals retelling the Ancient-Hylden war. Raziel also discovers the instigation of the war—the Ancients worshiped the Elder God, and declared war on the Hylden for not submitting to his reign over their souls. When the Ancients were made immortal, the Elder God granted Moebius the power to rise up and destroy them since their souls were no longer under his command either. They also empower their versions of the Reaver, Kain by finding fragments of the Balance Emblem and Raziel by absorbing the souls of the very first Ancient Pillar Guardians.
Raziel seeks to revive Janos and speaks to Mortanius, who reveals Janos's heart was placed inside Kain to revive him as a vampire. The Elder God meanwhile contacts Kain and tells him he plans to revive Janos, which will trigger the events of Blood Omen 2. Kain travels forward to meet with Raziel and convince him otherwise, but influenced by Hylden possession and refusing to listen, Raziel strikes Kain down and tears Janos's heart from his body, casting him into a portal to another dimension. Raziel revives Janos, who spirits him to a vampire fortress where Raziel fights off the Elder God to activate the final Reaver forge. Raziel absorbs the spirit of Ariel and all other Balance Guardians to create the Spirit Reaver, the Soul Reaver's strongest form. At this time, in time with the events of Blood Omen, Kain's past self refuses the sacrifice—this shatters the Pillars of Nosgoth and allows the Hash'ak'gik to possess Janos and escape to trigger the events of Blood Omen 2. He fights and weakens Raziel first, and as Raziel slips into the spectral realm the Elder God re-imprisons him in his chamber while reviving Moebius from the Blood Omen era to serve him again. Raziel tries to attack the Elder God, but as his Soul Reaver is only a wraith blade it cannot harm him.
In the realm of the Hylden Kain awakens, having survived Raziel's assault, and fights his way to the vampire fortress, sensing the activation of the Spirit Forge. He finds Moebius in the forge speaking to the Elder God and slays him, and Moebius' spirit manifests in the spectral realm to be reaved by Raziel. Surmising that the Elder God has been the cause of all the wars and strife throughout history and that he is controlling all souls, he also realizes that no one but him has ever seen the Elder God's true form, and it took the Spirit Reaver's power purifying his sight for Moebius to look upon him. Deciding there is no other way, Raziel finally submits to his fate—he manifests in the material realm using Moebius' corpse, prompting Kain to impale him with the Reaver. Raziel explains to Kain he will at last see the "true enemy", and with his sacrifice transforms Kain's Reaver into the Soul Reaver, granting with it the power to see the Elder God before him. Kain attacks the Elder God, the two both discovering that with the power of the Spirit Forge the physical blade can harm him. Kain defeats the Elder God and escapes the fortress as it collapses, the Elder God warning he will return. The game ends with Kain looking over the ruins of the Pillars of Nosgoth, reflecting that now that all the manipulations and schemes have been exposed, and with Raziel's sacrifice to create the Spirit Reaver, there is at last a true hope for Nosgoth's—and his own—salvation.