The reveal of the Reply Games-developed action game Soulstice took me by surprise. With the success of games like NieR Automata, there seems to be no shortage of high combo action games. However, many overlook other classic action titles, such as the God of War series, which happens to be what inspired much of what makes Soulstice an action game you’re going to want to follow.
After playing a few early missions of Soulstice, the development team clearly wants to create a synergy between the story and action segments. Our heroes are Briar and Lute, two sisters who have been soul-bound through a ritual sacrifice that transformed them into a Chimera. They are now being used as a weapon of the Order of the Ashen Blade sent out on missions to investigate strange occurrences, which usually have them fighting demon-like enemies.
The relationship between the sisters is on full display. In story portions, you can see how deep their bond goes. Lute is constantly supporting Briar, who is exceptionally hard on herself when it comes to completing the mission and being strong. This yin and yang approach doesn’t feel forced either, as the conversations and interactions flow naturally through well-written dialogue that doesn’t generally overwhelm the player with dumps of lore.
The worldbuilding gets fleshed out in dialogue, but it can also be found in the level design. For example, the city was once a bustling port town with lots to offer, but it is now in ruins and full of demons. The camera shifts from static to free-moving, reminiscent of classic God of War, so you can see exactly what the developers want you to in terms of area design. They also use this approach to conceal hidden areas that contain elements used to upgrade the two characters.
Combat has players control Briar, who can attack with her sword but also has access to an additional weapon. Using the combination of weapons types allows for some interesting combos, but you also must pay attention to enemy attacks, which Lute can reflect. This makes fights engaging and less of a button mash fest as you strategize ways to take down enemies while utilizing Lute’s abilities to interrupt enemy attacks.
Boss battles are multiple tiers. If all the boss encounters are similar to the one I was able to fight against, I believe we are in for a good time. These fights are exceptionally challenging and require knowledge of a few fundamental game mechanics, such as switching between Lute’s energy fields to cause damage to the creature.
There are exploration puzzles that players will need to complete to progress, but nothing is overly challenging, and several hints were provided during the puzzles I took on. Still, there are enemies around every corner. Once cleared, the sections are given a grade and score, so there’s a bit of reply value if you’re trying to show off a high score.
Soulstice has my complete attention. It’s grim, challenging, and full of memorable action. The story completes the package as the relationship between Briar and Lute serves as a reason to see this quest through. Again, the inspiration from popular action games is here, but there’s something unique about how this team approaches combat and narrative. It delivers on the action and provides a cast of characters you care about, and I’m here for it.
Soulstice is coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam on September 20, 2022.
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