Whenever I see the word “soul” in game titles, I roll my eyes. Usually, this is warranted; the endless glut of “Souls-likes” has persisted unabated for some time now. Thankfully, Soulstice is a throwback to action games that were in vogue prior to the current most popular trend. The game is being developed by the Italian developer Reply Game Studios, and is set to release later this year. The preview content left me impressed, even if its optimization made my GPU’s fan go faster than I think I’ve ever heard it spin. And that’s using one of the most powerful GPUs on the market.
Soulstice is kind of what you’d get if I told you to imagine Berserk with a female lead. The protagonist, Briar, is tough, covered in scars, missing an eye, and carries a huge sword around that’s used to eviscerate monsters. The premise is something else too. Briar and her sister Lute have become a Chimera. Their souls are merged, granting Briar heightened physical strength, but Lute is now a spirit attached to Briar’s body. The two fight against creatures known as Wraiths, which have come from the other side of whatever “The Veil” is.
The level I saw was dark and gritty. Soulstice is quite lovely, though, boasting a great use of lighting and an oppressive atmosphere. Briar is voiced by Stefanie Joosten of Metal Gear Solid fame, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing her performance in the rest of the game when I get to play it. As for gameplay, Soulstice reminds me a great deal of the classic God of War games, which itself was inspired by Japanese spectacle brawlers like Devil May Cry. Cinematic camera angles rule the day as Briar breaks colored crystals to collect upgrade materials. I like a good throwback every now and again.
By default, the controls are kind of weird. The buttons for light and heavy attacks are the opposite of where you’d expect. I changed them, only to grimace once I realized that I could purchase a launcher attack that was performed by pressing two buttons that were now too far away from one another. I suppose it’s just a thing we’ll have to deal with when the time comes. That being said, the combat is solid, albeit button mashy. Fans of the aforementioned games will feel very at home here.
But that’s not to say there aren’t some unique systems at play in Soulstice. Lute can be used to deflect projectile attacks and temporarily hold enemies in stasis right as they attack, giving Briar a chance to dodge out of the way. Controls are responsive, but sometimes the camera is so far away that it can be difficult to see what you’re doing at times. The camera also takes some influence from Yoko Taro games such as NieR: Automata, switching to side-scrolling angles and the like. It can be a bit disorienting, unfortunately, but it’s nothing too problematic.
Briar also makes use of fields that Lute generates. The blue field brings blue items such as echoes of past events or certain enemies into our reality, letting Briar hit them. Red lets you hit red enemies. If you leave either field active too long, then Lute goes into Overdrive and you can’t use her for a few seconds, so it’s important to not leave things active. The preview culminates in an impressive multi-phase boss battle against a corrupted archer monster, which was fairly enthralling. Overall, Soulstice is a promising action game that reminded me a lot of older titles, albeit with a modern coat of paint. I plan on slashing more monsters when the game releases on Steam this fall.
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