With the fall gaming season in full swing, it’s easy to lose track of games that aren’t new from big-name studios or that haven’t received enough publicity to grab attention. Despite this reality, one dark adventure game managed to not only grab my attention, but exceed my expectations, proving itself to be much more than just another derivative game paying homage to its contemporaries.
soulstys, developed by Reply Game Studios, is an action-packed hack-and-slash game. You play as Briar, a stoic swordswoman suffering from a demonic curse that threatens to overtake her, and her sister, Lute, a ghostly creature that can create barriers and emit beams of light to protect her sister from her enemies. Their mission is to seal the ray-like rift that forms in the middle of a war-torn kingdom and defeat the townspeople, who have been turned into monsters under the influence of a tear. Basically, you might have trouble not thinking about soulstys how akin Berserk manga with a twist Claymore.
And yes, the comparison with this anime is appropriate. On paper, you can also draw parallels between soulstys and other stylish action games in which heroes fight hordes of enemies from other worlds, such as Bayonetta as well as Devil May Cry. However, soulstys differs from these games in that it tells a compelling story that does not recede into the background.
Like his contemporaries, soulstysThe combat system includes light and heavy attacks, a variety of weapons that you can easily switch between, a variety of Lovecraft-inspired bosses that you can tear and tear, and a temporary state of suppression in which you deal even more damage to enemies. Where he deviates in both his gameplay and emotional storytelling is with Briar’s sister, Luth, who serves as an emotional guide. soulstys from being a mundane copy of old hack-and-slash games.
Initially, Lut dragging her ghostly feet due to the carnage she and her sister have to go through makes it feel like the game is setting her up as just another annoying, pacifist character that you have to accompany everywhere. However, as it turns out, her inclusion in the game does more than just give it a compelling emotional underpinning. It also makes combat fresh and unique.
When I think of a hack-and-slash game, a power fantasy of quickly taking down your enemies often comes to mind, often with the help of your super-powered, Devil Triggerset of movements type. AT soulstys, however, Briar’s Berserk state works like a candle that burns out at both ends. Although its flame burns brightly, it does not last that long. Like anyone who plays hack-and-slash and unleashes their character’s full destructive potential for the first time, Briar admires how powerful her demonic state makes her, and sees it as a means mamoru her ghostly imouto. Luth, on the other hand, punishes Briar by warning her not to rely on her Berserk state because it will lead to her demise. The silence in those moments of downtime as you smash boxes to recover health after a harrowing battle is usually interrupted by dialogue between the two sisters, in which they try to subtly temper each other’s expectations of the journey ahead.
Whenever Lute tries to distract himself and Briar from killing the kingdom’s citizens, some of which were committed by their own hands, with idyllic dreams of how things were in their more peaceful childhood, Briar briefly brings Lute back to earth with a reminder to her, that she would have to get used to the carnage in order to survive. Conversely, every time Briar brushes aside the overuse of his newfound dark power (and the toll it inflicts on it) as a means to a necessary end, Luth brushes aside her soft language and sternly reminds her older sister that although she is a ghost and Briar are damned, the couple has much longer to live. The weight of these small interactions is further enhanced by the sensational vocal performance of Stephanie Joosten (Quiet from Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain), which depicts both sisters. This ongoing bickering between the sisters, combined with Briar learning to rely on his once-defenseless sister instead of carrying the burden alone, creates a powerful narrative.
Even outside soulstysIn the story, Lute quickly becomes one of the most important supporting characters in the hack-and-slash genre. During combat, the Lute mechanically works in the same way as Stand would in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. If an enemy is about to attack Briar, pressing the Lute Button will neutralize, parry, or stop them in time, allowing Briar to hit the target enemy or finish their allies. or finish destroying your allies. However, pressing the Lute button willy-nilly distracts her, causing her to look for enemies that are not open to counterattack, thus opening you up for attacks.
The lute is also required in many platform segments of the game. Throughout the game, you will be hindered by red crystals and blue ghostly platforms. By raising your left or right hand, Lute allows you to deal damage to red crystals that block progress and adds mass soulstysblue platforms. However, if you do this for too long, Lutta will deplete to the point where she disappears. Don’t worry, she’ll be back after a while.
The biggest disadvantage in soulstys, as with many character games, is that the camera often works like an enemy within itself. This, combined with the fact that most of his enemies use projectiles, is sometimes frustrating. For example, at some point I asked out loud: “Why are you having a fight here?” while I was fighting a wave of enemies in two courtyards connected by a narrow lane. If I moved in and out of the specified alley to complete the combo chain, the camera would shift to show the courtyard I was entering, blocking my view of the enemies in the alley where I was in the midst of combat. Not only did this disorientate me, but it also caused me to miss hints for countering incoming projectiles as the camera couldn’t see them anymore. This, combined with the fact that too many enemies have projectiles that you must counter, dodge, or freeze time to avoid, sometimes makes the action too cluttered.
environmental friendliness, soulstysThe color palette rarely goes beyond the dark blues and grays of a watercolor-style background, except in Challenge mode, where it intensifies the situation with vibrant blues and purple landscapes. Because of this, the types of enemies in the early game almost blend into the background, making them difficult to distinguish until the game starts confronting you with more visible enemies with glowing red and blue crystals in their bodies.
In his heart soulstys exists as proof of the thesis that it’s all a remix, and as a refutation of Mark Twain’s assertion that comparison is the death of joy. I confess, at first I saw how soulstys as a means to practice before graduation Bayonetta 3but I was surprised to find that soulstys shines best not when it reminds you of combat in character games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cryit’s how he takes the time to make sure his story takes precedence over his action, which makes him more than worthy of attention from anyone with a taste for skill-based adventure.