Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Soul Sacrifice (PlayStation Vita)
Open-world adventuring gets all dark and gloomy
- Horror-themed setting different from typical RPG fare
- Interesting sacrificing/saving gameplay mechanic
- Unintuitive menu system makes navigation a chore
- Confusing narrative and story
Pull back the clunky story and presentation, and you’ll find a competent adventure game that will likely provide hours of satisfying grinding. However, casual adventurers are probably better off waiting for something more accessible to come along.
Price$ 54.95 (AUD)
Soul Sacrifice is a new IP from Sony that blends open-world adventuring with RPG gameplay mechanics. It puts the player in control of an unnamed character who finds a cursed book that not only saves their life, but also re-enacts some epic, magical battles that happened in the past. These re-enacted battles form the core of the game experience.
The basic premise of Soul Sacrifice likely drew inspiration from Capcom’s Monster Hunter, which has been a massive seller for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Despite Capcom enjoying a lucrative stint on the PSP with the Monster Hunter games, the company has not yet released one on the Vita, which has left the door open for Soul Sacrifice to make its mark with its unique blend of open-world RPG and dark themes.
To save or not to save
Although long-time Capcom stalwart Keiji Infune is involved in the development of Soul Sacrifice, the game is a very different product compared to Monster Hunter. The basic gameplay is there, though the setting and presentation has been taken in a different direction. For one, the generic fantasy world setting of Monster Hunter has been replaced with a dark, horror themed environment. The player takes control of a vagabond-type character and uses makeshift weapons and spells to fight grotesque beasts. Gameplay consisting of fighting enemies in real time from a third-person perspective should be familiar to anyone who has played Monster Hunter.
In the quest to make Soul Sacrifice a different adventuring experience, the soul of every defeated enemy can be either “sacrificed” or “saved”. Doing the former gives a magic boost while the latter recovers health, so the player has to pick and choose during the battle which method to employ to their advantage. This is an interesting mechanic that adds an extra layer of strategy, ensuring that the player defeats smaller enemies first to stock up on magic and health before taking on the big ones.
Less than intuitive
With its dark tone and horror theme, Soul Sacrifice wants to be a mature title aimed at an older audience. However, this approach is likely to turn off younger audiences, or gamers who prefer their adventures to be a more traditional in presentation. The game attempts to tell a story that plays out through a digital book, complete with the player swiping the touch screen to turn pages. However, the poor quality of the narrative makes it very difficult to know what the story is about. The entire menu system is integrated into this book, which makes navigating quests and upgrading characters a headache.
The game itself is not very exciting. Enemies are difficult to beat while the player is underpowered, with death often resulting after a few hits. Some of the spells require the player to hold down a button before unleashing the attack, meaning that the player is unable to use the thumb to move the camera around. There is no way to even pause the game during gameplay, with the Start and Select buttons allocated for other functions, meaning the only way the game can be paused is by putting the handheld into sleep mode. Design quirks like this can be found throughout Soul Sacrifice, which can eventually add up to a frustrating experience.
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