While it’s a bit cliche to say “they don’t make them like this anymore,” Soulstice genuinely feels like a game from an earlier era when action games were all about high-octane spectacle. While its name might make it seem like a Dark Souls clone, Soulstice has much more in common with PlatinumGames’ titles and old action classics like the original God of War. It lives up to the high bar those titles set, even though it’s Reply Game Studios’ first game like this.
Soulstice’s action is easy to understand but also feels unique as players have two characters simultaneously. The game also features a unique blend of western fantasy and Japanese charm that you rarely see from studios outside of Japan. If you told me Soulstice was a long-lost PS2 action game or an early PlatinumGames title, I’d probably believe you. That’s not an easy standard to meet, but Reply Game Studios was already up to the challenge in the Soulstice demo I played. If the wait for Bayonetta 3 is killing you and you’re looking for another action game that lives up to the high bar that PlatinumGames maintains, then keep your eyes on Soulstice.
Inspired by anime like Berserk, it’s no surprise that Soulstice stars a protagonist that wields a giant sword. That said, the main characters Briar and Lute have a somewhat tragic backstory as they were permanently bonded in a ritual to become a warrior called a Chimera. Briar is the person who will be hacking and slashing enemies with her weapons; Lute is a spirit with a variety of abilities that help support Brair in battle. My demo began with them arriving at the holy city of Ilden. A giant rift called the Veil opened above the city, and the Spawn of Chaos completely decimated the city. Chimera were supposed to come to the city and stop it, but Briar and Lute find themselves alone when they get there.
If anything felt close to Dark Souls in Soulstice, it was the grim setting and tone. The presentation and gameplay are more Nier: Automata than Dark Souls, though. Reply Game Studios cinematically frames each encounter with unique camera angles, which makes every fight feel memorable and grand. Its visuals also have an anime-like cel-shading aesthetic, giving Soulstice a distinct look for a western game.
Gameplay is really where Soulstice shines. It’s a combo-based action game, so players learn and unlock various combos for each of Brair’s weapons and use those skills to take down hordes of foes. Fights are fast and impactful, and enemies with unique skills and armor that Briar must break before being able to stagger and juggle them in the air. That’s all of Briar’s skills, but Lute is also an active part of each battle. Players mainly use her to counter enemies or put up a forcefield that allows Briar to damage enemies of a specific color.
It doesn’t get quite as complicated as Astral Chain, but technically controlling two characters at once is always a fun hook for a genre that can sometimes feel lonely. It all came together in a challenging boss fight against a bow-wielding boss at the end of my demo, as I had to constantly use Lute’s abilities to keep the boss’s attacks on Lute while Briar tried to do as much damage as possible. Astral Chain showed that action games starring more than one character have great potential, and Soulstice builds upon that formula in a distinct way.
That similarity to Astral Chain is another indication that Soulstice is an action game that strikes a power-trip chord that only PlatinumGames has managed to consistently hit over the past decade. Recently, most AAA action games have gotten slower and more methodical, trading in flashy special moves for visceral, methodical attacks. Thankfully, PlatinumGames and Reply Game Studios recognize that the action games of the 2000s had it right when they assumed it was just as satisfying to frame fights cinematically and make the players much more powerful than most of the foes they face. It’s the kind of action game I adore, so I can’t wait to play more of Soulstice when it finally releases.
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