Those who remember both my previews of Soulstice from last June and August will remember that I said that it was a kind of game that reminded me of the old-school Devil May Cry and God Of War. Being able to play four chapters from the game during final development helped me a lot to provide you with this full review using the whole game received a few weeks ago. Developer Reply Game Studios and publisher Modus Games put the work in, making sure this game is great to play for everyone. In the meantime, I was able to experiment with the few alterations that had been made to it and I must admit that the studio had not revealed everything to us at that time and worked hard on the game.
Now that I was able to play the whole game and experience the improvement done to both graphics, controls, gameplay and AI, I do have to say that I am really excited about all these new updates and improvements that were done. These were massive changes, trust me! If you like how tight the Bayonetta franchise, No More Heroes, Devil May Cry, Astral Chain and previous God of War games were, you’ll definitely love Soulstice!
An almost classic story that lacks originality
If you haven’t read my previous previews of the game, know that Soulstice is the story of Briar, a Chimera warrior with supernatural abilities, and Lute, a soul bound to her Chimera and possessing her own will. Both are sisters and outcast members of the Order of the Ashen Blade and their main goal is to eradicate the Wraith, creatures that have invaded the Kingdom of Ilden. You will be in charge of mainly controlling Briar but you will be able to also control Lute’s abilities at the same time. With both powers, you will be able to defeat invaders from another world. However, you will face enemies stronger than expected during your mission to clear the town of Ilden, which will make your mission a little more complicated.
Like most games, the gameplay has you taking down enemies while wondering if your own Order is as good as it claims. There are a ton of familiar tropes used in Soulstice so you can piece together the early hours. However, for fans of this type of action game, you will definitely feel attracted by its unique gameplay. Wield different weapons for deadly combos, synergy attacks where Briar and Lute use their powers simultaneously or even having to trust your spectral friend to cover your back and deflect enemy attacks. All of this is in a fast-paced universe that is sure to sharpen your skills and show you just how quick every action is.
Learning to find the balance between Briar and Lute is key to staying in the action without failing. In Soulstice, you will eventually unlock Synergy attacks – these special moves are unlocked by building Unity. The benefit of these moves is that they can often be incredibly powerful and are a perfect way to turn the tide. The caveat here is that you need to make sure you’re building combos to ensure you have enough Unity to pull off those moves and you’ll be rated all the time at the end of each wave to see how well you’re doing.
I was surprised at how much more aggressive the monsters were compared to the previews Modus Games sent me and how much action there was around us. The first time, most monsters were quite easy while the second time, they were a bit more difficult to handle. The game provides five levels of difficulty, you’ll be surprised to know that “Normal” is the second one just below “Easy” and the three others are way harder than you’d expect. Luckily, I was able to train myself in these previews because now, these waves are pretty intense to handle and, even in normal difficulty.
You almost can’t take a break when it comes to dangerous areas filled with these formidable monsters, let alone bosses. And that’s where having high scores is pretty much an important mechanic because it’s worth making your moves as flashy and nasty as possible to complete combos and fill up the Unity Gauge while gathering crystals to unlock new abilities. There are mainly two types of crystals to gather: the red ones will allow you to purchase items and unlock Briar’s skills while the blue ones will be used to unlock Lute’s techniques and spells. Green crystals will also be found every now and then. Some shards will help you heal yourself while bigger ones will increase your HP gauge. There’s even a special Rapture mode where Briar enters a frenzied state and becomes faster and stronger with less tendency to take damage.
Of course, I did mention in the past that Soulstice is not just a mere linear game. It’s filled with hidden paths to find crystals and other items that will definitely be handy so don’t rush too quickly! Plus, if you want 3D platforming mixed into your battles, know that Soulstice includes its fair share. You can often move around platforms with your trusty double jump and even Lute’s spells.
Soulstice’s combat is what will attract players
I sincerely think the battles will easily be the highlight of Soulstice. It’s visceral at times and the gameplay rewards combos. Mixing up your weapons and upgrading your techniques through skill trees is often a satisfying reminder that you’re a weapon and you’re here to beat the hell out of Ilden’s evil. While Lute will be protecting you’re back, you will be able to freeze or destabilize enemies, deflect projectiles or even create a barrier around Briar with the push of a single button right on time, all this from above her shoulder. Being on the defensive sometimes is a rule even in these monster-bashing types of action games, and if done correctly, you’ll be able to slow enemies down enough to give you some breathing room and time to counter any incoming attacks.
The audio is alright and honestly, I felt needed some work. You hear a lot of clashing and pounding and fire crackling combined with monster grunts and roars but the soundtrack behind all of this almost looks silent until you enter a cutscene or in a boss fight. Having said that, I think the music is quite nice.
As for bugs, I can say that the only issues I had on my side was with sounds during cutscenes, like having music but not hearing the grunts or having some tiny freezes, still in these cutscenes. Everything else was running smoothly and controls were responsive to my actions.
What you’ll need to remember when playing Soulstice is that while the game offers loads of action and a huge amount of skills, it’s not visually as polished as other games. While areas are surely beautifully created, our protagonists are clashing a lot by their “early Xbox One/PlayStation 4” aesthetic. I can say it might not be as pretty as Devil May Cry, Bayonetta or God of War, but Soulstice is fluid, mechanically solid and a lot of fun to play.
Honestly, I’m impressed with how quickly the developers improved the experience from previews to final content. If you’re a big fan of action games where quick strikes, dodges, parries and combos are on the agenda, don’t be fooled by the visuals of the characters reminiscent of old games. The action and the soundtrack will more than compensate for this shortcoming.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5