Friday , April 19 2024

Videogame Review: ‘Soulstice’

“Lute,” I whisper in my head as words are not necessary, “Do you see the devastation before us?” “Yes Sister” she replies, slowly forming from the ether around me.

I revel in her touch, I can feel it lightly, like a breath from the summer breeze. The only pleasure in my cursed state is when my sister is with me like this. Shaking myself I turn my head to see her face glowing with blue light staring at me with love, and worry.

“Do you feel the pull, Briar?” she asks, the worry on her face echoed in her tremulous voice. It was no use lying to her, we are joined and she would know. “Yes” I say stoically “but it is not strong enough to consume us…yet.”

“Then we must move on” Lute says in her most optimistic tone, which can always make me smile, if just for a moment. “An observer should be near, and I can sense a — no wait, two other Chimeras up ahead.” Lute paused. “They are conflicted but alive.

“Then we have no time to waste” I say aloud with a resigned tone. “Observers are cowards and blowhards, but they can be handy.” With a whisper which I knew Lute would hear I added “We will need all the help we can get.

She wisely said nothing knowing I had to settle myself on this path. Checking that my weapons were ready to be drawn at a moment’s notice I stared up at the shattered sky, filled with the all-consuming tear, and said with finality “Nothing will stand in our way, I will destroy all in our path and redeem our fate, I promise this Lute.”

Soulstice is an action adventure game from Reply Game Studios that features two soul-bound sisters (Briar and Lute) who have been reborn Chimeras, living weapons serving the mysterious Order of the Ashen Blade.

Little is explained about how and why these two became Chimeras; when the game starts, they just are in this state. I actually found that refreshing as there was simply a need to accept these conjoined characters as they explore and battle their way through the fallen city of Ilden.

In an opening cutscene we learn that the Kingdom of Keidas was shaped by three entities who have since waned in the world leaving the path open for an evil entity to take over the Kingdom. The Chimeras are elite soldiers who use their supernatural joining with their Shades to develop incredible powers.

Briar and Lute each have their roles and in Soulstice, both are controlled at the same time. Briar is the main controllable character and gets an expanding roster of weapons and attack to leverage but I found Lute’s skill arc to be much more interesting.

Lute is a mix of defensive/offensive and puzzle solving as she assists Briar through the battles. Her ability to deflect or block attacks with timed button presses is literally the key to surviving the game.

She also generates auto attacks depending on the Unity she builds with Briar and can generate two types of fields around them that help against enemies and the puzzles in the world of Soulstice. Evocation or Banishment Fields will help to damage corresponding enemies and barriers that are found along the game’s dangerous path.

While Lute has the more dynamic skills and powers, Briar is the main powerhouse and she uses her growing repertoire of weapons, combos and skills to destroy all enemies in her path. Weapons ranging from massive swords to whips and gauntlet strikes are switchable at will to enable many varied combos.

While I did enjoy the depth of skills, weapons and tactics that can be employed, the game itself can become a bit monotonous in steady combat as the patterns remain the same. Attack, combo, leap, dodge, deflect as Lute, rinse and repeat. The changing weapons change these attacks and enable different combos, but the feeling of repetition still sinks in.

New enemies do appear quite often but generally they just add new wrinkles to combat like needing a field active, armor that needs to get destroyed or an anchor that needs to be removed so they can be harmed. The combat is fast-paced, can be fun at moments, but suffers from a sameness despite the new skills, weapons and combos discovered along the way.

The same, thankfully, need not be said of the atmosphere, the dialog between the sisters and the general moodiness of the game. I found myself many times stopping and admiring the scale and effectiveness of the visuals as well as the interactions between Briar and Lute and the few characters they meet.

The real strength in Soulstice is the amazing ecosystem and world Reply Game Studios has made. Each scene is dripping in details and pathways with hidden secrets and ways to proceed through the game.

While the DMC-style combat has been what is first noticed about the game, there is a true dark beauty in the world of Soulstice and the relationship between Briar and Lute. The big reason I kept coming back to the game was their dynamic and the world they were navigating.

Soulstice is not a perfect game, its combat could have used some tweaking to be more dynamic and the skill pool is a little stretched with all the weapons, but the game is redeemed by its beauty, character dynamics and atmosphere. Ultimately as a result this is a game well worth checking out. It’s available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC via Steam.

We were given an Xbox Series X code by the publisher to play through Soulstice for this review.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

Check Also

Videogame Review: ‘Wanted: Dead’

'Wanted: Dead' is a quirky off-the-wall slasher/shooter that is far more interesting as an experience than its gameplay mechanics are in practice.