WHAT initially grabbed my attention for Soulstice was the look of the game and the inspiration of the games from earlier console generations.
On one hand, you had the hack and slash gameplay and traversal of the original God of War titles mixed with more recent games from PlatinumGames. So expectations were high on this new title from Modus Games, let’s break it down.
As I’d mentioned, Solstice on the surface seemed to have taken inspiration from some of the best action hack and slash games over the last 20 years and as you will play throughout the game, if your an avid gamer and lover of most styles of games, you’ll see that Soulstice has taken the best parts of quite a few games from over the years, some work, some won’t but it gets a lot of things right throughout your time in Keidas.
From the outset, Soulstice throws your right into the game as Briar and Lute, soul bound sisters who have been tasked with finding the cause of a rift in the sky that is tearing apart this Holy Kingdom by a mixture of enemies from beyond the veil. Briar and spirit of a sister serve the Order of the Ashen Blade after events led to Briar becoming reborn as a Chimera, think of them as the Jedi Knights of this world with their own force spirits to help them out.
You see Briar, like most people of the Kingdom has been infected by the invading Wraiths with what is referred to as the ‘Taint’ and is slowly waging a war inside of Briar for control of her soul. This story tells itself, not through cutscenes or pre-rendered videos, but through echoes you will find throughout the world, almost like the echoes you will find littered across the map in The Division. What these echoes show Lute and Briar are the events that took place prior to and during the rift in the sky. Also after defeating an area’s boss, Briar will sometimes lose control and require Lute to bring her back from the brink of turning into one of the creatures that are tainted across the world. It is in these areas that you will learn the story of Briar and Lute.
There is a good story within this game, whether it is told by these echoes or from the world building stories told to you by Leyton, an Observer who will sell you upgrades and items mid-chapter. While I found the battle and cut scene choreography to be really well done, I wish that they had given the same attention to the storytelling.
Now onto the part of the review, I’m looking forward to, the gameplay! Fighting in Soulstice can be quite simple as you will come across 7 weapons throughout your time in the game, each offering something new from 2 variations of your sword, to armour bashing gloves all the way to bow and arrows to fight flying creatures, there is really a great mixture of enemies to encounter and many variations of how to take them down.
As much fun as I’ve had with the battle system, there were some flaws that needed fixing in the settings. The main annoyance was the light and heavy attacks, normally with games like this, you would find the light attack on the X/Square button with the heavy on the Y/Triangle.
Nope, not in this game they have switched around and took some time to get used to with no options in the menu to remedy this, but this just took some time to get used to. On the defensive side, you have L1 to dodge and B/Circle to block, I really had a hard time with all these controls and combos to keep track of and when I was stuck trying to beat a boss, I went to change the difficulty, only to find there was no option to do so. I then found a lot of these options in the accessibility menu where it had an option to auto block, which I changed in a heartbeat.
The fixed camera also was a huge pain point for myself and Soulstice. With the right stick only ever moving the camera slightly in the open world areas, this made it really hard to solve the puzzles, especially when you are ranked on time taken. In battle also, the fixed camera can have varying effects, sometimes it works, and sometimes there’s a big monster in your way blocking your view, you know, the same issues most fixed camera games have?
Once I had the settings as I liked them and less to worry about, I was able to enjoy the combat much more. On top of the previously mentioned controls, there are also ‘Aura’ based enemies, these are also found throughout the world and used as puzzle mechanics, but while discussing fighting, you will come across blue Wraiths and beasts covered in red crystals. This is where the L & R2 buttons come into play, they will quick aura switch buttons. You will also need to keep an eye on your unity metre in the top right, this can unleash a fight changing move in your favor.
Speaking of platforming. This, along with the many in-between moments between battle and storytelling were some of the boring and frustrating areas Soulstice. While there is much to find in your time playing this game such as hidden arenas, red and blue crystals that are used to upgrade Briar and Lute, it seems the game wants to punish you for your exploration in its world as at the end of each chapter, you are given a ranking system, akin to Devil May Cry (as well as after battles) and time taken is judged and I can’t tell you how many times I ranked Iron and it brought down my bonus experience rewards at the end of each chapter.
Boss battles at the end of each chapter were actually really well done, creative and posed significant challenges, often taking me a few goes to beat, but really having that feeling of ‘one more time, I’m going to get it this time’ I never felt cheated as I found them to all be fair fights and if I lost, I knew it was my fault.
Overall, Soulstice is a really hard game to judge, because it takes so many different mechanics from other games I enjoy and then has varying results. Like the inner struggle for Briar took me back to Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, the heroes being joined was like Beyond: Two Souls and coupled with the previously mentioned inspirations from God of War and Devil May Cry/Platinum Games, this game should be an easy sell.
But it’s held back by it’s boring and dark areas of platforming and the fixed camera, while I understand it’s trying to show you the fantastic world they have created, was just didn’t give me enough freedom to solve puzzles with. But the fighting is the bright spot in this game.
If you’re looking for a hack and slash good time, look no further, but if you’re wanting more, this might not be the game your looking for.