Soul Reaver two had a beyond an amazing story (not in the least because it was zealously faithful to Blood Omen), but it's gameplay was generally crap. Between the awesome story, and the impressive Forges, you just ran the same 6 locations over and over in different time streams.
I thought it was fun to see the same locations with subtle changes of different time
oh, it was a clever idea, I have nothing against that. but it was THE ONLY gameplay mechanic (alongside the 4 reavers), that replaced the open-world model of SR1. the combat was also pretty cut down, in comparison to SR1. yes, the story was amazing, and SR2 gets a ton of slack for that, but as a game, sans story, it's the weakest of the bunch.
it's just that when placed against the pretty open gameplay of BO1 and SR1 (in both games, you kept progression down the main story, but there were a ton of places where you could go back to (at any time) that were inaccessible to you before, to find more secrets and such. People say SR1 was Zelda like--for all my love of SR1 (except the over-saturation of block puzzles)--it's got nothing in that department on BO1. SR had some "secrets" (mostly Glyph-related), that I can name right now on the palm of my hand. BO1, otoh, had TONS of things, both big AND small (like the hidden entrances to spirit Forges... and The secret door in Janos Audron's "house").
RE: legal rights. afaik, Crystal co-developed BO1 with Silicon Kinghts. there's at least 20 of CD staff listed in BO1 credits, and not just as QA people. There was a long dispute, and from what I remember, CD got all the rights to LoK.
RE: BO1 "not being essential to the story": wut? I understand there are people who see LoK as "Raziel's story", but I vehemently disagree. (not the least b/c Michael Bell, the voice actor for Raz has stated several times, that he's done with playing Raz after Defiance). Playing BO1 gives you a rich background. Yes, SR2 spends half of its cutscenes re-telling BO1, but Kain talking about what he did and how he felt is nowhere NEAR the same as BEING Kain when he does all the things that are recounted in SR2. And, yeah, this may undermine my argument, but: it's the LEGACY OF KAIN!
RE: compatibility. GOG is using a fan-made patch for it.. the same guy made BO1 play on modern systems. that's not an issue.
so yes, imho, by not playing BO1, people are missing out. that soundtrack with the scream STILL (some 14 years after I first heard it) sends shivers down my spine. Every. Single. Time.
Apologies if this came out as a fanboyish rant, but BO1 is without a doubt, my favourite game of all time. I played it first, in 1998, iirc, and way before I played any of the sequels. It is, and always was, an absolutely brilliant game, and it remains incredibly gripping to this day. Also, Kain is, and always be, inmy eyes, the ultimate definition of a game character badass. I will gladly pay 20 bucks to get this on my hard drive for anytime play, any day.
and the series itself is basically brilliant, in its entirety (yes, that includes BO2). I haven't played the Metal Gear Series, because i've always been a PC-only gamer (economic circumstances conspired in such a way that owning a console was never in the cards. some day, maybe), but with that caveat, LoK is basically the best story ever told in gaming.