Soul Sacrifice (PS Vita) Review
- + Luscious graphics
- Top notch voice acting
- Great fun in short bursts
Not so much?
- - Missions get repetitive after a while
- Far too many character and weapon customisation options
- Controls can feel sluggish
Soul Sacrifice is a game that looks and sounds gorgeous, but when it comes to the gameplay itself, it doesn’t quite deliver.
Soul Sacrifice takes place in a hellish world ruled by the dark sorcerer Magusar. As one of his short-lived human prisoners, your outlook looks bleak – at least until you encounter a talking book named Librom. Contained within Librom’s pages is the life story of a mysterious long-dead sorcerer, and by reliving their life, you can learn enough magic to defeat your dark master.
The Vita’s answer to Monster Hunter, Soul Sacrifice is an action RPG that lets you delve into the pages of a magical book, customise your own sorcerer, and relive an extensive array of monster extermination missions. And I don’t use the word customise lightly – as well as being able to tweak your character’s appearance, you can choose AI-controlled allies to accompany you, equip stat-boosting ‘sigils’ and assign weapons and items to use in the field. Or, if you don’t like your current selection of equipment, never fear – you can also boost and fuse your weapons in the hopes of creating stronger, better items.
Ultimately, though, it feels like there’s too much choice for customisation. It’s almost as the developers threw in as many different systems as they could, to the extent where you just find yourself ignoring most of them and just sticking with a few preferred combinations. It doesn’t help that you can’t reliably figure out your enemy’s weaknesses before going into battle, so you either have to guess, make do with whatever equipment you chose (however unsuitable), or have a guide to hand at all times.
Once you finally get out into the field, the vast majority of missions consist of you and 1-2 AI controlled allies either exterminating a set number of minor enemies, or going after a boss Archfiend. At first, it seems like good hack ‘n’ slash fun, but after a while, the sameness of the missions starts to become repetitive. When exterminating normal monsters, your allies often do all of the hard work, leaving you with little to contribute, whilst boss battles are often long and drawn out affairs that involve much running around trying to keep your allies and yourself healed. It doesn’t help that, in the heat of battle, your character’s responses often feel sluggish; some weapons are hard to aim, others take a few seconds just to equip, and all too often it takes a while to get back up again if the enemy knocks you off balance.
The main gimmick that sets the game apart from others of its kind, however, is the “Save or Sacrifice” mechanic. Whenever an enemy falls in battle, you can either save their soul, purifying their soul and boosting your HP, or condemn them to the fiery pits of the afterlife, strengthening your weapons and attack power. Even allies can be saved or sacrificed, although in this case it’s the difference between resurrecting them to continue the fight, or taking their lives to unleash powerful magic. And if the going gets really tough, you can even sacrifice parts of your body or your own life in the hopes of taking down the enemy. Naturally, there are consequences to this (for example, burning off all your skin permanently lowers your defence), but these can be undone between missions by spending Lacrima, magical tears periodically shed by the magical book.
Visually, Soul Sacrifice is a feast for the eyes. Environments are beautifully rendered, right down to the floating dandelion seeds in the Elf Queen’s valley, character and monster designs are solid, and the attention to detail is amazing. Press the screen while the book is open, and grubby fingerprints will appear on the page. Draw a fire sword, for example, and watch flames spring from the blade. And even with all of this going on, the frame rate never slows down.
Similarly, the game also makes a strong showing in the sound department. The voice acting is excellent, with most of the story being related by an eerie voice reading out the words inscribed in the magic journal. Background music ranges from the unobtrusive to the operatic, setting the atmosphere nicely.
As an extra, the game also boasts a ‘Lore’ section, which contains an entire mythology for the world of the game and origin stories for all the monsters encountered therein. Although of no practical use in helping you defeat said monsters, it does make for a nice touch.
Soul Sacrifice is a game that looks and sounds gorgeous, but when it comes to the gameplay itself, it doesn’t quite deliver. Instead of providing true longevity, the vast amount of missions available simply highlight how repetitive the gameplay can become if played for any length of time. The ‘save or sacrifice’ gimmick is quite interesting and novel, but ultimately all the bells and whistles tacked onto the customisation system are probably too much for anyone to ever bother spending time on them all. It’s a fun game in short bursts, but if less time had been spent on character and item customisation, and more on providing a wider variety of missions, it could have been a truly stand out title. As it is, it’s something you’re more likely to dip into than spend hours and hours on.