Review – Soul Sacrifice

Soul Sacrifice was announced near the release of the Vita and has been anticipated as the saviour of the struggling system since then. This is in part due to stellar, intriguing previews, and, most prominently, the fact that it has been the only big release on the Vita’s schedule since Persona 4: The Golden came out, and the only major exclusive since Gravity Rush. Unfortunately, such huge expectations usually lead to disappointments. The concept of Soul Sacrifice was created by Keiji Inafune, who is most known as the creator Mega Man. For those of you who don’t know, Mega Man was a really popular video game character until recently when Capcom decided to royally screw over all of its fans by cancelling all of the franchise’s planned games. Soul Sacrifice is an action game and has been compared to Monster Hunter, Dark Souls, God of War, and several other franchises. However, none of these comparisons are fairly accurate. So today, we’re going to look at Soul Sacrifice and see how it stacked up to the mighty expectations.

This title is super literal.
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The basic plot of Soul Sacrifice is fairly simple. You play an anonymous character who has been imprisoned in a ghastly cage by a disfigured and immortal sorcerer called Magusar who can only retain his immortality by constantly sacrificing more victims. Your character is set to be the next sacrifice when you stumble upon a magic talking book. This book allows you to read the story of a sorcerer in the past and his journeys in order that you may learn from his travails and become powerful enough to escape your certain death. There are a lot of missions, but only a handful actually tell a story and the main story is actually fairly shallow with a ton of filler. You’ll often need to fight random, completely unimportant monsters for no discernible reason other than they showed up or you felt like it. There are some good plot points to be had as you learn more about Magusar and the protagonist of the story you’re reading, but these don’t come often.

Magusar is kind of a dick.
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What Soul Sacrifice lacks for primary story, it makes up for with its lore. Every monster and every area has a detailed history that can be read through the magic book. Lore in video games is fairly common and there are many games with volumes of lore, but none of it being any good (Kingdoms of Amalur). Soul Sacrifice could have easily fallen into this trap, but fortunately for it, the game’s lore is actually really interesting and compelling, being probably the best part of the game. One of the key aspects of the game is the choice to sacrifice or save monsters. As such, the more you learn about the various creatures, especially the larger Archfiends, the harder your choice to sacrifice them might be (Or maybe you won’t care at all, I don’t know).

You can make a female character in the character creator, but this game is pretty lazy with male pronouns, so there’s that…
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The gameplay of Soul Sacrifice ends up being mixed. The game is played out through missions, which is where the main comparison with Monster Hunter begins and ends. When playing through a mission, you’ll be transported to a large combat arena, where you’ll be mostly killing lots of nearly identical enemies. The real challenge and excitement with this game comes from the boss fights against Archfiends, who range from titanic Harpies to gruesome Krakens. The monster design on these creatures is excellent, and they rarely stop at the bare archetype. These battles are usually fast-paced and many of them can be quite challenging. By accomplishing various feats in-mission, you’ll earn points which are tallied at the end of the mission to give you a score. A higher score will give you better spells as rewards at the end of a mission.

Not the average depiction of the Kraken.
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There are a large number of spells of various elements available for you to use. These range from summoning golems to fight for you to various delivery forms of elemental and non-elemental damage. By hitting enemies with the same element over and over again, you’ll inflict a status effect, which will stun the enemy. You can then follow up by detonating the status effect by using the appropriate elemental weakness. This is the deepest the gameplay gets. All of the elemental attacks are the same, and certain attacks are significantly more useful than others. Every time you kill an enemy, you’ll get to either sacrifice or save them. This will give you souls to use on sigils, which are equipable passive buffs, and holy and chaos levels for saving and sacrificing respectively. Holy levels will give you more health and defence and chaos levels will give you more attack power. You have 100 levels in total, and finding the proper balance is part of building your character properly. A character with 99 holy levels will be next to impossible to kill, but my god will he kill slowly. Conversely, a character with 99 chaos levels will probably die in a single hit, but they’ll wreck anything that comes close to him.

It’s just that easy.
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On Tuesday, we looked at bad environments in games and touched on the importance for good environmental choices. To call Soul Sacrifice’s environments bad would be an understatement. They are boring, and bland with almost nothing worth noting about the whole lot of them. The worst part of the whole thing is how repetitive the environments are. The whole game is unfortunately in line with the environments, and you’ll find yourself fighting the same enemies over and over again while in the most boring and bland environments available. Due to the general imbalance in the combat, you’ll also be doing a lot of the same actions when fighting the repetitive enemies.

Yes, it is that boring in-game.
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There is a strong multiplayer component to the game where you can run through missions with friends or random people from the internet. The matchup system works well and it’s far more interesting to play with people than the AI controlled allies who you can recruit by saving Archfiends. That being said, similar to Monster Hunter, there is a lot of elitism among gamers, and, on the other side, a lot of people who really don’t know what their doing. If you decide to go full holy, expect to be kicked out of a lot of lobbies by gamers who don’t want to bother carrying you through the game. When it works, the multiplayer is fun, so it is over all a plus. I can’t really take off marks for people being dicks, or all multiplayer games would have to be docked.

Only assholes wear hats like that. Trust me: I know.
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Soul Sacrifice is a good game, but not a great game. The lore and aesthetic, particularly the enemy design are standout. The gameplay is fun and can be varied, but often falls down to spamming and use of overpowered moves, while you ignore the rest of them. Overall, the Vita still has yet to get a definitive exclusive game, but it is starting to amass a fairly good collection of good games, which Soul Sacrifice counts itself among. Thematically great, but faltering on some basic points, Soul Sacrifice works well, most of the time.

Score – 7.5

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