Wielding a giant, oversized sword, Briar, the protagonist of Soulstice, would be a perfect match for Cloud Strife. She’s hot-headed like him, too.
But a giant sword isn’t the only thing she’s capable of wielding. Throughout your time with Soulstice you’ll gather an arsenal of weapons that come in handy as you face off against grotesque mutations, wraiths and the possessed. The most useful thing up your sleeve isn’t made of cold metal, however. It’s in fact your sister, whose corporeal form follows you whenever you go. Not only does she try to defend and assist you, but by working in unison you can unleash a mighty power.
It’s because of this that you work for an organisation that seeks to protect mankind, and now you’ve been sent to the city of Ilden, where something catastrophic has occurred. A giant tear has opened up in the sky, and any citizens that aren’t already dead have been turned into grotesque monsters. It’s your job to find out what happened, and if possible put a stop to the tear that’s wreaking havoc. But perhaps this is a job too great for you? That’s for you to find out.
An action-adventure game that’s very much inspired by the likes of Devil May Cry, Soulstice has you journey into a ruined city. By playing through its many levels collected into numerous acts you’ll unravel an intriguing plot. While some levels simply consist of a boss fight, most require you to explore, solve puzzles, and engage in frequent bouts of combat with a not-insignificant number of enemies. With the action largely framed by cinematic camera angles, it can be quite a moody affair. Though while many aspects here are commendable, there are some frustrations that unfortunately drag it down a peg or two.
Take the combat, for instance. It’s fun and fast paced, with you being able to switch weapons effortlessly on the fly. You might start a combo with your default sword, quickly switch to your weighty hammer to deliver a final crushing blow, and then swap that out for a bow to finish off some flying enemies just out of melee reach. The trouble is, the camera often does a poor job of giving you a good view of the battlefield.
You’ll have to work hard to keep track of your adversaries, and even harder to counter all of their attacks when the white prompts that are not always too visible appear. The camera is at its most problematic when you also have flying enemies to deal with, as not only do you need to be aware of enemies behind you, but also possibly above you. Through truth be told, even without the camera issues, the combat of Soulstice can be a lot at times.
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Basically, there’s always a great deal going on. Briar is very much attack-focused, and so her ghostly companion, Lute, is on defensive duties. She can deflect attacks, freeze enemies and even fire projectiles at them, but her effectiveness is largely down to you watching for prompts and instructing her accordingly. In the heat of battle, it’s not always so easy. Then you’ve got other gameplay elements to consider, too, such as enemies that can only be damaged when you have an Evocation or Banishment field created by Lute in effect. And you can only maintain one of these fields for a limited amount of time, or Lute will be overcome with power and have to disappear to recuperate for a short while.
Another thing to consider during combat is Unity. By playing well, Briar and Lute will become more in-tune with other. Achieve Unity, and some advanced attacks become available to you as a reward. Some might wish to use their unity to perform flashy combos with their weapons, while others might instead opt to power up Briar for a short period of time. The choice is yours, though the latter also comes with its drawbacks. Either way, it’s nice to be rewarded for making use of both Briar and Lute’s strengths effectively.
The goods news is that while the camera and keeping on top of countering opponents can be a frustrating affair, particularly in the early stages of the game, things do get a little easier as you progress. The camera persists in being a pain, but you learn to somewhat work around it. And when it comes to countering your opponents, it becomes less onerous as you develop Lute’s skills. Eventually you’re able to counter a wider range of attacks in more effective ways. Lute becomes capable of covering your back even without your input, too.
All this is to say that Soulstice is enjoyable for the most part, even though it has its annoyances. Being available on next-gen consoles and PC only, it looks fantastic at times and has a great sense of scale. Its boss fights are exhilarating too, and there are some other hair-raising scenes that try to provide a little variety. Factor in multiple difficulty levels and many secret challenges to be found, and you have an action adventure game that you can really sink your teeth into.