Soul Sacrifice – The Review | Gamerillaz

Soul Sacrifice – The Review

Soul Sacrifice – The Review
 

Just a few weeks back I concluded my preview of Sony’s latest Vita adventure Soul Sacrifice with a question. After a lengthy demo that left little to the imagination and hinted at repetitive game design I found myself wondering if the final product would expand on the contents of the demo or if it would simply offer more of the same. I also questioned that if the latter turned out to be the case, would the game remain the addictive experience that the demo had proven to be. Well, as it turns out, the game is certainly repetitive yet undeniably addictive. However, I think this is the type of game that a person will either love or hate so read on. Let me outline the highs and lows of this curious title and if this sounds like your cup of tea you’d better prepare to sacrifice a lot of your time in the near future!

This lumbering beast was no match for my healing flower! Wait.. yes he was..

The game’s opening is viewed from a first person perspective. You are a prisoner in a cage surrounded by bones and rotting flesh. A solitary cellmate speaks of an evil sorcerer named Magusar who promptly appears and sacrifices your single serving friend. In his wake you discover a demonic book named Librom. This twisted being instructs you to read the contents of its pages as they detail the life of the now deceased sorcerer. As you read the various chapters of the book you re-live the battles and uncover not only the sorcerer’s past but also key aspects of Magasur’s character. All the while you gain experience, strength and abilities which Librom explains will be critical if you are to have any chance of surviving your inevitable encounter with Magusar. The story is almost entirely told through the text on Librom’s pages. It’s a minimalist approach to storytelling but one that I found fantastically effective. The narration is handled wonderfully, the artwork is striking in its sinister simplicity and the music is one of the best gaming soundtracks that I’ve heard in years. Every page of the book drips with ominous, atmospheric darkness and doom. As you progress through the game you’ll gain a deep understanding of the world you inhabit and what it means to be a sorcerer and the vast array of sacrifices that come with the calling. It all makes for a unique, intriguing and involving story and gives Soul Sacrifice a real sense of identity.

Magasur – this guy has got eyes in the back of his head. Eh.. and everywhere else..

When it comes to re-living the actual battles you are transported to a level and control your sorcerer from a third person perspective. Each level will require you to defeat a number of enemies or a boss character. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to find a number of items but these missions are thankfully few and far between as they can be quite boring or annoying to complete and get in the way of the addictive combat. Speaking of the combat, for any one battle you are allowed to load out your sorcerer with six different items that can be used to cast spells. Spells can take the form of a physical manifestation of a large weapon or defensive shield or a devastating elemental attack. You can also heal yourself or your allies or perform magic to boost different attributes. I even witnessed one spell that summoned a large monster to aid in my fight.

This book is a real page turner. Insofar as he literally turns his own pages.

As you defeat monsters you gain new items which can be used as spells or combined with existing items to boost their power. Each spell comes with a defined limit on how many times it can be cast. There are points within each level that can be used a finite number of times to recharge your spells but you need to be very disciplined when casting magic because if you max out a spell it becomes impossible to recharge it until after the battle is won or lost. It’s a very deep battle system which requires a lot of planning and strategy and some experimentation. When you defeat a monster in battle you are given the option to save or sacrifice them. Saving them will help level up your overall life and awards you some health while sacrificing an enemy levels up your attack and recharges your spells. It’s an interesting twist and you’ll constantly be forced to make tough calls when disposing of a foe. This twist becomes even more engrossing when one of your allies falls in the battlefield. Saving them will allow them to continue in the fight and potentially save you in a minutes time if you take a tumble but sacrificing them unleashes a devastating attack that might just be enough to take down a tough opponent and complete the mission. It certainly gives you a lot to think about and lets you do things your way.

Ehhh.. nothing personal but I think I’m going to go “sacrifice” on this one…

Generally the combat feels good and the range of attacks and strategies are a lot of fun. However, occasional problems and delays with the controls can become frustrating. At times you’ll have to grind in order to take down a particular boss and often when death comes it comes fast and brutal. You may feel a bit cheated if you’ve just spent ten minutes chipping away at a boss’s health bar only to become stuck in the scenery and clobbered in one sweeping attack. There was one boss in particular that every five minutes would launch an attack that could kill you in one go if you were unable to dodge it in time. I wanted to bite into my Vita and chew on the broken shards of glass because even that pain would serve as a pleasant distraction from my intense frustration and rage. However, no matter how often you die in this game you’ll always want just one more go. You might just need to scream out load every once in a while.

This guy has got a good attitude!

The game is split between story missions and other unrelated quests. However the core gameplay always remains the same; a small or medium sized level in which you run around, collect power ups and defeat beasts. This is a game that is interested in only one thing; battling. Levels feel a bit soulless as you can’t really interact with anything. It’s all just window dressing and it’s not even very good window dressing at that. The graphics in Soul Sacrifice are a major disappointment. I’ve come to expect more from the Vita and what is on offer here consists of blocky textures, washed out colours and lots of repetition. The art style of the game is actually very interesting and I really liked the design of the sorcerers and monsters. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t look as polished as it should.

Monsters will plead with you for salvation. Sometimes it works.

You can jump online with Soul Sacrifice or engage in some ad hoc multiplayer at any stage once you’ve completed the initial part of the campaign. Unfortunately, you’re restricted to playing only the secondary quests in multiplayer so you won’t be able to rely on your level 50 friend to help you defeat a nasty campaign chapter. The most interesting thing about multiplayer is how the save/sacrifice dynamic is played out when you are relying upon, or have power over, another human player. It’s a fun experience and lends itself well to brief spurts of gameplay much like the single player mode itself. It can also be very cool to observe how other players tackle monsters and the spells they have at their disposal.

You’ll fight alongside Magasur for a lot of the game but all good things must come to an end..

I’m hoping, at this point in the review, that you’ve come to realise whether Soul Sacrifice is a game you’ll enjoy or dislike. The merits and blemishes here are somewhat immaterial. This is a game that deserves, and will no doubt garner, a cult following. I can’t put it down. I know it’s flawed, I know it’s repetitive but I’m in love with the storytelling, the music, the atmosphere and combat. This is the kind of game that will appeal to hardcore adventure game players with a strong grounding in RPGs. This is not a game for the casual player who enjoys a game of Fifa or Dance Central. If you embark on this quest be prepared for sacrifice on many levels. Or to put it another way, if you’ve ever raised a Pikachu to level 100 but wanted to see a lot more blood and gore along the way, this is probably a game you might enjoy!

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