I’ve become an embittered old man when it comes to getting hyped about video games.
“It will never be as good as it looks.”
“This demo is just some of the best parts.”
“I’m sure they will find a way to ruin it.”
All these exquisitely cynical phrases were spoken by me before I got a chance to play Soul Sacrifice. The demo was just so superb that I felt those familiar pangs of lust that I once felt for women but now reserve solely for story driven hard-core monster fighting games.
I have been hurt so many times, please be kind to me Soul Sacrifice.
I’m just going to get any preconceived notions that this game is a Monster Hunter clone out of the way. While they do share many similarities in terms of the core concept, the gameplay actually differs considerably between the two that I feel it would be unfair to compare the two in a ‘What’s better, MH or SS!?!?’ debate. The combat, while looking pretty similar on the surface (Hit a monster till it dies), it actually plays completely different, something I will go into later.
Having said all that, anyone that enjoys Monster Hunter will likely enjoy this title because idea of taking down a big monster solo, or with your buddies but many games fall under this umbrella of monster killing. Also if you come from a Monster Hunter background you are most likely OK with grinding for hours at a time on the same monster so they can make moderate improvements to your weapon. A gameplay element I should condemn and despise but for some unconceivable reason I actually… enjoy it?
In Monster Hunter you are limited to one weapon, ranged, melee or an odd blend of the two in the Gunlance. This makes you reliant on other members of your party to provide ranged support or to agro the beasts through the increased DPS that comes from melee weapons. Soul Sacrifice gives you 6 slots to fill and the choice from hundreds of different spells, each offering a different elemental power, attack style, range, speed and design. I’m sure there are some Japanese number crunchers who have obtained the perfect build in terms of DPS or support but just like Dark Souls I think it’s better to choose the build that fits your natural play style, rather than adapt to builds.
The synergy of spells feels very natural, like I had been doing it all my life. The ability to get in close and deal heavy damage with a melee attack then jump back, heal and throw boulders at the monster is a beautiful thing and something you see rarely in video games. The ability for one character to fulfil every role made online play a lot easier as I didn’t feel like I was relying on anyone to assist me. There was noticeably less of a feel of party spirit however, because no one was necessarily essential in the chain like you would normally have in multiplayer with the healer, DPS and tank arrangement, it felt more like everyone was in it for themselves.
Taking down the smaller creatures is a doddle. They jump around a bit, have a couple of different attacks and devour un-sacrificed/saved souls to make themselves stronger but are really only a small nuisance compared to the big boys. They do however still drop souls which you can sacrifice (gives you more spell power) or save (gives you more defence) which although pretty small amounts in comparison to sacrificing bosses or your (wipes tear away) friends, is still enough for it to be worth your time doing it.
I’m referring to the larger brutes as bosses only because I was running out of synonyms for monster and it’s a comparison for people unfamiliar with monster slaying games.
Where the game really starts to shine is the boss fights. Taking down one of the truly grotesque monstrosities is a pretty daunting task at later levels, one that really gives the feeling of reward to the player especially when they drop some decent loot. These monsters are actually sorcerers that have gone mad in the lust for power, lost their human bodies and become an embodiment of their base desires. The design of these beasts really is next level revolting though. When someone says harpy you imagine a pretty attractive women with some bird legs… NOT IN SOUL SACRIFICE YOU DON’T! How about a woman’s face, contort in agony mixed with bloodlust, with sharp teeth and a flicking snake tongue. This head is attached to an elongated neck which is in turn attached to a body that oozes blood and other bodily fluids with the hands and arms bound in rope. Ugly is an understatement, disgusting is an understatement, grotesque is an understatement.
The bosses are incredibly varied and offer some intense battles which stretched me to (Vita, lamp, mug) breaking point. In story mode you are not coddled and built up to fighting tough bosses, you are dropped straight in and left to fend for yourself in the incredibly dark world. This “Here’s a sword, get to it.” method of starting a game is by far my favourite. If you are playing a game like Soul Sacrifice there is a high chance this isn’t your first game and you probably have enough of an understanding of games that things like “HEY THERE! HOLD THE PS VITA SYSTEM WITH YOUR HANDS WHILE PLAYING!” comes naturally to you, the intuitive bastard you are.
(Charlie Ewing currently running for President of the of No-one else Other than Charlie Ewing Should be Allowed to Play Games Because Frankly you don’t Deserve it, I bet you even Know what a Real Vagina Looks Association) Some of the best boss fights however are actually when you fight other sorcerers, still in their human form that have been driven mad.
Once I had gotten a few beasties under my belt I found myself caring more about my score which affects the amount of loot you receive at the end of the mission. The scoring system is excellently done, rewarding many different play styles and not punishing you for playing a certain way. If you want to do it as fast as possible, while killing everything in your path, at the expense of personal safety while using no real technique then you can! And you will earn just as many points as someone who takes things cautiously, using their skilful timing to counter an enemy’s attack then punish with a spell that, using their extensive knowledge, exploits a monster’s elemental weakness. It’s a great feeling taking down a boss then being rewarded with a high level piece of loot you can only receive if you play up to the games high standards.
After playing for a while I started noticing that quite a lot of content is repeated when it comes to the monsters in the game, differing only in their appearance, similar to the player-casted spells which use the same animation and models just with different hues. It’s unfair to call it lazy developing because of the overwhelming amount of content in the game that I’m sure forced their hands in terms of development time and even memory usage; it would have been a bonus however for a little bit more variety amongst the giant slime creatures in terms of combat.
Soul Sacrifice’s tale of greed, depravity, hate and desperation take it places I rarely get to see in video games but have always wanted. It begins with the player as a prisoner in a cockroach infested cell made of the bones and flesh of dozens of previous tenants, watching as an assassin kills the lumbering demonic guards sent for him with dazzling spells in the hopes of then taking on the wicked sorcerer Magusar himself. This goes poorly for him however as what once was his body was effortlessly turned into a thin mist of blood by Magusar.
When the warlock departs a voice calls to you from the rubble of the assassins cell asking you to dig it out. It is a Grimoire (Spell/magical book) called Librom, he instructs you to read him and learn the secrets of sorcery so you can better take on Magusar, hopefully not ending up as bloody precipitation like the guy before you.
Librom does way, way more than just teach you spells however. With each page Magusar became more and more a real person and less of just a Faceless ‘BAD GUY’. I knew I had to beat him to escape my captivity but I found myself regretting the moment I had to, knowing what he had been through and all the time we had spent as brothers-in-arms.
This isn’t just hyperbolic bullshit, I honestly felt like emotional putty in the developers hands when I was playing the game. I promised myself I wouldn’t sacrifice anyone at the start but the desire for more power was so alluring I sacrificed one of my partners while they begged for life. I could bring them back using Lacrima which allows you to rewrite parts of the book and bring people back but I felt it would be an insult to their memory. They died, I killed them, I don’t deserve their company any more. Jesus Christ I should stay away from games like this.
For a couple of years before Bioshock Infinite I hadn’t played a decent action game with a good story. I was seriously worried about the state of the games industry that story development was taking a back seat behind shoehorned mini-games and pointless multiplayer features. The Vita was seriously lacking hard-core titles and if it wasn’t for Persona 4 (SHUTUP DUDE! REAL MEN CRY AT VIDEO GAME CHARACTERS ALL THE TIME!), my Vita would be gathering some serious dust.
Like the haloed angel rising through the clouds, Soul Sacrifice was gifted into mine PSN account and I bowed before my almighty boss-man, shaking with anticipation and maybe a tiny orgasm. I have never been so right to be hyped about anything. It was everything I had dreamed of and more.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.