Soulstice Review (PS5) – With only a couple titles under its belt, Reply Game Studios takes to the hack n’ slash genre with brand new IP Soulstice. The inspirations behind this new title are abundantly clear, shadowing the likes of Devil May Cry.
While it doesn’t reach the same level of success, it takes on its own charms and strengths.
Soulstice Review (PS5) – A New Developer’s Solid Foray Into The Hack N’ Slash Genre
Building a World
Soulstice opens up to this dismal scene as Briar, a chimeran warrior, and the ghost of her dead sister, Lute, row their way through fog and jetsam to a shoreside dilapidated by conflict.
Briar and Lute work for an organization called The Order of the Ashen Hawk, which sends agents to different undead and demonic scenarios in the world to assess and resolve.
Lute quickly realizes that this, their first mission, requires far more agents than just them. However, Briar takes it as an opportunity to prove their collective resolve and worth to the organization and jumps in headfirst.
Voice work reflects this, showcasing two wonderful voice actors that work well together to add extra emotional intent to everything you do.
Immediately when the game gave me control of Briar, I felt a strong comparison to how the original Devil May Cry games navigated its maps. The paths remain linear, and camera angles are generally fixed at dramatic positions.
The scenes shown in Soulstice showcase massive, gorgeous landscapes that detail the type of zone ahead of you. Many games put vast landscapes on display, but these here remind me of how I felt when I first played God of War III.
The backdrops don’t move at all or share the same dramatic spectacle, but the camera work combined with the level of detail and scale adds oh so much oomph to the imagery.
I often gaze at the background while I run around, soon realizing that I’m making Briar run in place in a random corner.
Even though Soulstice shares many components with DMC, the game separates itself when it comes to the narrative.
The story takes on quite the serious presentation, focusing on the relationship between Brian and Lute as they deal with the chimera housed in Briar’s body.
This chimera gives Briar strength at the cost of much of her humanity. If she lets the chimera take full control, she will lose Lute forever.
Without the chimeran power, though, she wouldn’t wield the strength to fulfill her role for The Order. While a simple premise, this storyline delivers well what it wants to say.
Much like its inspiration, Soulstice allows you to find secret paths and hidden nooks to find health boost items or experience orbs. These paths remain relatively visible as long as you don’t just fly through each zone.
Lean Into Inspiration
In principle, much of the game’s formula follows the same techniques that come with the DMC titles: gather orbs, unlock new skills and combos, and beat down baddies along the way.
Despite all these comparisons so far, the overall result is something mimicking the series lower points, such as what Hiroyuki Kobayashi created in Devil May Cry 1.
That’s not to say that the result feels cheap. Equally so, it screams that same style and presentation so often that a significant comparison cannot be avoided. Soulstice even has the challenge rooms hidden throughout.
Combat sees you controlling Briar, using a sword and a list of other weapons to fight your way through demons and the undead. Attacks feel visceral yet interesting, opting to generate that split second pause on each impact.
Lute plays as a support role that you control. Circle button prompts appear when enemies attack you from anywhere on the map, whether on-screen or not. Hitting Circle makes Lute freeze that enemy temporarily, giving you time to finish your combo, interrupt that target, or simply get out of the way.
She also activates different auras, which allow you to combat specific enemies or interact with different collectibles you find along the way.
This brings that object or enemy into your plane of existence, allowing you to slash away at it. This allows you to use the same weapons for everything you fight, letting you focus on what you fight rather than what you use to fight.
Echoes May Cry
As mentioned earlier, the narrative in Soulstice takes a much more serious tone than its inspiration does. Whether you like that approach more or less is purely subjective.
What’s not subjective is that combat doesn’t work as well. In defense of Soulstice, the mechanics work as they should and all controller inputs work on time and feel impactful on-screen.
At the same time, combat is slower. This leaves you steadily mashing the same button combos at a slower pace and seeing the same flow of combat over and over.
Enemies have a tendency to stand around a bit before attacking as well. Even on harder difficulties, the combat in Soulstice doesn’t demand a heavy focus.
Combine all these things, and you get a resulting system that can feel good at times, especially when it comes to boss fights, but more often than not feels repetitive.
While combat in Soulstice gauges your performance, combat proves more forgiving than a lot of other hack n’ slash games out there.
As you chain combos, your multiplier goes up. When you take damage, your multiplier goes down; pretty standard stuff.
The way the game handles its multiplier favors you in two ways. The first is that you only lose 0.5 of your multiplier when you take a hit.
Your ranking still goes down, but it only goes down based on how many times you get hit rather than a massive dip just from that one fluke attack that gets through.
The second way is that the active multiplier chain stays active for much longer between attacks. Soulstice grants you nearly 5 seconds of empty time before your multiplier drops off.
The display also shows a thin bar that shortens, indicating how much time you have before your combo drops.
While these factors do not keep combat from feeling slow and repetitive some of the time, it does make the game more accessible.
On that note, Soulstice also lets you fully remap your button layout. Even further still, you have several color blind options as well as different settings to display subtitles for dyslexia.
As mentioned before, there are 5 different difficulty settings. Combine that with the accessibility options, and Soulstice makes itself available to a vast array of different gamers without completely disregarding the meat and potatoes of the hack n’ slash genre.
A More Accessible Hack N’ Slash Game That Maintains The Strengths of The Genre
Soulstice makes a hearty attempt at the button-mashing hack n’ slash genre by taking you on a journey with Briar and Lute.
Accessibility, narrative, and flexibility take center stage in this title, but combat pacing and repetitiveness both leave you with a wanting, reducing competitive depth native to the genre.
Regardless, the charm and style running throughout Soulstice wins the day, making this a great new inspired IP.
Soulstice is available on PS5.
Review code generously provided by publisher.