Soul Sacrifice is here and Vita owners have something to be excited about. The big question is whether it will be the savior the handheld needs, or just another vessel to keep it afloat for a while more. For the small number of VITA owners out in the wild it is safe to say they are a hardcore audience, and hardcore is one of the ways I would describe Soul Sacrifice. A game created by the legendary Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega-man, it’s no surprise that Soul Sacrifice will challenge you, sometimes causing you to come to grips with its mechanics, and think about what type of game it actually is. The Monster Hunter clone was a phrase we were hearing quite awhile leading up to release, but that phrase will be thrown out the window as soon as you play Soul Sacrifice.
Soul Sacrifice has a unique system. Instead of just choosing armor and weapons you’re more of a sorcerer, which gives you flexibility in how you play the game. You can be an up close and personal badass in battles, or you can take a ranged approach and keep your distance in a heated battle to ensure you stay out of harms way. My method of gameplay was a mix of both. You have three hot keys (square, triangle and circle), and by pressing the right trigger you can cycle through another bar that you can equip spells with as you unlock them. So I used one bar for a close range play style and for the moments I neared death I’d switch to long range, which also included a healing spell.
There is a wide variety of spells in the game and you can use the fuse ability to combine two of the same to increase its power. This means you won’t be spending the bulk of your time just in battle, you will have to dedicate a great amount to decking out your sorcerer and craft them to fit your preferred play type.
Soul Sacrifice‘s combat is fast and fluid, and contains a great sense of challenge and diversity amongst the enemy bosses. For how great the bosses are the basic enemies will get to a stage of repetitiveness, which can add a sense of grinding, but this will incentive you to take some breaks from time to time. As with most handheld titles, it is played in short bursts as opposed to seating down for hours at a time. Despite this, Soul Sacrifice is lengthy, but the story book narrative that just seems more convenient than fleshed out and interesting.
While Soul Sacrifice won’t be the most stand out game for overall looks it still impresses with its character and monster design. The levels serve a great purpose for their unique weather design, but lack a memorable factor to them, they just serve as an arena for you to do battle in.
The customization of your character doesn’t stop at equipping items and spells, you also have control over how he is displayed, which is very beneficial in the online multi-player mode. The character portraits are quite detailed and don’t lose any graphical flare in battle, which is a great accomplishment for a handheld title with such fast paced action.
Soul Sacrifice has its highs and lows, and one of the lows is in the presentation of texts and the explanation into the combat. You will find yourself going through the menus randomly fusing stuff at one moment, and getting puzzled by why you can’t fuse the next. The issue is not an “of course moment”, it’s more along the lines of poor explanation It is understandable for a game like this not wanting to hold your hand, but it is leaving a lot up to the player to discover and try to grasp in a world that not many gamers been to. With the dark grittiness and complex equipment settings you would hope that a codex would be present, but I feel a lot of gamers will be searching wikis and posting message board comments in order to discover what they may be missing or using a guide as to what to do next.
You do all your interactions through an animate book called Librom, who is meant to be your guide and explain to you what you should be doing, but all he seems to want is for you to wipe droplets from him and talk about how dark the main enemy is. Sadly the tale is not interesting enough to keep me invested to max out my character and to discover better abilities in the game.
There is a dark feel to the game and a big layer of this is due to the music. Every aspect of Soul Sacrifice has its own diverse tone to it. From the menu and customization screen down to the agonizing screams from your character in death scenes, you will be let down by your failure.
I can’t say the same love went into the voices. I found all the English spoken dialogue uninteresting and prolonged. Librom suffered the most in this aspect. A character who is meant to be your guide and mentor and I just found him to be too annoying and not fun to interact with. The fact I could pick on him by tapping on the screen to knock him over added no rewarding benefit or pleasure. If you have the option and you pre-ordered the game I suggest playing the game with the Japanese track on.
Multi-player will add the most replay enjoyment if you have the ability to play online. It is a stand out game in this regards due to the lack of lag and how easy it is to drop in and drop out an online game.
The enjoyment and reward from taking down a full fledged boss adds more reward when you have friend take it down with, but when a team fails it adds an element of resent and hate, due to the darkness of the game and the ability to even sacrifice one of your own teammates to take out a boss.
Soul Sacrifice is a hardcore game that is great to see come to the Vita. It will find an audience that will continue to play in time to come. If you can overcome the learning curve and badly written dialogue you will find a very rewarding experience and game that you will never see deleted from your home screen. Soul Sacrifice‘s biggest failing is that it feels like a game that is missing some great ideas and feels that it didn’t get enough time to add them in.
This review was based on a final version of the game provided by Sony Ireland.