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Review: Soulstice

Published: 11:12, 20 September 2022
Updated: 11:15, 20 September 2022
AltChar
Soulstice key art
Soulstice is one of the best games I've played this year

Soulstice is one of the year's biggest surprises thanks to its wildly entertaining combat, compelling narrative, and breathtaking aesthetics.

What you need to know

  • What is it? A hack and slash game featuring a female protagonists.
  • Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
  • Developer: Reply Game Studios
  • Publisher: Modus Games
  • Release date:  September 20, 2022
  • Available on: PC, PS5, XSX/S

I started downloading the review copy of Soulstice without any expectations but I'm happy to say that not only I had a blast playing, but I also consider Soulstice to be a proper hidden gem, that you should not skip.

To my surprise, Soulstice is probably one of my favourite games of the year. Its captivating narrative, stunning visual direction, and insanely enjoyable fighting among other things make this Reply Game Studios title an easy recommendation, even if you're not that much into the Devil May Cry and Bayonetta style of games. 

STORY

Soulstice follows the tragic story of Briar and Lute, two sisters who are bound by death. Briar is the alive one but she's fighting hard against the corruption within her that's trying to consume her mind. Lute is dead but she lives as a spirit connected to her sister. They are named Chimera, which are the ultimate soldiers serving the Order of the Ashen Blade in the Holy Kingdom of Keidas.

The plot begins when a large portal appears above the city of Ilden, allowing hordes of wicked wraiths and other corrupted monsters to flood in and cause chaos while corrupting and killing the city's residents and setting their homes on fire.

The Order or the Ashen Blade summons Chimeras to stop the invasion and discover who and why opened the portal. The last Chimera to reach Illden, Briar, learns that the other Chimeras have already been vanquished and that she and Lute must now embark on a quest that may prove to be too challenging for them.

AltChar soulstice ilden You'll travel across many areas of Ilden including its high walls

The entire game takes place in Ilden, and while the city might occasionally seem monotonous, Soulstice has a solid variety of locations, be it the depth of Ilden's sewers, high walls, docks or narrow and dark alleys and streets, to keep things looking fresh.

I found the story to be well-written and intriguing right till the end. It may even surprise you in a couple of ways, despite its unoriginal "portal opens, evil comes in, kills humans" plot. I was curious to find out what is really happening in Ilden, what kind of dark secrets is Briar keeping from her sister and what turned Lute into a small spirit that fights evil with her older sibling. 

GAMEPLAY

I doubt anyone will pay attention to the story in a hack and slash title if the combat is lacking the punch. I'm glad to say that Soulstice's combat is stupidly fun, even though some hack and slash veterans may not find it to be overly deep.

You control Briar, who is the main damage dealer in Soulstice while Lute takes care of blocking enemies, slowing them down and dealing some minor damage. Briar has an arsenal of cool weapons including a greatsword, hammer, bow and whip (my favourite) among others.

AltChar Soulstice combat Soulstice has several special attacks that you can unleash to finish off enemies in no time

Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses so you won't be able to simply stick to one thought the entire game. For instance, the iron fist is excellent at removing an enemy's armour, but it is less effective against flying wraiths. That's where the bow comes in handy.

Then you have the whip which is very useful against large groups of enemies thanks to its increased area of attack. All these weapons synergise greatly with your main weapon which is the greatsword. 

The sword is your primary weapon that cannot be replaced while the secondary weapon slot can be used to switch between other weapons mentioned above. This way, you have one weapon that is a pretty good all-around damage dealer while the second weapon plays an important part in targeting enemies that require a bit different approach. 

Each weapon has a set of combos, however, the majority of them are unleashed in essentially the same way. For example, one of the earliest attack patterns in the game (Square, Square, Pause, Square, Square, Square) will work with the majority of weapons so all you have to do is memorise this one pattern and you're pretty much good with all weapons. 

The same goes for other combo patterns. Soulstice also makes it easier to land combos by telling you when to hit the attack button to continue to combo by making your weapon flash and controller vibrate. 

AltChar Briar and Lute are the protagonists of Soulstice with a tragic family story Briar and Lute are the protagonists of Soulstice with a tragic family story

By landing successful attacks and combos, you fill the Unity meter which will allow you to unleash super Synergy attacks that kick off a lengthy but cool animation. Receiving hits and being passive during combat will lower your Unity. 

Basic attacks and Synergy attacks are tied to the entropy meter, which is another neat mechanic in Soulstice. This is where Lute comes in again, as she has the ability to spawn two fields - Blue and red one. 

In essence, you activate the Blue field with the L2 trigger, allowing you to kill Blue Wraiths that are normally immune to standard attacks. When an enemy is plagued with red crystals you use the red field by pressing the R2 trigger.

While these fields are active, your entropy meter will build up and this can be both a good and a bad thing. Early on, you'll want to avoid maxing out the entropy meter since Lute will vanish for a short period of time, leaving Briar vulnerable to enemy attacks and making her attacks useless. 

Later in the game, you will be able to unlock special skills that will activate once you fill your entropy meter. For example, instead of simply vanishing, one of the abilities you unlock allows Lute to create an explosion which damages all enemies in the vicinity. It's a pretty useful skill to have later on in the game.

You'll unlock even more powerful attacks and phases later in the game when Berserker Stage kicks in, making Briar go well, berserk. During this stage, she's uncontrollable and keeps smashing enemies to pieces as you try to calm her down before she's entirely consumed by the corruption.

AltChar Soulstice - Boss battles Soulstice - Boss battles are intense and fun all the way until the end

In Soulstice, your health will not auto replenish so you'll have to buy and search for green crystals to heal yourself. Also, you can get a small amount of these crystals by smashing boxes, carts and other objects in the world as well as killing enemies.

Now, we haven't even mentioned bosses yet and these are probably one of my favourite parts of the game. You won't get to fight a ton of bosses in Soulstice but each of them has unique attack patterns and movement and can change the battle dynamic with unexpected twists.

Boss battles look and feel spectacular and will get your blood pumping with great music and intense combat. I played on normal difficulty and the bosses weren't too hard to beat but I'm sure they can get really tough once you increase the difficulty level. 

GRAPHICS

Simply put, Soulstice looks incredible. The visual effects, textures, lighting, and degree of detail are all excellent. The game has a very slight cel-shaded art direction, which is most notable on characters, not so much on the actual world, which retains a pretty realistic look.

Ilden is a breathtaking medieval metropolis that clearly drew inspiration from Demon Souls and other From Software titles and for the most part of the game, you can see the city in the background with a large portal above it. Truly a sight to behold.

AltChar Soulstice - Ildan Soulstice is set in the city of Illden, which looks absolutely breathtaking

I was in awe of the art direction too, which puts a clear emphasis on epic vistas, making everything seem grand thanks to the locked camera perspective which only offers a light movement to each side. 

Now that I've mentioned the camera, it could and should have been better. If I had to pick one negative from my playthrough, the camera would probably be the only thing that I disliked from the get-go. I recommend using the lock enemy option during combat, otherwise, you'll find yourself in chaotic situations where you have no idea where Briar actually is.

Luckily, there is an option in the settings to make the combat camera less cinematic and you can also reset the camera to Briar during combat which helps a lot.

Visually, the game has some poor moments, namely with the character design. I thought that more effort could have been put into the enemy design which looks pretty mediocre and generic. The same goes for Briar and Lute, as well as other good guys you meet throughout the game. 

There are exceptions of course - some characters do look good - but most of the time, I was disappointed with the actual design of enemies, villains and protagonists. 

AltChar soulstice enemy I feel like character and creature design could have been better

Soulstice also offers a couple of graphical modes, allowing you to choose between 30 FPS resolution and 60 FPS performance mode. I played on the performance mode and had a couple of hiccups here and there, especially during combat when all those cool VFX start to pop, but overall, playing Soulstice was a smooth experience. 

CONCLUSION

Soulstice is truly one of the best games I've played this year. It does many things right but doesn't have any real weaknesses. It plays well, looks stunning and has a pretty decent story to keep you going until the end. 

It's easy to recommend to both fans who love hack and slash titles and those who don't usually play such games. Overall, Soulstice is a pleasant surprise that you don't want to miss. 

The Good

  • Stunning art direction
  • Interesting story
  • Great combat and progression
  • Solid selection of weapons
  • Fun boss battles

The Bad

  • Annoying camera
  • Characters design could be better
8/10

Our Rating

Great

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