2021, in the middle of the E3 period, a title immediately caught our attention with its Berserk and Claymore anime/manga inspirations, its artistic direction, its Dark Fantasy universe and its frantic action. Besides, it was impossible not to think – seeing it – of titles like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, Castlevania Lords of Shadow (the 1st), God of War (not the one from 2018, the old ones) or even NieR Automata. Today, after a dip in the Sacred Kingdoms of Keidas, we can say that even if the software echoes the aforementioned games, it really offers a great experience with its own facets. As you already know, we are obviously talking about Soulstice, we explain to you why we were charmed by the latest addition from Reply Game Studios during this test!
Soulstice was created by Italian studio Reply Game Studios. The team, based in Milan, is a subsidiary of Reply Group, it is more particularly the developers of the “video games” section of this “parent company”. The members, devoted to the creation of AA (double A) games, have the ambition to present apps with gripping stories and deep gameplay mechanics. To their credit, we owe them the creation of the VR game Theseus, Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf published on consoles / PC, and finally this Soulstice. This latest project, available on next-gen consoles and PC, presents an adventure that is mysterious and intriguing to say the least.
A mysterious universe
The adventure takes place in a Dark Fantasy universe. Long ago, three Guardians, the Torchbearer, the Shaper and the Judge, fought against the darkness and the emanations of Chaos power. However despite their efforts, Chaos even when banished, was truly indestructible. These entities then erected a Veil, composed of their own essence, in order to protect the world and ensure that this darkness does not return to it. But in return, the world surrounding these entities had become empty and devoid of meaning,… They then crossed the Veil to seize Chaos, and thus use this power to shape Men.
Unfortunately, in the shadows, the greedy Chaos tore the Veil and caused the Solstice: a catastrophe of great proportions serving hordes of horrors on the world and wounding the three entities equally. The latter then made men the defenders of the world, three battles took place and after having turned Chaos against itself, the Solstice ended. To thank the three entities, three large cities were erected in their honor. But over time, Humanity forgot this terrible part of History.
Today, the balance within the Sacred Realms of Keidas is threatened by powerful creatures known as “Spectres”. The latter crossing the “Veil” to ravage the world of the living, but also to take possession of the bodies of their victims. In order to protect Humanity from this threat, the Order of the Ashen Blade has entrusted the protection of the world – and the investigation – to a Chimera, in other words warriors born and therefore resulting from the union of two souls; here they are those of Briar and Lute, two sisters who benefit from this reincarnation. If as a spirit Lute now has supernatural powers, Briar on his side, acquired immeasurable strength and superhuman resistance. Where do they come from? And will they be able to save the world from its foreseeable downfall?
Answers that you will have the opportunity to discover in this epic. If the adventure is certainly classic for the genre with a slightly slower progression at first, it is nonetheless pleasant and interesting in several aspects. First of all by the care given to the universe, to the worked Lore of the title, to the atmosphere as well as to the staging. But also thanks to the relationship between Lute and Briar. Certainly, it lacks a touch of script depth (perhaps expanded in a future episode?) But it is also livable and felt through the gameplay taking advantage of the duo, without forgetting their past.
In short, we want to know more, even if these two characters do not have as much charisma as some known heroes of the genre. Moreover, speaking of characters, those encountered in Soulstice also have their own personality. The set benefits from a dubbing of good quality with the bonus of the presence of Stefanie Jooster (MGS V – The Phantom Pain) succeeding in her double role brilliantly. Too bad, however, that some lines / dialogues tend to repeat themselves throughout this story.
Five difficulties, and a progression typical of the genre
As we said earlier, Soulstice highlights gameplay with frenetic, intense, exhilarating and dynamic action during these confrontation phases. Moreover, like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, the software from Reply Game Studios is divided into several chapters, the latter also having a rating system (the best being Diamond). You may have already grasped it, the higher the rating, the better the rewards for the future.
During the various chapters, the adventure takes us to investigate the ruined city of Illden – once the city of Light – with the discovery of a port, streets or even sewers,… with a generally linear progression. The construction of the “levels” mixes arenas, platform phases, the latter sometimes being tricky because of a camera in an almost fixed plane that does not always offer optimal readability and placement, and very old-fashioned puzzles. simple to solve.
But there is also a search for crystals – of two different colors – used to strengthen the powers of the two sisters in turn, Briar being focused on the offensive with devastating combos, and Lute on support. Without going into too much detail, we greatly appreciate the possibilities offered with the choice of “build”.
In addition to these crystals, this exploration has hidden passages, challenges or other interesting and useful collectibles for battles, which also have a good and beautiful difficulty. On this subject, Soulstice puts the small dishes in the big ones by offering no less than five choices, three of them being directly accessible at the start of the course, the highest ones – unlocked by finishing the title twice – offer an even more challenge. more full-bodied than the originals, the latter being sometimes already very difficult, that’s it!
Dynamic, nervous confrontations with several subtleties
The games offered by Soulstice – this time taking advantage of a freer camera depending on the location – are really of a very good caliber, nervous and dynamic, against varied but also tough opponents! Basically, Briar can use a hammer and a sword that can be alternated to perform combos. Except that his paraphernalia increases gradually with new armaments, we think of the Castlevania whip or an ax not to mention them all. Thanks to this and to the combos to be unlocked as mentioned above, the intensity increases and we link dodges/parries with attack opportunities. Even if total mastery and the different sequences to remember take place after a certain time, the fun is there and neophytes can easily get into the bath with this atypical duo.
And precisely, if Briar is the one who massacres Specters and other opponents, her sister Lute is not put aside, and also benefits from special abilities, the developers having thus played on two fronts to bring a certain strategy to this approach. Beat’em All uninhibited. Concretely, if Lute allows Briar to be supported by “invoking” a barrier or even by slowing down time (via a specific key) -not to mention additional techniques to be unlocked-, the spirit of this young lady has access to other powers. primordial!
Again, without saying too much, she can invoke an evocation or banishment field, this in order to make certain enemies immune to attacks. A feature that we have seen differently, especially in other apps of the genre. But be careful not to abuse it at the risk of exhausting Lute temporarily, and finding yourself completely exposed.
In addition, when the two sisters are in full synergy, they can use other techniques, including access to different “styles” depending on Lute’s “mood”, or even a kind of special Chaos form, we don’t know. Obviously, we won’t say more, as usual, in order to leave you some surprises. As you will have understood, Soulstice clashes are really fun, exhilarating and allow you to fully enjoy yourself, even against bosses.
A Dark Fantasy universe and pleasant panoramas
Now let’s move on to the last part of this test: the technical and visual leg. For this experience, three choices are offered: first, resolution priority, in other words a rendering in higher definition (4K) but with 30FPS, secondly we have the “Balanced” mode. More specifically, it is a trade-off between resolution and FPS, both of which are dynamically calibrated. Finally, the last configuration option: Performance. Clearly, with its higher frame rate (60FPS) and its stability, it is the preferred mode for an optimal experience, the software and its nervous gameplay, fully lending themselves to it.
Regarding its atmosphere and its graphic palette, if we deplored some visual bugs (invisible walls, …), camera, or locking (lock-on undergoing some collisions), the artistic direction and this Dark Fantasy tone really enjoyed. This and the coherence of the universe really playing a big part in it. If some camera shots do not make our task easier, they allow us to capture the atmosphere depicted and to enjoy very beautiful panoramas. The whole is subject to superb plays of light, light strikes,… as well as characters benefiting from a cell-shaded dressing.
Regarding its musical aspect, the sound effects are well done and the OST provides epic moments with sound themes sufficiently rhythmic for this experience. Let’s finish by specifying that the voices are in English and the subtitles in French.
Tested on Xbox Series X
With Soulstice, Reply Game Studios gives us a very good Action / Beat’em All game. If it is not perfect in every detail and some will judge some old-fashioned mechanisms a little more harshly, the artistic direction, the atypical duo, the OST and the work done on the Lore, manage to give us Want to know more. Besides, we would not be against the arrival of a new episode! In addition to these positive points, the fights are fun, exhilarating, skilfully combining Beat’em All in its purest form with a dose of strategy, Briar and Lute each have their say!
We would love to give thanks to the writer of this write-up for this incredible content
Soulstice: Prepare for Chaos! (PC, PS5) – MaXoE
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