With the launch of Reply Game Studios’ Soulstice drawing ever closer, we’ve been given access to the first two acts of the game.
Our progress so far has confirmed a few things. The first is that this is a very nice looking game, with environments rich in detail and dripping with atmosphere. The next is that it very much takes a leaf out of the book of Devil May Cry, with its journey into a ruined city split into a number of levels, and the action largely framed by cinematic angles. And lastly, it appears to be rather good, offering a lengthy adventure full of challenging combat, exploration and a smattering of puzzles. It’s safe to say that we’re looking forward to the full release of Soulstice.
If you’re unfamiliar with the game, Soulstice is an action adventure title that puts you in control of a “Chimera”. These warriors consist of two souls, one who inhabits a physical body to fight, and another who is bound to them as a shade, assisting them in numerous ways. It’s essentially a two-for-the-price-of-one deal, then, and so making use of the skills available to both Briar and Lute, the protagonists of Soulstice, is required for you to progress.
It’s established early on in Soulstice that Briar and Lute are somewhat outcasts in the order they belong to. But this mission into a ruined city where a large tear has appeared, causing corruption to spill forth is their chance to prove themselves. Though that’s not to say that they seek approval. The story of Soulstice unveils itself through dramatic cutscenes, bouts of dialogue with a mysterious benefactor, and ethereal flashbacks that you occasionally come across. There’s nothing here that has surprised us, but it seems like an entertaining enough affair.
What has won us over is Soulstice‘s combination of exploration and combat. Like in games such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, there’s lots of forward momentum here, but there are occasionally forks in the road where exploring both avenues pays off. Eagle-eyed players may also find hidden areas with goodies to collect. Aside from objects to destroy which spill forth red crystals which Briar can use to upgrade her abilities and buy new items, there are also Motherlodes, valuable upgrades and even challenge rooms to discover.
The presence of Lute also adds additional gameplay elements. She can create two fields at will – a blue one that reveals hidden objects and platforms, and a red one which makes certain red crystalline growths ripe for destruction. As you explore you’ll need to make clever use of both of these fields to access new areas, and also clear them out of all the goodies they possess. There are times where they’re required in combat, too, with enemies only being susceptible when in the sphere of a forcefield. Just be careful, as you can’t keep a forcefield up forever.
When it comes to combat, Briar is the heavy hitter, and with her you’ll be slashing at enemies with a giant sword that could have been taken from Cloud’s ample collection. Throughout the journey Briar will gain additional melee weapons as well, and you can have one of these equipped alongside your sword. Ultimately it means you have easy access to two different movesets at all times, and can mix and match attacks as you please. The red crystals you collect as you play allow you to unlock new moves for each of these weapons, too, and improve your proficiency with them.
What Briar isn’t too hot at, however, is defending herself from attacks. She can dodge but that’s about it. When it comes to defense, then, you need to rely on Lute. She’ll assist you in battle by firing magical projectiles and suchlike, but when an enemy readies up an attack you can command her to counter them, giving you the upper hand. It can be tricky keeping an eye out for the button prompt in the heat of battle, but get it right and you’ll freeze opponents or stop their projectiles dead in their tracks, giving you the upper hand. Keep Briar and Lute working in unison like this and you’ll even be rewarded – filling a meter allows for powerful Unity Attacks.
While the combat in Soulstice doesn’t have quite the same finesse to it that some other greats in the genre have, its unique quirks and features at least make it standout. In fact, the only thing that has really irked us so far is the game’s camera. While the camera angles are locked off during exploration, in combat you do have some control. And thank god, because the camera loves to get in close and give you a suboptimal view of the battlefield. While there are indicators to let you know where enemies are around you and when they’re readying up an attack, it would be great if you could zoom the camera out a little. Sometimes it feels just a little bit claustrophobic.
Still, having battled through a fair bit of Soulstice, poking into its nooks and crannies and slaughtering plenty of foul creatures along the way, it’s good to say that we’re looking forward to digging into it more. Launching next month on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC, its got the looks and gameplay that action adventure fans are bound to find alluring, along with some unique ideas that stop it from feeling like a rehash of what’s come before.
Soulstice launches on 20th September on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.