GamingReview: Systems of Souls

Review: Systems of Souls


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Without a story, puzzle-platformers are often short experiences that have difficulty resonating with the player, relying entirely on gameplay to provide any level of replayability. System of Souls is a first-person puzzler that tries to avoid this pitfall, giving itself context with lore you’d expect from a Hollywood movie more than you would an indie title. 

Set in 2155 on an Earth that is now uninhabitable due to extreme environmental decline, humanity’s last hope is to transfer their consciousness – their souls – into robots. After an accident, you wake up in a mute robot with amnesia at the technological company ION (responsible for the human/robot mind transfer process) and are set to tests to try and re-map your ‘brain’ with new neural pathways that would recall your lost memories and unlock your new abilities.

Guided by an AI, you learn the how and why you came to be and the circumstances of how the world has gotten to the point of no return. Philosophizing about the morality of placing human consciousness into robots with one-way conversations with other robots who have also undergone the procedure, and considering the ethics and thought process of a civilization on the brink takes you places you certainly wouldn’t expect from such a game, and with the very sterile but crisp visuals, you could easily have pulled out of I,Robot or any other futuristic robot thriller.

The gameplay is no slouch either, combining numerous abilities and puzzle features for some clever mechanics. 

The player uses the hanging glowing orbs to sling Spider-Man-esque around the room but as you are unable to carry the block at the same time, you must time your placement of the blocks on springs and moving platforms to get them to your desired switches to open up the exit.

Those who have played Portal might be familiar with the dynamics of blocks needing to be placed on switches to open doors and may see a developer inspired by the former in the way they’re implemented, but the biggest difference is that here puzzles are restricted to small monotone areas that are progressed in a very linear manner. 

Puzzle mechanics and abilities are introduced slowly, from gravity fields that invert gravity for two different types of blocks that can also be manipulated with attractor beams and a slow-motion ability, but the puzzles only really start coming into their own just after the halfway mark when they start breaking the single room mold with a grappling hook-like beam that has you swinging like Tarzan to avoid security Mission Impossible-like lasers.

Invert gravity and use springs to sling blocks around the room, all while avoiding unintentional gravity activations.

While there weren’t any puzzles that confounded me more than my own stupidity (translation – they aren’t difficult), my enjoyment of them was in direct correlation with how much control I had in the puzzle itself, with there being an equal level of interactivity between level mechanisms and robot abilities across them. The slow-motion beam, for example, would often allow for innovative solutions where you effectively set in motion and adjust parts in a conveyer belt of movement, and on the flip side, I equally bored of rooms that required little more than switch pushes.

Sadly, the potential that the varied platforming affords, turns horrendously difficult with strict sections that require very quick reflexes over any sort of thought process, abruptly ramping up the difficulty to nightmare mode in certain sections. It’s an odd requirement at the tail end of a puzzle game and a stretch for the justification of healing your lost memories.

A nice abstract description for a puzzle that has no link to it whatsoever.

This change to timing/skill-based platforming at such random junctures also makes it feel like SOS gives up on trying to challenge you mentally, and although the game’s puzzles don’t lack for variety, these sections awkwardly shove in artificial difficulty for no real reason, despite granting you so many abilities that could have been given wielded in more interesting ways.

Furthermore, out of all included the features and abilities, I never quite felt that there was a clear link to the narrative and would have much preferred more story-appropriate puzzle-solving such as hacking a network that could represent linking pathways in a neural network, or at least a visualization of the story in the puzzles, like using concepts of consciousness in the puzzle’s items. 

I would love to hear the justification for the inclusion of this ridiculous platforming section that has no purpose apart from being frustratingly difficult.

Without an obvious and concrete link (i.e. specifically labeling puzzle items as part of the rehab process) the AI’s reasoning for your actions and the platforming seem somewhat separate and unintegrated, despite the game’s effort to build a story around it.

Another hit against the presentation is the varying quality of SOS’s features when compared side-by-side, such as the soundtrack that assigns the same repetitive and mutable track for puzzles, but includes an atmospheric track in the lobby scenes. In addition, adjacent to the prior-mentioned area that houses the conversing robots are black-and-white projector scenes that represent your uncovered memories, but their b-movie-level quality contrasts poorly with the exciting world-expanding lore that comes mere moments earlier and is hard to take seriously.

With an interesting story and some decent puzzle mechanics, System of Souls has all the ingredients for a good sci-fi puzzler, but with its best parts rarely firing in tandem, it only shows flashes of its real potential. Being a little rough around the edges, however, shouldn’t keep away fans of the genre though as there are a few thought-provoking hours for those willing to give it a shot.     


+ Decent - albeit underutilized - robot abilities
+ Intriguing story concept and conversation
+ Puzzle variety
- Unnecessary harsh platforming sections
- Gameplay poorly linked to the story

Alex Chessun
Alex Chessun
Currently obsessed with the Yakuza series (minus no.7), Alex is an avid fan of immersive Open World games, quick pick-up-and-play arcade experiences and pretty much anything else good. He also desperately wants Shenmue 4 to happen - a lot.

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Review: Systems of Souls+ Decent - albeit underutilized - robot abilities <br/> + Intriguing story concept and conversation <br/> + Puzzle variety <br/> - Unnecessary harsh platforming sections <br/> - Gameplay poorly linked to the story <br/> <br/>