Date: August 6, 2022
When I first saw the trailer for Soulstice, it’s cinametic and fast-paced action got me interested. Then the first look at the game’s combat made me even more excited to try it out, as it reminded me of Devil May Cry — one of my favorite series of all time. After playing through the preview build of it (which encompasses the first quarter of the game), I think the game has a lot of potential, but there was one major issue holding it back for me.
The game’s story starts off fairly straightforward. Briar and Lute are two sisters who have undergone a ritual to become a Chimera, and are tasked by the Ashen Blade to take care of a Tear that has formed over the city of Ilden. Going through the story, I learned more about the sisters and the Chimera, and I’m sure the game will reveal some information about the Ashen Order themselves later on in the game.
While the story is good so far, in my opinion the most important thing in an action game like is the gameplay, and luckily Soultice’s is mostly smooth, with many different aspects to look out for to maximize your battle effectiveness. You take control of Briar, who is assisted by her sister Lute. Briar wields a sword, and can use a variety of secondary weapons as well — these secondary weapons can be switched freely as you unlock them, while the sword will always be your main weapon.
Secondary weapons all have a type of enemy they specialize against, such as a fist weapon that’s effective against armored enemies. This encourages you to swap between these different weapons, although it is not required if there’s a particular one you prefer to use over the others.
Lute acts as a mostly passive assistant in battle, automatically firing projectiles at enemies. However, there are a couple of active abilities Lute has — counters and Fields.
In combat, you will frequently see a button prompt as enemies are getting ready to attack you. If you press the button in time, Lute will counter the attack and keep Briar safe — the specific counter will depend on the attack being used by the enemy. The more precise your timing on hitting the prompt is, the more effective the counter will be.
Lute can also generate one of two fields. At first, this mechanic is introduced in order to get rid of certain obstacles while exploring, but eventually you are pitted against enemies that can only be damaged while in one of these fields. Lute cannot keep these fields up indefinitely, however; having it up for too long will cause her to Overcharge, removing her from battle shortly.
Mastering both Briar’s fighting abilities and Lute’s support moves is crucial in battle, and you are rewarded for effective use of their unique talents. During battle, there is a bond meter on the upper right of the screen (indicated by portraits of the two sisters). You can raise their bond by successfully using combos and activating counters, all while not getting hit. As the meter rises, the portraits move closer and closer, eventually uniting into one.
Building your bond has a couple of benefits. Once it’s high enough, you will be able to unleash powerful Synergy Attacks, and be able to use the Rapture State, a powerful transformation.
With all of these mechanics, it can sound overwhelming having to keep track of everything at the same time. Luckily, Soulstice introduces these mechanics gradually, allowing you to get used to one aspect of battle before being given a new one to look out for.
My only major issue with the game’s combat was its lock-on mechanic. In most action games like this, locking on to an enemy will cause your character to focus their attacks on that target, while keeping the camera focused on them. In Soulstice however, locking onto an enemy will only center the camera on them and show their remaining health.
This means that Briar will not prioritize attacking the locked-on enemy during combos, but just attack in whichever direction she’s facing. Because of this, you have to pay extra attention to which direction Briar is attacking in battle (on top of all the other mechanics of combat), and this largely removes the developer’s ability to make combos involving directional inputs.
Soulstice is broken up into Acts that have a number of Chapters within them. While levels within the Chapters can be fairly straightforward to navigate, it is highly encouraged to explore every opening and corner that you can. This is because there are a ton of hidden things within levels — this includes resources to enhance your characters, items, and even secret missions that will grant rewards upon completion. It should be noted that all of your resources and character progression carry over between difficulties and Chapters.
Soulstice also encourages going through these levels quickly and effectively. There is a ranking system that you will see after each battle and at the end of Chapters determined by how high your score is in battle, and how quickly you get through the level. Ranks range from Iron to Diamond, and the higher the rank you get, the more resources you will be rewarded with. This encourages replaying levels, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much you enjoy or dislike retrying sections of a game.
It’s obvious that Soulstice took heavy inspiration from the Devil May Cry series, particularly in how they handle progression and encourage players to get consistently better. This is not a bad thing, however, and the combat itself has enough unique mechanics to let it stand on its own. I do hope that they can clean up the lock-on system, but I’m looking forward to playing the full game once it releases!