Continuing our coverage of 2023’s Steam Next Fest we have Soulslinger: Envoy of Death, a roguelike arena shooter.
In Soulslinger: Envoy of Death we play as the nameless Soulslinger, a man who walks through limbo trying to cling to his fading memories. The Soulslinger’s main task in service of death is to recover souls stolen by a cartel of demons.
The Souslinger seems to have some sort of deal with Death, probably pertaining to him returning to life, but it’s unclear why Death doesn’t go after the souls himself. He seems plenty powerful, even lending the player some of his powers, but maybe he’s just really lazy or something.
Soulslinger: Envoy of Death follows the needless roguelike trend, where the game uses tough enemies as a hard wall for the player, while making sure to slowly drip feed you with upgrades so you can break through these walls by grinding.
The game has a problem of feeling very unfair to justify its roguelike status, which would be fine if the game actually had a satisfying unlock system, but it doesn’t. It feels a bit unfair to judge the game on what I think it should be, but at the same time Soulslinger: Envoy of Death has no business being a roguelike.
It’s getting pretty disappointing to see just how many developers are presenting half of a game under the pretense that it’s actually a roguelike. Refusing to design a campaign for your game, making the enemies insanely tough, and locking upgrades behind an unreasonable grind doesn’t make your game a roguelike. It does make you a really bad game designer, though.
There was absolutely no restraint when it came to making sure the player doesn’t get too far without upgrades. Even the enemies in the first rooms will eat a good third of your health if they look at you wrong.
The demo currently available on Steam ends right after you fight the game’s first boss, which you can reach in less than 10 rooms. This doesn’t inspire any sort of confidence in me, and makes me wonder just how much content this game even has.
It feels like Soulslinger: Envoy of Death will be one of those games that tries as hard as it can to extend its playtime, despite not really having that much content. I would like to be wrong about this, but it’s hard to ignore the patterns when they are right in your face.
As a shooter, the game feels extremely limp. Your guns doesn’t have enough feedback or recoil to feel powerful, but they do shake the hell out of the screen when you shoot for some reason, which I assume is another element of artificial difficulty to trip the player up.
There’s a real problem with the game’s visual clarity in general, especially when all of your skills make a massive wave or explosion that makes it incredibly hard to see. Getting your screen covered by fire while the camera jumps around every time you shoot makes for an unbearable experience.
Soulslinger: Envoy of Death looks pretty good graphic-wise despite a pretty weak art direction, but is extremely prone to stuttering. Your first few seconds in a new combat room will always be a slideshow, and any particle the enemies emit will also make sure to drop your frames as well.
The game’s environments are really cluttered, which coupled with the bad enemy AI means you’ll have enemies jumping the same gap over and over, or just standing in place looking menacingly at you. It’s quite clear that the game’s environments have been over-designed to the point where the enemies can’t navigate them.
The main hub area, heaven, is probably the nicest place in the game despite the fact that the environment artist added sway to every single tree, so the forest looks like its made out of rubber. You can’t explore much of the hub area, and your only real options are to talk with Death or the one NPC that sits by a bonfire when you come in.
The bits of dialogue you get either deliver exposition for the player or guide you towards a mechanic, without much of dialogue for dialogue’s sake. Death is probably the best part of the game, mostly because of his design and how matter-of-fact he is, the bluntness in his dialogue can be quite funny at times.
Overall, Soulslinger: Envoy of Death is not a good roguelike, it’s also not a good arena shooter or even a good regular shooter. It’s tough work to find anything actually redeemable about the game aside from its initial presentation.
Roguelike fans won’t get any sort of satisfaction from the game’s unlocks, and arena shooter fans will be bored out of their minds with how simplistic the game is, so it’s really difficult to imagine who this game even is for.
The average buyer will probably grab this game because it looks really good at a first glance, but I can’t imagine anyone would be able to sit through it with its monotonous gameplay and glaring performance issues. This one’s just a real waste of assets.
Soulslinger: Envoy of Death is set to release later in 2023, for Microsoft Windows (through Steam’s Early Access).