On the old Playstations and definitely on the older Nintendo systems, beat ’em up action adventures were all the rage. You would travel around some fantasy landscape, the area you’re in, locking down as you are left to beat back a load of enemies. You’d be judged on how well – or how artistic – your takedowns were in the heat of battle. Devil May Cry is one of the best examples of this genre, mixing over-the-top fighting styles and mad mechanics. Bayonetta later borrowed from it and made it more insane.
But these types of games are few and far between… until now. See, Soulstice is here to get some graded fighting going on on our Xbox Series X. Are you ready for top marks?
Soulstice takes us on its own original journey mixing high fantasy with the supernatural and a lot of kick-ass fighting. The story involves the holy kingdom of Keidas which has got itself into a spot of bother. From the other side of the veil, wraith-like creatures have invaded, taking people’s souls and corrupting them into feral creatures. You play two people, in reality, joined together as one in the battle. You are Briar and Lute, two sisters who are “Chimeras” – warriors and saviours of mankind who are born of two souls. One sister – Briar – has great physical and strength powers, and Lute has mystical powers that can deal magic and protection. They enter the city to take it back…
A lot of work has gone into the building of the story, the setting and rules of this high fantasy. You get information and narrative memories that you can unlock as you progress through the game. It’s all great and intriguing, even though at times it can feel a bit po-faced, taking itself way too seriously. But it’s a world and narrative in terms of visuals and text that hooked me all the way through.
The gameplay is split into exploration and that of platforming and the pulling of levers here and there. Then there are the whole combat sections which I’ll talk about in a moment as they are the crux of the game. Exploration is good but it has an old-fashioned fixed camera perspective which, while great in terms of visual storytelling letting you see what the developers want, is not so in terms of navigation and platforming. It is extremely easy to get lost because of it and I felt myself not knowing which direction I had come from or was going. In terms of the platforming, you get a double jump and can use Lute’s special spectral powers to find hidden platforms to aid you. Later on, in certain levels, the platforming can become increasingly cumbersome and annoying – again, mostly because of the fixed camera.
The combat found in Soulstice is fast, furious and – at times – very hard. That isn’t a bad thing at all and the purest fans of the beat ’em up genre will love the combat sections in all their glory. You are generally surrounded by a huge number of enemies in a fighting section. Some of these enemies can be quelled with a series of light and heavy attacks by Briar. But what you need to do to be successful is to combine with Lute successfully in action.
For example, Lute can parry attacks, using her special ability to wear armor down on heavy enemies. Certain foes can only be hurt if Lute throws out a light barrier for a short amount of time exposing their weaknesses. It’s a complicated battle system at times and it can start to drag after a few hours. The boss battles are good though and it looks impressive – at least the camera is not fixed in those sections. Whatever you get up to, expect to be graded for how well you have performed in each section.
Visually and Soulstice has some impressive moments in regards to some of the backdrops to the levels you play through. Entering the city for the first time is impressive, with beautifully drawn backdrops of decay and wonder. The creatures themselves are well designed as are the protagonists themselves. After a while though, it does feel a bit samey in tone. The soundtrack is good and pacey alongside the combat and is varied throughout whilst the voiceover is solid if a bit solemn.
Soulstice feels like it is from another generation but it is still a good looking, modern game that plays well. The combat is fluid and challenging, the backdrops are amazing at times and the story is intriguing. However, Soulstice does get a bit ‘cut and paste’ after a while and getting to grips with the camera is always a hassle.
At the end of the day though, if you are a fan of graded fighting or high fantasy stories then Solstice might be right up your dark alley.
Soulstice is available from the Xbox Store