*Authors Note* Soul Sacrifice is a Playstation Vita exclusive title.
We’ve seen a number of monster mauling third person action games over these past three or four years, with none more prominent than the Monster Hunter franchise. A new competitor has entered the ring in Soul Sacrifice from Keiji Inafune, the creator of the Mega Man franchise, and where it polishes and refines a genre in a number of ways it also drops the ball in a few fundamental areas that makes for a slightly jarring experience.
There is some charm in the story which places you in the position of an imprisoned mage with Librom – an enchanted book which is your only method of survival. Librom has documented a number of apocalyptic events from the past, and by reliving these moments you will learn the skills to escape your current situation. The story is broken down into five sections, containing somewhere between four and six chapters within each portion and ultimately culminating in a battle with Magusar – the entity that imprisoned you in the first place. You will encounter a large number of different characters along your linear journey and the story can at times become a little too convoluted but Librom is the star here with witty lines of dialogue that will have you chuckling every now and then.
In such a combat focussed genre, it is important to nail some of the key components such as steady progression, grinding and customisation, and thankfully each of these areas are fleshed out as well as expected, with the linear story structure always pushing you towards the narrative goal. The necessity of grinding is as prominent as ever in Soul Sacrifice with you regularly being forced to replay past missions solely to boost your experience, making you powerful enough to fight through future missions. The game boasts a wealth of customisable features, from the spells you wield which are easily mapped to the Vita’s face buttons , to the way in which you upgrade yourself. Every enemy you defeat can be either sacrificed (boosting your magic) or saved (boosting your health), and with each save or sacrifice your levels in either health or magic increase, with the extra positive being that major bosses that are saved can be brought back as allies in your quest. Other perks can be equipped to your character as well that will assist in battle. The risk/reward associated with many features of the game is extraordinary in depth from the levelling to the Black Rite attack spells which provide a huge strength advantage to you but are offset by negative side-effects which will impact your performance until you obtain enough Lacrima to undo the influence. You will always need to check your thinking to ensure you’re making the right decisions for your play style and for a given battle.
What is not nearly as well fleshed out and customised is the world and monster design, both of which are extremely limited in scope with only a few maps and a small breadth of enemy variety present which for a game of this genre is very disappointing and eventually makes for a duller experience. Control isn’t exceptional either which the camera and locking on ability not being as polished as they ought to be, and when the game throws a multitude of foes at you it becomes very difficult to focus on a single enemy when the game decides to lock on elsewhere.
The game looks serviceable, never blowing you away but never looking muddy or ugly, the monster design, while limited, looks great and demonstrates great creativity. The voice-acting is mostly decent, but as outlined earlier, Librom is sensationally done, from the great lines, to the polished execution of the voice-actor, it is a shame that the same level of enthusiasm wasn’t shown through all the characters but it certainly gives them a starting point to work with.
The game can be played online via match-making modes, and the gameplay doesn’t change at all, while forming parties is extremely quick and simple which will become an alluring prospect for many a Vita gamer. The game was built primarily for the solo gamer but this addition does provide the game an extra layer of depth not found in the majority of the games on the platform.
Despite Soul Sacrifices many problems, there is something strangely attracting that constantly draws you in, maybe it’s Librom, maybe the lure of finally taking down that nasty foe, but over the duration of approximately two dozen hours to complete the game will keep you actively engaged throughout. It most definitely is not the killer Vita game we were all hoping it would be, but it is certainly worth your time regardless.