Title: Soulcalibur VI
Developer: Project Soul
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Bandai Namco
I will admit, after spending time playing every entry of the Soulcalibur series up to Soulcalibur III, I felt burned out and found myself drifting away from the series. What originally peaked my interest with the series was the character designs and deadly weapons for each warrior. Also, I always enjoyed the focus on the story which gave each character an amount of depth to them that I never really found in any other fighting game.
It’s been six long years since the last release of the series, and after playing Soulcalibur VI I’ve got to say, it was worth wait. Not only did Bandai Namco create a solid and balanced fighter, but they also weaved in a narrative that has climbed the ranks in my mind as one of the best action fantasy stories ever. The developers understood what fans of the series enjoy about the game, by offering them this and building off of previously introduced systems, Soulcalibur VI is the best kind of fanservice.
Soulcalibur VI offers two different single-player story mode campaigns. What I feel returning players will find themselves playing first is the Libra of Soul campaign. This campaign lets players create their own warrior and lead them across the map to meet several characters and create their own story. Throughout this campaign, the player will encounter dialog trees that have an effect on battles and encounters. For example, I wanted my character to always be looking for a fight, so during dialog, I usually chose options that resulted in unnecessary skirmishes. A choice system has also implemented a choice system that alters your “Spirit Scales” to be good or bad, which can unlock unique missions further down the line of your quest.
The Libra of Soul campaign also has RPG systems that allow players to level up their character’s stats and their weapons. Being a huge fan of these systems, I was always seeking out new weapons to train with and exploring every corner of the map to get even stronger. Also, I enjoyed the various changes to the matches that this gameplay mode offered such as lowering your defense or making the floor slippery.
Exploring in Libra of Soul also offers many stories and encounters that fans of the series will appreciate. However, these exploration events are totally optional to the main Libra of Soul campaign, which begins with Maxi leading the player to their destiny. Over this quest, the player can carve out their own adventure in the Soulcalibur universe, but it also gives fighting game fans a chance to discover this world on their own. At no point does it assume the player knows anything about Soul Edge or any of these warriors, but it delivers the narrative all in a way that doesn’t bore returning fans — keeping the campaign engaging throughout.
The other single-player story mode is Soul Chronicle, a classic story focusing on a timeline of events leading up to a face-off against Inferno. The main story stars Kilik as he deals with the raging power that rests inside him. Over his quest, he meets many warriors and a few events left me with my jaw dropped. The main story holds onto the player as it builds up to end in an extremely epic finale. However, aside from the main story, players can sink time into additional missions that explain what other characters are doing while Kilik is on his journey.
Each character carries a strong passion for fighting and they each have their own personal drive to be a warrior. Campaigns are played out along a timeline, so there are instances when characters cross over which is interesting to see both sides of. I felt like most of the stories were worth it — aside from a couple short ones that seemed to be a little more playful like Talim’s campaign.
Fighting in Soulcalibur VI goes beyond chaining together combos. What’s more important is to have a solid understanding of both offense or defense depending on the playstyle of your opponent. This understanding should also include when to utilize the Reversal Edge Counter and Reversal Edge Clash system. These mechanics can easily change the flow of battle because after a clash is initiated a rock, paper, scissors event between the two fighters is triggered. Winning these events can be the start of huge damage dealing combo or even a nice dodge. During versus matches, I learned that these work better the more you know how your opponent plays.
Additionally, each character in Soulcalibur VI has Soul Charge special attacks that allow the character to execute powerful attacks against their opponent as well as cause chip damage. Alternatively, players can also burn a portion of their Soul Gauge to execute a powerful Critical Edge that causes massive damage to the opponent, but can easily be dodged. The Soul Gauge offers a nice balance of defensive and offensive systems that the player can use to turn the tide of any battle. However, it’s up to you decide on how and when to use these systems, especially when playing more difficult matches that really put your skills to the test.
Soulcalibur VI doesn’t forget about new players either. Perhaps that was a big reason why the developer returned to the story of Soul Edge and the history of these characters. Anyways, there are plenty of entry points for new fans to learn everything there is to know, become skilled at the game, and dive into the lore of the series. To help accommodate new players, even more, the developers have included tips for each character, along with basic to expert ways to play as them. There were times when I decided to take a peek at these tips to compare my idea of how I should be improving.
From a critical fighting game standpoint, Soulcalibur VI has set the bar for other fighting games. Where the game falls short is in the limited illustrations in the main campaign, which only offer a handful of CGI cutscenes, that I would have loved to see more of. Also, the Libra of Soul campaign lacks voice-over that I would have appreciated.
I’d also like to mention that character creator is a huge time sink that I dumped hours into without even noticing. Creating characters is a nice touch. The developer has allowed enough options and unlockable content to keep the player returning to the feature to build a full roster of some of the most sexiest, handsomest, or strangest characters they can imagine.
Soulcalibur VI took the chance to be more than just a fighting game. It has weaved in this fantastic story of characters who end up having depth and real personalities which I never would have expected from a fighting game. I mean, even Geralt from the Witcher 3 finds a way into this story of Soul Edge and the history of the game.
With plenty more exploring to do on my part, Soulcalibur VI has really made an impression on me about what a fighting game is capable of. With a large balanced roster of some of the best-designed characters I have played to a compelling story that respects returning fans as well as new ones, I’m sure I won’t be the only one surprised by Soulcalibur VI‘s offerings. Now, the biggest decision left is picking a favorite character.
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