Soul Sacrifice: review

The PlayStation Vita has been crying out for quality games, and action RPG Soul Sacrifice looked to be the first big hitter of 2013 for Sony’s much neglected handheld. But does the title’s early promise translate into a great game, or are Vita owners still waiting on that killer app?

At the start of Soul Sacrifice your character is imprisoned by a sorcerer called Magusar. While in your cell you come across a book called the Librom, which is a talking journal that lets you gain insight into what has transpired, and why you are in your current predicament. The events that unfold in the book are played through, and let you gain powers and items that you will eventually use to take on and defeat your captor. The powers you gain come at a price though; and the plot weaves an impressive tale which is engaging and thought provoking, although some of the voice acting is a tad melodramatic. The choices you make during the game also affect the plot, and so there are many different narrative routes that you can take, which adds extra replayability to the game.

The game is very dark, and obviously inspired by Dark Souls.

The main theme of the game is sacrifice and how power corrupts, and the game offers some difficult choices during its play time. When you defeat any of the enemies you encounter, you are given the choice to either Sacrifice or Save their souls. If you sacrifice them you are given a boost to your magic stats, and if you save them you are given a boost to your life force, and can also call them into battle as a member of your party – which means the choices you make in the game are crucial and gives the game a tactical edge. Most of the time it is a straight choice between magic or life, but at other times if you need extra life you need to sacrifice some of your magic, and vice versa. The game lets you rank up to a combined total of 100, so you can have a 50/50 split between life and magic or any combination in between, say 60 life and 40 magic depending on how you play it.

As well as balancing out your magic and life force, you also have to deal with the consequences of using the Black Rites. These are the game’s super powers that dish out severe damage, although again this comes at a cost. To unlock a Black Rite you need to sacrifice a part of your body, which weakens you in other areas. The Infernus power, for instance, unleashes a huge flame-engulfed demon that sets anything within a certain radius on fire, but you will be left with your defence reduced by 50% unless you recharge the power by using Lacrima, which you need to use sparingly. Lacrima can be gained by occasionally collecting the tears from the Librom. This means the Black Rites should only be used as a last resort.

Save or Sacrifice, the choice is in your hands!

Your inventory also allows you to collect Offerings, which you collect at the end of a stage, and these are your main weapons against the dark forces. You get six slots that you are free to fill with whichever Offerings you think will be useful in your forthcoming battle. These range from the melee attack of the Icegiant’s Arm, to the ranged attack of the Sanguine Cannon, and the healing powers of the Healing Seed. You can fuse these together to form more powerful weapons, and also boost them to enable you to cast them more often in battle. You can also use Sigils which are items used to boost your stats, which you use on your right arm. Once you progress to a certain part of the game you unlock a multiplayer co-op mode, where you team up with up to three other players online. This works really well and gives you extra breathing space to experiment when you have extra backup at hand. It can work against you though if your friends decide to sacrifice you. If this happens you are still involved in the action as a ghost, and you can float around lowering enemy defences or boosting your so-called friends’ attacks.

As you can tell, the game has a lot of depth to it, but it’s not overly complicated. The graphics are great, with some truly imaginative enemies to face, like the demonic cats, which look like Silent Hill’s version of Bagpuss. You will also encounter huge bosses like demonic cherubs with snake-like necks, and one that resembles John Carpenters The Thing crossed with a Katamari that has absorbed a giant fork. The stages are quite small, and if you explore them you can pick up soul and life shards. On occasion you will come across altars that let you heal your life bar, and areas that let you forge armour, weapons and shields to aid you in your struggle. Some areas also let you recharge your Offerings if you are running low in the heat of the battle.

There are some pretty messed up monsters in Soul Sacrifice.

While the game has a lot of depth it can get quite repetitive, with each stage having a handful of smaller enemies to battle, before hitting you with a challenging boss creature. While each stage has a different setting and giant monster to take down, the levels play out the same way. The game can also be mercilessly difficult, and sometimes even when you use the extreme power of the Black Rites your foe will still be standing. The unskippable cutscenes and quite long loading times are also a nuisance, which can get quite frustrating at times. However the game is quite addictive, and you will find yourself pulled back for one more go.

If you have a Vita then Soul Sacrifice is a deep, rewarding game with a captivating story that demands your attention. It’s an exclusive that the Vita has been crying out for, and even with its flaws it’s well worth the sacrifice of your time.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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