Soulborn is an upcoming open world RPG adventure based on exploration, combat and character development. It’s in development by German studio Pixelmad Studios for PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, so is currently aiming for a mid-2022 release. Why am I telling you about this game now? I got to play an alpha demo build and it’s been one of the best puzzle and exploration games I’ve played in recent years. Pixelmad deserves your attention in supporting this game’s development as it’s sure to be a great game once it releases.
As stated on the game’s official website, “if you mix Zelda and The Witcher, you will get Soulborn.” Having played only a couple of hours of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild but having played all three Witcher games, I went in with a mindset of playing more RPG than puzzles. Having now completed the alpha game demo, I had the wrong mindset but was quickly put in my place as the gamepay and challenges you face are perfectly paced for this adventure. You play as Brynjar Townshield, a Soulborn demigod and bearer of the most powerful weapon of all nine world: Mjölnir. The game is fully voice acted with the three characters I came across in the game. The lands of Midgard are made up of a vibrant and huge open world with different biomes and many varied places to discover. The full game promises crafting new equipment and potions, but in this alpha demo we only concentrated on combat and puzzles.
Combat feels very fluid and is alot of fun. In this alpha demo, our character is level 99 and we weren’t able to level up or distribute points, but that will be available in the full game. We started with 3 weapon sets and a set of armour. Whenever you drew one of your weapons, Brynjar would say a mighty “Mjölnir!” Pressing ‘2’ wields a sword and a shield, pressing ‘3’ switches to a bow and pressing ‘4’ wields a 2-handed hammer. Holding down ‘ctrl’ brings up a menu where you can swap arrow types for your bow, as well as consume health/stamina potions and eat food for HP regen. When you near an enemy, battle music plays and it’s often before you see the enemy. Some are quite camouflaged, and sometimes you’ll hear the arrow shoot past your head before you see the archer that fired it.
Melee enemy npcs were relatively easily dispatched with the sword or hammer. The sword has a special whirlwind ability activated by pressing ‘f’. The hammer has an ability where the third strike will be a big ground pound attack, and regular hammer swing attacks can hit multiple enemies. You can jump in the air and then freeze time by aiming your bow at the enemy. This helped a lot in fights against stronger enemies and boss mobs. Sometimes archers were perched up in towers that were too high to jump and couldn’t be climbed. I had to shoot at these enemy npcs, either killing them up in the tower or knocking them down to the floor where I could run over and finish them with the sword or hammer. After I completed my demo playthrough last night, Pixelmad announced a new mechanism for combat, megnetism. This means you can pick up stones and hurl them at enemies, and even catch and throw back arrows that were fired at you. This is yet another cool gameplay element that would make combat feel really fluid and dynamic.
I did a lot of looting and destroying of crates/barrels for items and while there were the occasional fully voiced cutscenes, I didn’t completely understand what my objectives were initially. That was until I came across some glowing pink circles in a large clearing with stone pillars. Nearby was a pink sphere that I was able to pick up. I placed this into one of the pink circles and it turned green, activating something. I then figured I need to find three other spheres to complete this puzzle. One was easily found by exploring a nearby ruin, however the other two showed me the meaning behind the games exploration and puzzles. I stumbled on a dungeon entrance in the middle of a lake, and in here were these platforms, barred rooms and pink button-like objects on some of the walls, with lines of pink tubes connecting objects in the room.
After some trial and error I discovered that parts of the platform can be activated to fold up, effectively creating a sling shot effect. I slung myself up to a high ledge that had a treasure chest. Figuring this mechanism out then enabled me to learn how to solve the puzzle in the other half of the room that was barred off. Shooting a button on the back wall dropped a pink sphere onto the platform below. Then shooting the button on the platform slung the ball to the other side of the room. The sphere had to be slung with enough force to get it over a barred fence. Once you found the sweet spot, the sphere activates and unlocks the next room for you to claim treasure and exit the dungeon.
This method set up the methodology of other puzzles found in the demo, though didn’t make them any easier to solve! I spent alot of time frustrated at my lack of skills and timing, but that’s all on me and not the game at all. I did have DEV_Dexter watching my stream and giving me pointers which were greatly appreciated. He must have been getting so frustrated watching my feeble attempts, but I never felt lost or unsure of how to solve a given puzzle. I did spent alot of time running around looking for solutions when often they were staring me in the face. I must say, I really enjoyed the design of the various puzzles and they were very clever. These puzzles reminded me of playing old Indiana Jones games like Infernal Machine (1999) and Emperor’s Tomb (2003).
Overall, I was very impressed with the 3 hours I spent in this awesome alpha demo of Soulborn. No doubt, more proficiency puzzle gamers could likely finish the demo much quicker but I liked taking my time exploring. According to the game’s website, the main game is promising 10 hours of fully voiced main story, with 3 main cities and many villages in an over 30km² world. The current alpha demo is running until July 15th, so if you’d like to check it out for yourself you can join the Soulborn discord and request an alpha key by DM’ing DEV_Dexter. Soulborn is aimed at gamers who love to discover and interact with an immersive, story driven open world. Players who like to collect, craft and develop their own skills-based way to defeat enemies. I can’t wait to see this game develop further and highly recommend playing the alpha demo while it’s still available until July 15, 2020.
For more information about Soulborn and to keep up with development, head to https://pixelmadstudios.com/project/soulborn/
Written by: @ChrisJInglis