Soulstice’s Story Makes It More Than The Average Hack-And-Slash

Soulstice's Story Makes It More Than The Average Hack-And-Slash

Briar wipes her chin like a cool anime protagonist.

Image: Reply to game studios

In the middle of the fall gaming season, it’s very easy to lose sight of games that aren’t the new trend from major studios or haven’t received enough publicity to grab attention. Despite this reality, a dark action-adventure game managed to not only capture my attention but also exceed my expectations, proving to be much more than just a spin-off game paying homage to its contemporaries.

Soulstice, from Reply Game Studios, is a hack-and-slash action game. You play as both Briar, a stoic swordswoman suffering from a demonic curse that threatens to overwhelm her, and her sister Lute, a ghostly being who can conjure up barriers and shoot beams of light to protect her sister from enemies. Their mission is to seal the sky-ray-like tear that is forming in the middle of a war-torn kingdom and defeat the townspeople who have turned into monsters under the tear’s influence. Basically, you might find it hard not to think of Soulstice as the Berserk manga with a touch of Claymore.

And yes, the comparison with these anime is fair. On paper, you can also draw parallels between Soulstice and other slick action games where heroes battle hordes of enemies from other realms, games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. However, Soulstice sets itself apart from those games by telling an engaging story that doesn’t overlook its combat.

Much like its contemporaries, Soulstice’s combat features light and heavy attacks, a host of weapons you can switch between seamlessly, a host of Lovecraftian-inspired bosses to rip through, and a super-powered temporary state where you deal even more damage to enemies. Where it deviates both in its gameplay and in the emotional hook of its story is with Briar’s sister, Lute, serving as an emotional compass moving Soulstice away from being a run-of-the-mill copycat of old hack-and-play games. -slash.

Initially, Lute dragging her ghost-like feet through the carnage she and her sister have to go through feels like the game is setting her up to be another annoying, pacifist character you have to escort everywhere. However, it turns out his inclusion in the game does more than give him a compelling emotional core. It also makes combat feel fresh and unique.

Lute protects his sister with a giant blue shield.

私のスタンド『Sister Christian』Image: Reply Game Studios

When I think of a hack-and-slash game, what often comes to mind is the fantasy of being able to get rid of your enemies quickly, often with the help of your superpowered, Trigger Devil-type move set. In Soulstice, however, Briar’s Berserker state functions like a candle that burns at both ends. While his flame burns brightly, he does not live as long. Much like anyone playing a game of hack-and-slash and unleashing their character’s full destructive potential for the first time, Briar marvels at the power of their demonic state and sees it as a way to Mamoru his ghost imuto. Lute, on the other hand, chastises Briar, warning her not to rely on her Berserker status as it would lead to her downfall. The silences during those moments of downtime when you smash boxes for healthcare after a fierce battle are regularly interrupted by dialogue between the two sisters in which they attempt to delicately temper each other’s expectations of the journey ahead of them. waits.

Whenever Lute attempts to distract Briar and herself from the butchery of the kingdom’s townspeople, some of which are done with their own hands, with an idyllic reverie of how things were in their more peaceful childhoods, Briar brings back Lute curtly on earth reminding her that she will have to get used to the carnage to survive. Conversely, every time Briar brushes off the overuse of her new dark power (and the toll it takes on her) as a means to a necessary end, Lute drops her soft voice and sternly reminds her older sister that, even though she is a ghost and Briar is cursed, the couple still have a lot of life to live. The weight of these small interactions is further enriched by the sensational vocal performances of Stefanie Joosten (Quiet from Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain) who embodies the two sisters. This continuous back and forth between the sisters, coupled with Briar learning to rely on her once helpless sister instead of taking on the burden on her own, creates a powerful storytelling.

Even outside of Soulstice’s story, Lute is quickly becoming one of the most essential supporting characters in the hack-and-slash genre. During combat, the Lute functions mechanically the same as a Support would be in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. If an enemy is about to attack Briar, pressing the “lute button” will counter, parry, or stop them in their tracks, allowing Briar to down a targeted enemy or finish off their allies. or finish destroying their allies. However, pressing the “Lute button” willy-nilly will distract her, causing her to search for enemies that aren’t open to a counter, thus opening you up to attacks.

The Lute is also essential during the game’s many platforming segments. Throughout the game, there are red crystals blocking your path and blue ghost-like platforms. By raising his left or right hand, Lute allows you to deal damage to red crystals blocking progress and adds mass to blue platforms in Soulstice. However, doing this for too long will exhaust Lute to the point where she will disappear. Don’t worry, it comes back after a while.

Briar leapt towards the floating head of a demon.

Dude literally says “show me what you got” before this fight. Image: Reply Game Studios

The biggest downside to Soulstice, like many character action games, is that the camera often functions as an enemy unto itself. This, coupled with most of his enemies using projectiles, makes for a sometimes frustrating experience. For example, at one point I asked out loud, “Why do you want to fight here?” as I faced a wave of enemies in two courtyards connected by a narrow alley. If I entered and exited said alley to complete a combo chain, the camera would pan to show the yard I was entering, obscuring my view of enemies in the alley I was fighting. This not only confused me, but caused me to miss prompts to counter oncoming projectiles since the camera no longer had them in view. This, coupled with too many enemies having projectiles that you have to counter, dodge, or freeze time to avoid, makes the action too cluttered at times.

As for the environment, Soulstice’s color scheme rarely goes beyond a dark blue and gray watercolor-style background, except for its challenge mode where it ups things with blue and purple landscapes. vibrant. Because of this, early game enemy types practically fade into the background, making them difficult to discern until the game starts pitting you against more visible enemies with red crystals. and brilliant bruises in their bodies.

At its heart, Soulstice exists both as evidence for the thesis that everything being a remix, and as a refutation of Mark Twain’s statement that comparison is the death of joy. Admittedly, I first saw playing Soulstice as a way to practice before Bayonetta 3 came out, but I was surprised to find that Soulstice shines better not when it reminds you of combat in gaming games. action of characters like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, but in the way it takes its time to let its story take precedence over its action, which makes it more than worthy of the attention of anyone who loves hack-adventures. skill-based and-slash.


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