It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is not always true. Soulstice wears his inspirations on his sleeve, but sometimes struggles to use those inspirations to create something truly new or unique. There’s a robust combat system at its core, but the overall experience suffers from padding and repetitive design.
Meanwhile, the lore-heavy story is full of good ideas that don’t always execute well. That’s not to say Soulstice can’t be funny or convincing. When combat really clicks, it can be an absolute blast, and boss fights really boost the challenging combat up to 11. The result is a strong character action title that should appease fans of the genre, but doesn’t really push the boundaries.
Soulstice Review: The Courage to Survive
A single look at Soulstice is all you need to understand that it’s heavily inspired by the seminal manga berserkcreated by the late Kentaro Miura, as well as the aesthetic of Dark Soulswho was, well, inspired too berserk. It was something that got us looking forward to the game in the first place.
The narrative revolves around a pair of sisters named Briar and Lute, who together form a type of supernatural being called Chimera. Chimeras serve the Holy Kingdom of Keidas, fighting terrifying creatures known as Wraiths that traverse something called the Veil and consume humans. Soulstice begins when the sisters arrive in the town of Ilden, where a massive rift in the sky has brought hell upon the residents.
The game’s narrative is a largely solitary experience, pitting Briar and Lute against a terrified city and revealing their backstories in a series of flashbacks. There are a few other interesting characters you’ll meet along the way, and Soulstice is filled to the brim with stories about locations, enemies, and organizations, all of which you can read in your journal. Although the story focuses on Briar and Lute, there’s a sense of the larger world outside and that the sisters are simply cogs in a giant machine.
The actual storytelling, however, is a bit mixed since Soulstice It’s heavily based on anime tropes. There’s the scarred old warrior with a heart of gold, the evil religious organization with ulterior motives, and the wild transformations. The siblings’ tragic past is also far too reminiscent of anime Demon Hunter or Fullmetal Alchemist, especially how everything is presented. While the core arc is comfortable, everything feels fairly predictable and some of the big “twists” can be seen a mile away.
Like most character action games, Soulstice is broken up into combat segments, platforming, and puzzle-solving, although combat occupies most of it. You directly control Briar, who wields a massive blade that can transform into other weapons. Lute, on the other hand, attacks alone, can use counter abilities, and build up two different aura fields needed for fighting enemies and solving puzzles.
Briar has light and heavy attacks that can be combined, while Lute’s counter can be used whenever you see the button icon over an enemy. Lute can also use blue and red squares to fight Wraiths and Corrupted; Wraiths glow blue and can only be damaged when the blue box is up, and Corrupted glow red and only take damage when the red box is activated. Corrupted can also be possessed by spirits, forcing you to quickly shuffle and match fields.
The system is surprisingly deep and complex, rewarding you with new weapons and moves at a steady pace. Overall it’s fun and can easily be compared to something like that bayonet or Devil May Cry, which encourages you to stay mobile and dodge attacks while finding the time to unleash your own combos. It’s constantly introducing new weapons, enemies, and mechanics, and there’s a good difficulty curve that slowly increases as you progress.
Soulstice has over a dozen different enemy types, and part of the challenge is making sure you have the right field to deal with those different types. However, you cannot leave a field open indefinitely; If Lute takes too long, she’ll overload and be dead for a few seconds.
Successfully landing combos without getting hit also gives the sisters “Unity”, and when unity is high you can unleash more powerful attacks and enter a bestial Rapture mode that lets Briar unleash devastating attacks.
There’s a lot of variety in terms of different playstyles Soulstice, and Briar and Lute’s skills level up independently using two types of experience. Defeating enemies, breaking objects, and finding glowing crystals can yield red and blue shards. Leveling up Briar grants new combos and attacks, or increases the abilities of certain weapons. Leveling up Lute will open up new counter options, make her fields more effective, or give you new defensive options.
Gaining experience is the main reason for exploration, and each level has massive crystals scattered around that can provide extra yields on top of the secret challenge missions you can find. The biggest problem with Soulsticelies in the actual level design outside of the fights.
Ilden is a beautiful gothic town, but after a while it all comes together. They literally spend hours running through and past the same gray hallways, sewers, and houses. For the same reason you will solve a lot of similar puzzles in the roughly 18 hours it takes to beat the game. I noticed again and again that I was getting tired of the dreary look of the city.
There were also a few small technical issues I encountered on the PC. I had virtually no issues throughout the game, but I did have constant issues with things suddenly becoming very choppy during cutscenes, especially those with more visual effects.
During the exploration sections, the camera is set at static angles, but you are free to control the camera some fights. Make these camera options Soulstice feels like an action game from the Xbox 360 era, but not always in a good way. The fixed camera can make it difficult to find secret paths and hidden objects, and the free camera just doesn’t respond as quickly as it should.
These hiccups don’t ruin the experience in any way, but there are plenty of instances where the view gets obstructed by an enemy during combat, or the camera gets stuck on a corner for a second, adding a bit of frustration to the mix.
Soulstice Review — The final result
- In-depth combat system that offers a ton of playstyle options.
- Great presentation and sense of style that borrows heavily from Berserk.
- Good difficulty curve, constantly introducing new enemies and elements.
- Lack of variety in terms of environment and puzzles.
- Minor technical issues during cutscenes
- The story relies too heavily on tropes and predictable twists.
Soulstice is a perfectly viable action title that packs plenty of thrills and some outstanding combat, even if its story and presentation don’t beat its inspirations. nothing about Soulstice will redefine the character action genre, but if you’re hungry for a deep and challenging experience, it should suit that need well.
[Note: Modus Games provided the copy of Soulstice used for this review.]