Developer: Reply Game Studios
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
Publisher: Modus Games
Genre: Action Adventure
The Devil May Cry and God of War series made up most of my time playing video games during the PlayStation 2 era. Interestingly, the action-adventure genre has evolved over the years, but I can’t help but want to play new titles in this space. Thankfully, Reply Game Studios felt the same way and used their love for the genre to create Soulstice. Every moment of this adventure is inspired by some of the best titles in the genre, but with a few unique elements that allow it to stand amongst other action releases this year.
Soulstice begins from the ending. We see a world being destroyed, but our two heroines, Briar and Lute, are on the frontline in an attempt to save humanity. However, their mission actually starts a day earlier. The sisters arrive at the Holy Kingdom of Keidas after it has been overwhelmed by demon creatures called Wraiths.
The only hope this city has lies in the hands of warriors known as Chimera, but this pair seems to be the only ones who have survived long enough to put up a fight. Strangely, even the organization that sent them doesn’t truly have their backs, and they approach each situation as an outsider. This shows in how they interact with mission alterations and new realizations. The lore of this world is exceptionally easy to follow but does have a bit of depth for those wanting to dive deeper.
My favorite part of the story is Briar and Lute’s interactions. From the opening moments, there’s a power dynamic between the two as Lute appears frail as a floating spirit bound to her sister. On the other hand, Briar struggles with a hidden power as she takes on the various threats they encounter. However, they need each other during every fight, story scene, and decision. What lacks in the personality of one sister is found in the other, making for some compelling moments of action storytelling.
The teamwork extends to combat, where Briar and Lute must work together to get through fights. This is highlighted in the unity aspect of combat, where you’ll have access to greater combative abilities when you’re doing well. Further, accessing a new powerful form is only the icing on the cake as Lute joins the fight and is heavily relied on to counter and interrupt enemy attacks. Lute can also change the field using Evocation Field and Banishment Field.
Shown as a blue and red orb around Briar, some enemies can’t be hit without the correct field. However, this is on a timer, which can be easily replenished but doesn’t make the encounters any easier. In fact, this game can be challenging at times as enemies gang up on you. Still, additional difficulty settings are available, and some accessibility options for players to enjoy the adventure.
Throughout the adventure, new weapons are found that can be switched between during combat. Some enemies have a weakness for specific abilities, which plays in the unity of the characters. Enemies can be locked on, and probably should be, as it makes it easier to chase them down to continue a follow-up combo. Dodging is also an action, but after three dodges, a slight cooldown will activate, rendering Brair defenseless for a second.
The combat is a slow crawl to the top, as upgrades require red orbs to unlock new abilities. However, obtaining orbs requires players to explore every inch of the map to find secret rooms and destroy every random chair and crate. Enemies also drop these orbs, and they can be acquired by performing well during the graded encounters and the optional missions where you’ll have to fight against a timer and a wave of enemies. The only issue is that this hurts the fast-paced action where you want to rush to the goal, but you’re stuck breaking boxes to unlock new abilities, which don’t come cheap. Lute also has her own blue orbs found on the field, which are rare to come across.
Regardless, the battle system is responsive and highly fun as you take down a variety of enemies and strategize when to utilize Lute’s abilities to chain together attacks. It’s possible to not take any damage during encounters, which heavily emphasizes player skill. As you unlock new abilities, the combat becomes more addicting. Still, boss battles require even more thought as the various forms have you adjust your approach to the fight. Strangely, each chapter isn’t capped off with a boss battle, and some bosses become regular enemies in later conflicts. I’m not sure if I liked this approach, but it did make the boss battles that are present much more memorable.
Graphically, I found Soulstice to hold up wonderfully. The game is beautiful in the most gothic of ways. However, if you don’t like a good castle theme, you’ll have a few issues with this adventure. There were several times that I became lost due to being turned around. This could be because you have to get a little used to the camera, which is reminiscent of the action-adventure games this game is inspired by. It works, though, and everything flows seamlessly, but the length of 5 – 10 hours may leave you a little confused. But there are a few extras to jump into after completion. If I could also add, the music is fantastic. I want to listen to it right now, actually.
Soulstice is an awesome ode to classic action-adventure games. It expertly wears its inspirations proudly while telling an impactful story full of epic battles. Sadly, there’s a missed opportunity to create tension with large-scale encounters in its early moments, but Soulstice comes together in its second act with a unique and fast action system that is beautifully choreographed across the gothic landscape. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Briar and Lute.
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