A Story of Two Sisters
Reply Sport Studios’s motion RPG Soulstice attracts quite a lot of quick comparisons upon beginning it up. Belying its apparent namesake, its fast-paced, high-octane fight system is as an alternative extremely harking back to Capcom’s Satan Might Cry collection or PlatinumGames’s Bayonetta franchise. Much like these video games, fight is frantic and difficult, with a excessive diploma of aerial acrobatics for gamers to grasp whereas downing foes. With a strong problem and plenty of fight choices for gamers to grasp, the sport’s meaty marketing campaign presents a satisfying and properly thought-out expertise, with the promise of extra entries to return sooner or later.
Soulstice takes place within the kingdom of Keldas, a world that after got here near a catastrophic occasion often called the Soulstice however was saved by three legendary heroes. Now, historical past threatens to repeat itself as a Tear has opened within the Veil between dimensions and admitted ghastly creatures often called Wraiths into the world. Your entire sport takes place throughout the metropolis of Ilden, one of many three holy cities constructed to honor the three legendary heroes who as soon as saved Keldas. Ilden has been ransacked by the Wraiths, its inhabitants decimated or was Wraiths themselves. Gamers tackle the function of Briar, an agile and fierce warrior who has been despatched to Ilden by the Order of the Ashen Blade with the intention to quell the looming Wraith menace.
However Briar shouldn’t be alone on her determined quest. Her sister Lute is at all times by her aspect as a ghostly Shade, at occasions defending her in battle or buoying Briar’s talents with powers of her personal. By means of a particular ritual, Briar and Lute have been inseparably sure collectively by the Order and reborn as a Chimera, a robust entity consisting of a residing Knight and their Shade. Although Briar and Lute’s previous is initially shrouded in thriller, their story involves mild increasingly more because the plot unfolds. The writing is satisfactory and narrative beats plentiful, and whereas it isn’t probably the most unique or subversive plot possible, it serves to maneuver occasions alongside and offers a tapestry for the forged of characters to turn out to be slowly extra fleshed-out.
Though the entire of the sport takes place in a single metropolis, its scale is spectacular. Ilden is an enormous port metropolis, and over the course of the prolonged marketing campaign (spanning twenty-plus phases and simply as many hours) gamers will discover many districts from the waterlogged harbor to the spectacular metropolis partitions, from the sewers to the seedy Low City, and even a derelict monastery, amongst others. It’s a darkish and well-realized medieval world that’s a pleasure to behold, the form of setting any Soulslike veteran will really feel proper at house in. Sadly, for all its intriguing geography simply begging to be poked round in, Soulstice is pretty mild on precise interactivity, with ranges that, regardless of numerous corners and a few verticality, usually simply funnel gamers ahead, up, or down towards the following encounter; one can’t escape a way of wanting one thing extra past eye sweet and intriguing set dressing.
Advancing from level A to level B in Soulstice could also be easy directionally, however that’s to not say it’s fully easy, with platforming and light-weight puzzle-solving concerned in traversing the atmosphere. Whether or not ascending crumbling towers, stalking throughout abandoned battlements, or leaping between rooftops, progress regularly requires smashing crystalline blockades, restoring energy to dormant elevators, or opening up the occasional shortcut again to an earlier space. As the sport progress, Briar and Lute achieve new talents that help them in these platforming sections, together with methods to materialize invisible blocks and platforms or take away otherwise-unbreakable limitations.
The sport’s core, although, lies in its deep fight system, and it’s right here that Soulstice delivers in spades. Briar is the bruiser of the pair, and over the course of the journey she beneficial properties entry to varied brutal weapons, similar to a bow for ranged attacking and a pair of daggers for up-close-and-personal strikes. Different, much less typical weapon selections additionally embrace a barbed metallic whip and a pair of handheld cannons. Nevertheless, Briar’s signature weapon is the Ashen Vindicator, a particular sword bestowed to Chimeras that may remodel right into a merciless warfare hammer mid-combo. Whereas Briar’s armor stays static, foreign money collected through fight and exploration may be spent to improve every weapon with a wide range of expertise and combo strikes.
The sport’s combo system is certainly one of its best strengths. Devoted gamers will be capable of hone their mastery of the assorted weapons and combos by means of repeated observe towards the sport’s many enemy encounters, every of which receives quick suggestions within the type of a scoring system that assesses gamers’ efficiency based mostly on injury dealt, time, and elegance. Clearing chapters additionally ends in an total grade, and gamers can revisit beforehand accomplished chapters at any time from the principle menu with the intention to enhance their rankings. Particular unlockable fight challenges can be discovered hidden in phases and tried freely from the principle menu, netting each glory and stat-increasing gadgets.
It’s an actual credit score to the sport’s battle system that it provides perfectionists sturdy mechanics to sink their enamel into whereas these with a decrease affinity for motion RPG mastery can nonetheless prevail most of the time by means of much less coordinated button-mashing. That’s to not say that Soulstice is straightforward; there’s a powerful problem on the base really helpful setting and several other more durable difficulties accessible for additional replays. Nevertheless, a scaled-back story mode with solely a light concentrate on fight additionally exists for many who would moderately concentrate on the narrative being advised than on aerial combos and frantic motion.
A method through which the problem ramps up noticeably, notably within the sport’s latter half, is thru enemies that may’t be harmed by typical strategies and require particular techniques to dispatch. Lute offers frequent help throughout battles by shielding Briar from the occasional hit or emitting her personal ghostly assaults to deal some mild injury and preserve enemies at bay. That is achieved with the help of an on-screen button immediate that causes her to interrupt an enemy assault if pushed rapidly sufficient. However a extra direct method through which she assists Briar is by casting a dome of both crimson or blue spirit power across the two of them.
This power has a direct impact on sure enemies, weakening their pure defenses that might in any other case defend them from Briar’s assaults. Nevertheless, sustaining these power fields comes at a value, and Lute should both decrease the dome after a short time to recharge or threat being quickly shocked. It’s an fascinating concept that provides a welcome further layer to fight and enhances the extent of problem additional nonetheless, notably with harder enemies and executives who require juggling each power fields, with gamers generally having to change between fields at a second’s discover as battles put on on.
The world of Soulstice has been fastidiously crafted, with a great deal of lore unpacked through a codex as gamers advance by means of the sport. Briar and Lute have frequent run-ins with Layton, an Observer from the Order assigned to report on their progress from a distance and supply them with support when the necessity arises. There are additionally quite a lot of different Chimeras which were dispatched to Ilden who determine into the hunt in numerous methods. At a number of factors, the pair run throughout areas with uncommon religious power, indicating one thing important has not too long ago occurred. Gamers should make use of Lute’s heightened senses to finish a easy detective sport of kinds, uncovering factors of curiosity to achieve a glimpse into what occurred. It’s a welcome addition that gives breaks from the action-heavy gameplay, however may maybe have been fleshed out extra and elevated from the rare makes use of it receives right here.
A lot because the world design teeters on a knife’s edge by being intriguing to behold, however not turning up sufficient satisfying discoveries when truly exploring, the sport’s visuals have their ups and downs. The vast majority of the bespoke character designs are memorable, with evident consideration to element. Briar and the opposite Ashen Blade members sport fierce battle armor and armaments. Bosses, too, profit from distinctive designs, although the identical can’t be stated for the extra pedestrian rank-and-file enemy troops. Whereas environments definitely carry throughout Ilden’s once-grand, now-shabby state, the visuals total don’t do a lot to push the envelope, with a body charge that may dip noticeably throughout extra frantic fight moments. Audio, nevertheless, is powerful all through, with nice voiceover performances, satisfying and chonky sound results, and a moody rating that helps to promote the sport’s mysterious and danger-filled environment.
Soulstice is a powerful entry to the motion RPG market, and an awesome exhibiting for its younger improvement studio. It manages to trip a fantastic line of offering a substantial but honest problem to gamers of various talent ranges whereas additionally together with many choices for die-hards to ratchet up the problem far past what an ordinary marketing campaign requires. On the similar time, it establishes an intriguing new gameworld that gives a satisfying first outing whereas leaving the door huge open for future adventures. It might not instantly aspire to the identical household-name standing as a few of its sources of inspiration, however followers of the style can be hard-pressed to not discover loads to take pleasure in right here.
Disclosure: This assessment relies on a free copy of the sport offered by the writer.
MUSIC & SOUND
Adaptable problem that works for each button-mashers and combo-masters alike
Satisfying fight system, with numerous weapons and skills
From musical rating to voiceovers, it is an awesome audio expertise
Ilden is a splendidly darkish and moody metropolis ripe for cautious exploration...
...though exploration will primarily flip up a superficial feeling of "not right here?"
Most enemy designs are largely unimpressive