Hack ‘n slash adventure titles are low on my priority list. Why? Well, they are usually repetitive and full of annoying soundbites. However, occasionally, I’m wrong and a game from this genre stops me in my tracks. Soulstice was one such experience that caught me off guard. Without the normal mindless combat and irritating audio, I was pleasantly surprised. Yet, will it do enough to change how I feel about the genre?
Developed by Reply Game Studios and published by Modus Games, this is a fantasy hack ‘n slash title. What’s more, it is story rich and has some phenomenal acting throughout. On top of this, the combat is enthralling, the action is balanced, and it is perfect for newcomers and veterans alike.
Soulstice is captivating but familiar.
The gaming industry is fickle and gamers the world over complain bitterly about a lack of originality. Mostly, this is a fair viewpoint, but occasionally, I love to see a glimpse of top-end games in other developers’ work. Accordingly, Soulstice had a familiar edge to its visuals and gameplay. Though the action was extremely linear, I was reminded of both Devil May Cry and NieR Replicant. This isn’t a bad thing as both games are phenomenal. However, I don’t believe this has enough about it to be awarded such accolades.
The story focuses on 2 sisters, Briar and Lute. The first is alive but cursed and the second was sacrificed to ensure the pair were reborn as The Chimera. These ungodly beings are destined to share an intertwined existence, but they care not. Instead, they use their new powers to assist The Order and help the sprawling city of Ilden. A tear has appeared above the city and The Order must investigate the cause, battle the wraiths, and rectify the situation. This is where the sisters come into play. By working together, The Chimera will expel these evil forces and save the day.
It’s all about the combat.
With a predominantly hack ‘n slash core, the game unsurprisingly focuses on its combat mechanics. Yet, it still tells an incredible story thanks to the amazing acting and attractive cinematic. The gameplay is split into chapters that comprise pockets of fighting, some basic exploration, and the odd secret to find. The secrets transport you to a challenge arena where you must pit your skills against waves of beasts and creatures. These additional quests can be revisited at any time if you wish to practise or improve your final score.
However, the body of the game concentrates on excellent fighting mechanics. At first, the game gives you a gentle introduction that is particularly underwhelming. Yet, after a few hours, the combat becomes intense, and each of the protagonists expands their vocabulary of attacks and their arsenal of weapons. Lute is an ethereal being and acts in a support role. In doing so, she is the guardian of her living sibling. By increasing her blocking capabilities or the range of her spectral powers, she is a useful ally to call upon.
How about Briar?
Briar, on the other hand, is a cold-blooded killer. Armed with a meaty sword, her skill tree focuses solely on her destructive powers. As the game unfolds, she wields a hammer, a bow, and a giant metal fist. The first allows you to clear swarms of enemies in one swift attack. Alternatively, the bow takes down your foes from afar and the glove decimates armour. Each unique weapon is an essential tool to tackle the swarms of beasts that you’ll face.
As the game evolves, you must combine the sister’s powers to be successful. Lute must use her spectral range to allow Briar to kill the ghastly apparitions. Alongside this, her ability to freeze and block attacks is a key combat mechanic. This is then balanced perfectly with the entropy meter. This special gauge ensures that Lute uses her powers sparingly. If the meter maxes out, she vanishes and Briar is left alone and exposed. Consequently, you must balance each of the sisters to overcome each combat encounter.
Soulstice looks amazing.
Whenever a game is a blur of activity, you need it to look great and perform admirably. Thankfully, Soulstice does just that. Its sombre and oppressive colour palette is complemented by the moody dialogue and fascinating plot. What’s more, the combat animation is smooth, OTT, and has a wonderful fantasy edge. Accordingly, it looks amazing and the backdrops are intriguing. My only frustration came whenever I wished to explore the massive sprawling city. Unfortunately, invisible walls and the linear approach prevent you from venturing off the set path.
Alongside the magical visuals were some great audio moments. The plot is delivered perfectly thanks to the phenomenal acting. Furthermore, the aggressive soundtrack is complemented by loud and obnoxious sound effects. In short, it is loud, in your face, but boy, does it work well.
The controls are the cherry on top of the cake.
Things get better as you consider the control setup. With plenty of combos to execute and some meaty combat to address, it could have been tough to play. Fortunately, though, the excellent layout, responsive inputs, and thorough tutorials make it a cinch to play. As such, even when the new mechanics are dropped in, you never feel out of your depth.
The developers have done a great job with both longevity and replay value. The aforementioned secret arenas are moreish and challenging. Moreover, each fight is ranked to give each chapter an overriding score. This was an excellent idea as perfectionists will return to get the best result. Alongside this, there is an array of difficulty settings to defeat along the way.
Soulstice is a great game.
Though it isn’t as good as NieR or Devil May Cry, Soulstice is a great game. However, I wasn’t a fan of the strict linear style or the occasionally repetitive action. Yet, the stunning graphics, fantastic audio, and brilliant controls make up for this. Accordingly, I recommend that you buy it here! Can you help The Order and save the day? Work as a team, master your skills, and defeat every monster.