We were already given a chance to preview Soulstice back in June, but Modus Games have given the gaming press another opportunity to try out their upcoming dark fantasy character action game developed by Reply Game Studios.
This new preview is a bit more extensive, and covers the first two acts of the game. This roughly translates to the first quarter or so of Soulstice‘s story, and showcases a good amount of the mechanics we can expect from the full game.
Here are our first impressions of Soulstice after about 4 hours of gameplay.
Soulstice is set in the Holy Kingdom of Keidas, a land under siege by Wraiths, otherworldly entities from the ethereal realm on the other side of the Veil.
These Wraiths prey upon the living, spreading foul corruption that turns humans into mindless zombie-like creatures. Protecting humanity from the chaotic powers beyond the Veil are the secretive Order of the Ashen Blade.
The Order’s main weapon of choice in this war against the Wraiths are Chimeras, supernatural warriors born when two souls are merged into a single body.
You play as Briar and Lute, two sisters that have been reborn as a Chimera. However, the pair are shunned by the rest of the Order due to the corrupted blood that flows through Briar’s veins.
The pair are given a chance to prove themselves when the largest invasion of Wraiths encountered thus far flood into the city of Ilden. The entire population of this once magnificent capital city are now dead, corrupted, or possessed by Wraiths, and it’s up to Briar and Lute to get to the bottom of the anomaly and find a way to seal the Veil.
Unfortunately, the sisters quickly realize how dire the situation in Ilden is, and that maybe there might be a grander conspiracy at play beyond the usual Wraith incursions they have faced before.
Soulstice is a character action game along the lines of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. One glance at Briar’s dark, spikey armor and massive sword indicates that the developers at Reply Game Studios are also pretty big fans of Berserk and FromSoftware.
Each level of Soulstice generally consists of navigating linear areas with a fixed camera. There may be some small hidden paths here and there that lead to secrets or valuable resources, but for the most part each level is a straight shot. Occasionally you’ll need to do some rudimentary platforming, or call upon Lute’s aetheric abilities to interact with tears in the fabric of reality.
These environmental interactions generally involve summoning either an Evocation or Banishment field. Either way, you’ll then have to hit crystalline structures while these fields are active to destroy them so you can acquire upgrade materials or advance to the next area.
Occasionally, you’ll also have to hunt for echos by following the rumbling of your controller while Lute’s Evocation field is active, triggering cutscenes that show past events.
Sometimes these fields cross over into the game’s platforming, allowing you to create platforms while Lute’s Evocation field is on. You’ll also need to use your Evocation field against Wraith-type enemies before you can actually damage them.
You can’t just run around everywhere with these fields active, however. Lute can only maintain them for so long before she overheats, making her disappear for a few seconds. During this time, you can’t use any of her abilities, which can be quite problematic in the heat of battle.
Speaking of battle, Soulstice has its fair share of fast, flashy combat sequences spread around each level. As with most character action games, combat locks you into a small arena-like area where you can freely control the camera or lock onto enemies.
Briar’s main weapon is a large sword that can be used to perform a variety of combos, including aerial juggles. You can also equip up to two sub-weapons that you’ll gradually gain access to throughout the game.
You can freely swap between these weapons mid-combo, and more attacks and abilities are unlocked by spending Crimson or Cobalt Tears to purchase upgrades from a shop.
While Briar does most of the heavy lifting in combat, Lute is still around to provide support. Lute will fling bolts of energy at enemies, dealing small amounts of plink damage throughout the battle.
More importantly, Lute provides access to a parry mechanic. Hitting parry at the right time will block the attack in some way, such as deflecting arrows or trapping larger foes in an energy field for a second or two.
You have to make sure you time your parries just right. Not only will you take damage if you are too slow, but if you are too fast Lute will become distracted, disabling her powers for a few seconds.
As you land combos, parry attacks, and dodge out of the way of swings, Lute and Briar will build Unity. This is essentially a special attack meter that gradually fills as you are doing well, and drops as you mess up and take damage. Once full, the sisters can unleash powerful team attacks.
You steadily acquire more options in combat as you find new sub weapons, upgrade your current weapons, and unlock new abilities.
While the weapon upgrades are mostly just new combos, Lute has 4 branching skill trees that upgrade her abilities. You can purchase upgrades that make her fire energy bolts more often, allow her to keep her fields active for longer, or allow her to reduce the damage you take from a failed parry every so often.
Much like in most character action games, each combat encounter is graded based on your performance, encouraging you to get good so you can acquire those extra rewards and achievements.
Performance wise, Soulstice is already pretty stable. Even my ancient 1070-powered machine was able to keep the framerate consistently around 60 on high settings, so gamers with more modern rigs will hopefully have no problems whatsoever. That said, the cutscenes seem locked at 30 FPS.
Soulstice is shaping up to be a pretty solid new character action game. It isn’t as polished or slick as juggernauts in the genre like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, but the combat is still very responsive and fun. Gamers looking for a challenge will also be happy to see that Soulstice has like 6 difficulty settings, further encouraging hardcore fans to learn the ins and outs of the mechanics.
Soulstice releases September 20th for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series XIS.
Soulstice was previewed on Windows PC using a copy provided by Modus Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.