Game news Soulstice: when Berserk meets DMC, what happens?
It is with great ambitions that Reply Game Studios embarked on Soulstice. This dark fantasy hack’n’slash was shown at the Future Games Show at gamescom 2021. This year, it was the PC Gaming Show that honored the dark world of Keidas. Before the conference, we were able to discover the first minutes of the game and we tell you everything today.
It was during a slot with several developers of the title that we were able to discover the first 20 minutes of the title, as well as some other elements. This commented gameplay session was followed by a question-and-answer session to clarify certain points about the game.
Briar and Lute are two sisters brought together by fate in a very special way. It is in the form of a chimera that their two souls have been linked in order to repel the terrible Wraiths from the other side of the Veil. The former became a warrior of impressive strength, while the latter sacrificed her body to become a ghost with mighty powers. Through this quest made up of fights of all kinds, it is an initiatory and poetic tale about this unbreakable bond uniting these two sisters that Soulstice proposes to tell us.
A bit of Berserk and Claymore in the AD
Despite its small means, the studio delivers us a graphically accomplished universe. We feel that it is not a triple A, certainly, but Soulstice is far from ugly to watch. He skilfully plays with colors to offer us an engaging atmosphere and a believable world that we want to discover. Everything is carried by a mastered soundtrack that ends up transporting us completely to Ilden.
Soulstice does not hide its Japanese inspirations (from Berserk at Claymore) and pays them a beautiful tribute. Dark fantasy is very much alive there and allows us to survey the linear levels of this title with the greatest pleasure. There is also a nod to MGS with the return of a voice known to fans. It is indeed Stefanie Joosten (Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) who lends her voice to Briar and Luce.
Visually, the only point that we could find fault with concerns a few not very inspired enemies. Apart from that, the developers provide us with a coherent and appreciable universe. And it is better since they promise us a world intrinsically linked to the history and gameplay of the title. In short, our environment and the atmosphere it gives off should become more and more tortured, in order to echo the dramatic stakes that are being played out there.
Note that Soulstice has chosen to regularly alternate between 2D and 3D. This makes it possible to pleasantly spice up and punctuate the gaming experience. This is also the case for the platform phases and the little puzzles that link one combat phase to another. And since we are talking about them, it is time to move on to what is the heart of this game: the combat phases.
More Bayonetta than Dark Souls
After writing this feedback we were able to get our hands on the game for about twenty minutes. We were able to identify some interesting points, such as the link between the two sisters around which the gameplay is clearly built and its really engaging atmosphere. The combat mechanics are pleasant and, as we suspected, oscillate well between accessibility and the search for the perfect combo. However, the same cannot be said for the boss fight presented to us, which is too repetitive and lengthy.
However, the game still includes some lengths and suffers in particular from small camera flaws. They unfortunately come to taint a rather pleasant gaming experience in its beginnings. It remains to be seen if Soulstice balances out over time or if it gets heavier over the fights.
Despite what its title might suggest, Soulstice is less a Souls than a Bayonetta. The developers have also cited the license as one of their inspiration, from which they have adapted the mechanics of Dodge. We therefore end up with dynamic fights which are based on the sequence of blows and combos in order to overcome the hordes of monsters presenting themselves to you and thus gain a package of experience. (the good big classic codes of hack’n’slash in short). But that’s not to say that Soulstice presents itself as just another game of the genre, with no way to stand out.
The title of Reply Game Studios, by immersing you in the skin of a chimera comprising two bodies, offers dual gameplay. If you play and control Briar, Lute will also be able to help you by protecting you or even attacking certain enemies from a distance. However, in addition to two or three specific mechanics simply operated using a key, Lute is mostly played by AI. Most of his spells will thus trigger automatically, depriving you of the joy of enjoying real double gameplay. We therefore regret not being able to take advantage of the specificities of Lute or that it is not exploited through a two-player co-op mode.
On the other hand, it would be ungrateful to complain about a lack of mechanics on the Soulstice side. From what little we have seen, Briar has many different moves and no less than seven weapons. Switching from one to the other allows you to perform fairly classy combos and to attack all types of enemies (Wraiths, Possessed, etc.) in the most effective way. You can add to all this a Fury mode which allows you to let your dark side speak to destroy your opponents. During the presentation, each fight turned out to be different from the previous one. It remains to be seen if this appreciable effect will last over the course of the game.
But of course you won’t be able to make the most of all these mechanics from your first minutes of play. You’ll need a good dose of practice to take advantage of the most spectacular attacks.
Easy to play, hard to master
The game is not intended to be specifically difficult, mixing advanced mechanics with other simpler and more accessible ones. The very first areas have few enemies and they won’t really give you a hard time. At first glance, Soulstice is therefore not a particularly demanding game. The developers told us about a gradual difficulty that will increase as you progress and evolve your chimera, but that’s not enough to walk on the toes of an Elden Ring.
However, the progression system seems particularly complete. It is with Layton (your mentor) that you can use the points accumulated to improve your skills. These are divided into two axes: that corresponding to Briar’s attacks and that applying to Lute’s abilities. Both seem quite consistent and should allow the gameplay to evolve in interesting ways, at least we hope.
In addition, the many mechanics that Soulstice offers leave a lot of room for improvement. Mastering the different combos and switching weapons efficiently will not only allow you to fully enjoy the fights, but also achieve the perfect score. Each combat phase ends with a score and obtaining a rank, depending on the attacks used, the speed of execution or the damage suffered. Note that after each mission/level you will be given a more overall score. If you die, this score will be reduced. Suffice to say that if you are a fan of perfect, there will be plenty to do in Soulstice. It remains to be seen whether this will require restarting the game at the start or whether it will be possible to redo each mission individually. In any case, this point will certainly allow the replayability of the title to gain interest.
Reply Games Studio offers us an enticing concept, but the quality of which cannot yet be fully judged. It therefore remains to be seen whether the Italian developers will manage to exploit its full potential. As a reminder, Soulstice will be available on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series in the fall of 2022.