Let me start by saying this: Comparing Soul Sacrifice to Monster Hunter is like comparing the original Bioshock to Call of Duty: Black Ops. While both games may share the same mechanics and be in the same genre, Soul Sacrifice and Monster Hunter are two very different games. Soul Sacrifice is an excellent game with deep, rewarding fighting mechanics, beautifully grotesque artwork, addictive multiplayer and a storyline like no other on any platform. Soul Sacrifice is the definition of unique.
This game is the brain child of industry veteren Keiji Inafune of Mega Man, Ominusha and Dead Rising fame so yes, this game has big boots to fill. This is also the first title from Inafune’s new development house Comcept. Soul Sacrifice takes place in a land called Avalon and it is here you are first introduced to your fully customizable character who is currently being held captive by an evil mage named “Magusar”. The goal of the game is to gain strength, escape your cell and eventually kill your captor. In your cell you are joined by your companion and story narrator, “Librom”.
Librom is a book and by reading through the book’s pages and reliving the extensive series of events being described, you can gain strength, weapons and items. Most importantly though, the book provides context to the player for the events that led to your current predicament. The storyline in this game is excellent and one of the most original I have experienced in a long time. The events that take place in the book are full of sorrow, helplessness and at times betrayal, but the game thankfully provides a glimmer of hope for the player at the end of each chapter. The story is deep and engrossing and the events told in the book are presented in such a way that the player never gets bored, with the voice acting being quite bearable.
The gameplay is as unique as the story and setting. As the name of the game implies, your strength comes at a sacrifice. Upon killing an enemy, the gamer is presented with two choices, opting to increase either your health, or magic ability, when absorbing an enemy’s soul. This gameplay element allows for a degree of customisation, enabling your character to level-up however the player sees fit. For example, sometimes, to gain extra life, you may choose to sacrifice some of your magic, or vice-versa. The second kind of sacrifice is called “Black Rites” and it is here that the game starts to outshine its competitors. Unleashing a Black Rite in the heat of battle can have lasting consequences on your character unless you have the prerequesistes to cure the illness. For example, the first Black Rite the players has at their disposal is the “Infernus Black Rite”. Once activated, the Infernus will surround your enemies in flames, causing extreme damage and likely killing anything in its path. The price you pay however, for unleashing such a power is that your character will also be set alight, suffering from a 50 percent reduction in defence, until you cure yourself from the Rite’s effect. The payer can cure themselves by using the ultra currency called “Lacrima”. The fact that the Lacrima is rare ensures you only use the Black Rites when you absolutely need to.
The customization in Soul Sacrifice is also substantial. The player can equip up to six weapons, knows as “Offerings”, at any one time. Offerings can be fused together to make newer, stronger weapons and the amount of times each weapon can be used in battle can also be increased. There is a tremendous amount of variety in the Offerings, allowing players to adapt to each enemy type on the fly. One of theb best things about Soul Sacrifice is how big the game actually is. Twenty five hours in and players will still find themselves engaging in side quests and sub-plots, fusing new weapons and recruiting new allies to help with their journey. When attempting side-quests, Soul Sacrifice allows for two AI controlled characters to fight by your side, with each AI character having the ability to gain experience and learn new offerings.
An excellent feature of the side-quests in Soul Sacrifice is that they can be completed online with two other players. At the time of writing this review, the online servers were unavailable for the full retail version, but having spent some time online in the demo version, I am of the opinion that the online is incredible. You and two other online players cooperate to take down varied enemies, from human size rats to gigantic beasts that take can take up to fifteen minutes to kill. I loved the online portion of the demo and I imagine when the servers come online for the retail version, I will have just as much fun.
One of the few negative features I found in Soul Sacrifice was that of the graphics, which at times seemed a little inconsitent. When running through a level the ground textures can sometimes become pixelated which can be initially off putting, however I soon found myself forgetting such issues when the action kicked in. Another small complaint is the enemy variety is on the small side. Some quests involved killing a group of gigantic rats where the only difference is in the colour of their skin.
Soul Sacrifice is breath of fresh air, especially for PS Vita owners who have been waiting for the next big title to hit the platform. It is an incredibly unique game with an engrossing and sometimes harrowing story. There is just so much to do in this game and, having completed the main storyline, I still find myself addicted to the side-quests and increasing the stats of my character. Couple this with the exciting multiplayer option and Soul Sacrifice will be sure to keep gamers hooked for months to come.
In general, the graphics and setting of the game are top notch with only the variety of enemies and sometimes poor floor textures keeping it from being one of the best looking handheld games created. For any gamer in the mood for an original and addictive action-adventure RPG, look no further than Soul Sacrifice. Sony and Comcept are on to a winner here, let’s hope for a sequel.