Defiance-style Raziel level, taking place after the completion of the Bastion while playing as Kain.">
The Mountain Bridge is a long grey stone bridge crossing over a mountainous area. The bridge is suspended by arches and pillars, the latter of which extend upwards above the walkway and have some form of light or torch mounted at their peaks. The rails of the bridge appear to be bronze or copper, and are decorated with a recurring ornate pattern. The surface of the walkway appears to be a lighter cream-coloured stone.
Beneath the bridge and into the distance, dark mountains can be seen. Above these is a pitch black sky, with no stars or weather features.
In the middle of the bridge is the ghostly shape of Raziel, lacking any of his colour or textures.
Of all the media discovered, it is this screenshot that raises the most questions and consequently the most controversy. The revelation of Raziel's presence in The Dark Prophecy is discussed in-depth in the essay concerning his character.
Where is this place? Consider that most of the known locations from The Dark Prophecy are in or around Malek's Bastion, which Blood Omen shows us is nestled in Nosgoth's northern mountains. The bridge could be some sort of secret passageway through or above this mountainous terrain. In Defiance, a powerful mechanism was used to shroud the monolithic Ancient Vampire Citadel from the outside world - could such a mechanism have been used to shroud this bridge? Perhaps the bridge is a secret direct route from the high Bastion to another Ancient facility.
Another theory can be constructed if we concentrate on the surreal. Consider the abstract qualities of the image: the pitch black sky; the strange black mountains; the repetitive and untarnished design of the bridge; and Raziel's ghostly appearance. These observations seem to suggest that what we are seeing is not a "real" place in the geography of Nosgoth.
Could this be some sort of manifested environment within the Soul Reaver blade itself? Perhaps the same sect of Ancients that predicted the existence of the Scion of Balance planned for some sort of eventuality in which their saviour would become imprisoned in their holy relic? Alternately, could the thousands of souls absorbed by the Soul Reaver have somehow congealed their memories and experiences, creating an abstract twisted version of Nosgoth based on the memories of the dead?
Another even grander scenario could be presented: Consider that at the end of Defiance, the essence of the Wraith Blade (Raziel's long-imprisoned and frenzied future form) enters Kain, purifying him of his Guardianship corruption. The end of the Soul Reaver's journey it seems, is to bond with the Scion of Balance.
What if this was not the end, however? What if this process somehow took the mad and twisted Soul Reaver consciousness and cleansed it of its millennia of imprisonment and impotence? What if while Raziel cleansed Kain, Kain's newfound purity had an equally cleaning effect on Raziel? The outcome of such speculation would be that Raziel, restored to the mindset and motives of his sane Soul Reaver and Defiance incarnation, continues to exist within Kain somehow. Could this abstract and surreal bridge area be Raziel exploring these mental surroundings, literally uncovering physical environments that depict Kain's memories?
The lack of additional screenshots and media makes further speculation difficult. All that we can assume is that Raziel spends at least some time in The Dark Prophecy on a surreal bridge, and probably crosses it to a new location.
Comments From Ben Lincoln
This image appears to me as though Frank Pierce intentionally removed elements from the scene that he hadn't created himself (unlike some of the other artists whose material Divine Shadow located for this series of articles). That is, Mr. Pierce probably created the bridge and mountains, but did not create the surrounding area, "skybox" textures, and so on, so he didn't include them in his portfolio. My guess is that Raziel's model is untextured for similar reasons. However, I could easily be wrong, and the theories above are much more interesting from a speculative perspective.
See also my comments in the Raziel article.
The images were gathered from the portfolio website of Frank Pierce.
Frank is a former Ritual Entertainment environment artist and level designer, and worked at the studio from November 2003 to April 2004. Relevant screenshots are preserved here for historical reference:
Frank's website confirms that the images are from his time at Ritual Entertainment, and confirms that he did work on "unreleased titles".
11/2003-04/05 Ritual Ent, Inc, Dallas, Texas
Environment artist with some level designing. Vehicle and prop implementation with an understanding of scripting. In-game special effects work with particle effects. Experience with PS2, XBox, and PC development. Shipped "25 to Life" worked on two other unreleased titles using Valve's Source engine.
Please note that the name used in this essay for the presented locale, the "Mountain Bridge" has been chosen as a best-guess based on the content of the screenshot. Whatever official name this area may have had if any, is completely unknown.