All aboard the hype wagon, Soul Sacrifice is finally here for your shiny little Vita, a Vita that is more than hungry for a time consuming Action RPG. Be prepared to plan on getting in a few minutes of gaming, and to then look up at a clock and realize you’ve been staring at that beautiful little five-inch OLED screen for hours. If you’ve played the demo, everything is represented perfectly, with nothing added or taken away from the full experience.
The story can be a little hard to swallow, what with you starting off in a crude prison cell and being befriended by a talking book named Librom. It is within this book that you relive stories of past prisoners, gaining your own abilities and strengths on an eventual journey to take on the game’s final boss, Magusar. Of course, the ultimate choice at the end of the game may have you questioning your decisions up to that point once you see the outcome.
Soul Sacrifice can easily be seen as trying to do on the Vita what the Monster Hunter games do on the Nintendo consoles. Gameplay has you fighting monsters to get better items, so that you can take down more monsters with those items. Unlike the Monster Hunter series, the game does have a numeric leveling system that is split in two halves. Both halves start at Level 1, and you level up one side or the other by choosing what to do with the souls of your fallen enemies. Save a defeated enemy’s soul and you build up your life meter towards the next level. Sacrifice that soul, and the same will go for your magic level instead. It makes for interesting decision making as both sides can only increase to a combined total of 100.
Your primary offensive weapon is a selection of six upgradeable spells that you can take with you on each of the bite-sized missions. Each spell can be cast a certain number of times before it is unusable during that particular mission, but if you recharge them using special areas in the environment you are able to extend their usage. If you do exhaust any spell, you’ll have to wait until the mission is over to restore the spell for future use. The controls play a big role in how well you utilize your spells, and how much damage they dish out. Casting is easily performed with the press of a face button, but using the analog stick to ensure your aiming is accurate can be a bit of a challenge at times. You will find yourself using the lock-on feature quite a bit if you expect to hit your enemy. The problem lies in the sometimes awkward camera angles that leave you swiping at air and hiding the enemy off-screen while still getting attacked.
Having a nice selection of magic spells that differ in purpose and effectiveness helps in making the game enjoyable, but there is also a type of super magic called Black Rite that while able to dish out major damage, also permanently alters your character. You can heal or at least lessen the side effect of using these ultra-powerful spells, but you’ll want to be careful that you don’t heal so much that you no longer have the means to repair any other broken spells that you want to use again. You will have plenty of opportunities to refill your repair bank, which strangely is built up by wiping away the tears of the book you are talking to in the story.
You are easily looking at over 30 hours of gameplay just for the main story missions, which can each last anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour or more, depending how well you do and how many times you must restart any given section. Add to that a bunch of hours for the side quests and a virtually unlimited amount of time that can be spent with the multiplayer, and you’ll soon find yourself truly experiencing this action RPG. Not that the time justifies the fact that it isn’t an open-world game, you can attempt to take on the final boss at any time, but you will be surely taught a hard lesson without a sizeable amount of hours spent leveling up, as well as getting your inventory up to peak strength for such a battle. It may come as even better news that leveling up, collecting items, and receiving bonuses all apply to your character, no matter which mode you are playing in, whether it be offline, online, multiplayer, or solo.
The visuals are definitely above average for a handheld title, especially for a game like this. The environments and character models, while rather small, are almost up to par visually with something like Uncharted: Golden Abyss. While fighting a boss, a smaller enemy may spawn and begin attacking you, and there is no noticeable change in quality or frame rate as you might expect with such a huge enemy on the screen. Perhaps the best part of the visual quality can be seen when you are about to enter a mission, and the camera pans around giving you a preview of the area that you are about to enter. Unfortunately, a majority of the areas will become very familiar to you, and you’ll feel like there isn’t much new, especially when you keep putting more hours into the game.
The orchestra quality music really sets this game apart from other forgettable action games on the platform. Pop on a decent pair of headphones and you will feel like this smaller title is truly providing a console quality experience. The voice acting is acceptable, with only a few moments where the game might have been trying to be silly, but that goes to show that it isn’t all serious business and there is room for a little fun.
Not only are you able to play designated missions with other players online, but the experience is actually a lot of fun and quite addicting. The multiplayer lobby is very straightforward with selectable chat phrases, quick access to your inventory, and easy to understand player statuses. Unfortunately, the only competitive aspect of the multiplayer is the need to grab items and choosing whether to save or sacrifice the defeated enemies. Other than that, the online multiplayer is a cooperative effort with up to four players.
Overall, even though the game can be perceived as repetitive, the variety of weapons possible and the hundreds of missions available make for hours of gameplay that won’t get boring. Toss in the fact that DLC is on the way, and you suddenly have more justification for the portable console purchase. Soul Sacrifice is well worth the $40 price tag and is a must-buy for PS Vita owners.
Soul Sacrifice is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence.