Soulstice is a frantic combat driven third person title that clearly gets its inspiration from Devil May Cry. Developed by Reply Game Studios and published by Modus Games, does it actually run well and play as good as DMC?
In this world, people pass “beyond the veil” when they die, but something caused this veil to tier over the city, killing or corrupting everyone within it. Briar and Lute are a Chimera, a superpowered warrior created after they almost died and were fused against their will, and are sent to Ilden to investigate and deal with the threat. It’s a compelling and intriguing opening, and while the voice acting can sound campy, Soulstice’s world and characters are thoughtfully fleshed out in a way that should please those who love to dig into video games’ lore.
Soulstice's story lives in an awkward place, sprinkling moments of melodrama atop a thin, simple plot that never stretches beyond the city, or a handful of actors. We're asked to care about the sisters, but both are drawn from uninteresting archetypes—the driven, po-faced warrior and the innocent little sister—and neither display elements of personality beyond that. The game is peppered with little exchanges that should in theory tell us something about them, but they're rarely more than banal remarks—"I wish the killing could come to an end"—and, worse, they're repeated endlessly as you progress.
The map layout in some stages can be very annoying as well. There were many times where the camera angle makes you think the obvious path is in plain sight, so you look around for secret areas to the side, only for the “secret area” to end up being the actual path and you hit a cut scene or even worse, a point of no return! Just like in DMC there are challenge areas you can find where you have to kill enemies under a certain condition that will give you an item, like increasing your permanent health. However, they are indeed a challenge and even some of the simple ones killing enemies in a timeframe can be frustrating as you struggle to do damage quickly enough.
Soulstice does have a few moments that shake up the visuals, but its limited setting does leave me yearning for a globe-trotting adventure if this becomes a series. But in a game like this, the action that takes place within those spaces is the most important thing. Thankfully, Soulstice is fun, although its gameplay comes with one major catch.
Soulstice often feels like a PS2 action game in the best way possible. Players will face off against waves of enemies in fast-paced combat that rewards players who pull off massive combos and are rated for their performance at the end of each encounter. Combat is a little bit slower than something like Bayonetta but feels good as Soulstice also incorporates quite a few unique mechanics into this storied action game formula.
Outside of battle, this is a far simpler game. You follow the winding paths through the dim and colourless city, sometimes ducking down alleys to smash up crystals for currency, or to pick up the occasional upgrade nugget. Lute's multi-purpose energy fields also allow Briar to bypass traps, destroy crystal gates and jump on ghostly platforms – none of which works as well as you'd hope. It's primarily the fault of the camera, which is a throwback to the early days of Devil May Cry. When not in combat, there are fixed camera angles that really do frame the city in gorgeous ways but make it difficult to, ah, actually play the game.
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