Soul Sacrifice is in a way one of those “console messiah” games for the ill performing PS Vita. I have already made a rather lengthy impression of the demo of Soul Sacrifice in a previous post. Now that I’ve sunk my teeth into the retail version, it’s time to put a verdict on whether or not this game will “save” the PS Vita… No nothing that serious but here is a bit of a primer before we get into the meat of the review.
If you’re depressed and possibly unstable or suicidal, you shouldn’t be playing this game at all. Most of the game is very depressing and tragic and your only source of comic relief is the talking book Librom (James, hehe). Soul Sacrifice is one of those games which allows you to take on the final boss whenever you feel like you are ready. Part of this is because all the missions you play in the story mode and extra mission mode (Inside Avalon) are simply re-living past experiences of sorcerers. To take on Magusar in the real world, you must absorb all their experiences you relived and that includes a spoiler that I will let you find out should you decide to buy the game.
Well written story and lore. Not that I’m an authority on literature or anything but I found the main story of the game along with the back story of additional sorcerers and the origins story of each archfiend a pretty good read. While they are mostly depressing tales of tragedy the background stories of archfiends could actually change your disposition on whether or not you want to save their souls, or punish them by sacrificing their souls.
Quick missions and satisfying rewards. Soul Sacrifice encourages you to exploit every possible thing to finish off bosses the fastest possible way so I find myself blazing through bosses after I have learned their patterns and weaknesses (and sacrificing allies) after multiple encounters with them. Part of exploiting them is finding and upgrading the appropriate weapons with the proper elemental attacks. Each mission has a list of item rewards, all you need to do is find the right mission and finish the it with a high score to get all the items on the list. There is no more need to rely on an external information source as everything is slapped right before you. Speaking of the high scores, there are feats you can achieve inside missions from exploiting elemental weaknesses, to breaking parts of the boss, taking as little damage as possible, and more as you continue playing the game. It’s easy to know where to get an item you need but it also requires skill to actually get the item, that’s a big plus versus games with random item drops where you are at the mercy of the item’s drop probability to get good equipment.
Challenging missions. The difficulty of Soul Sacrifice in the campaign mode as well as the additional mission mode called “Inside Avalon” ramp up towards the end of the game. Most of the avalon pacts comprise of revisiting similar archfiends encountered in story mode across 10 chapters but the “Forgotten Pacts” chapter introduces time attack modes, new bosses and some missions that are frustratingly difficult asking you to defeat an archfiend without taking a single hit from ANYTHING. However, the monsters they pit you against are not impossible to beat without taking a hit.
There are enough challenges to satisfy your craving for punishment… it that’s your thing or just simply keep in on your toes and engaged in this one of a kind gem for the PS Vita. It’s also worth noting that there are twenty (20) arch fiends in the retail version of Soul Sacrifice but some of them are just re-skins and offer only a slight variation in attack pattern most of the time. Nevertheless, in spite of this, there are specific archfiends that will push you to the limit like Illecebra and the Werewolf or fighting two Illecebras in one pact.
Great online multiplayer. It doesn’t really matter if a player’s signal bar is only 1 bar out of 4, there is absolutely no hindrance to multiplayer at all barring a shitty ISP with high latency which renders you unable to connect to rooms. Now you put this over the innate party chat function of the PS Vita, and you get a great multiplayer experience being able to just chat around or talk tactics. Finding rooms is pretty easy with a simple sorting category but if you want to join specific parties of people, it’s really easier if they invite you directly to the room instead of having you looking up the room names and what-not.
Great voice acting and sound track. The voice acting of all the characters are superb and fitting for their personas. The Japanese voice pack I got for the free DLC for buying online was bland and boring in comparison. Call it a difference in culture if you will. The background music in the lobbies and during combat really fit all the doom and gloom around you and that’s actually a good thing.
The camera rotation is very slow. I found dealing with fast moving bosses a pain when I have to change camera angles. While the auto-target can easily lock on to the boss, the system goes for the nearest target available so if a little underling happens to spawn nearby, your targeting gets messed up leaving you open for a possibly painful attack. The camera rotation speed is also a source of frustration when fighting flying archfiends who zip across the screen too many bloody times.
Grinding for sigils is probably the worst part of the game. Unfortunately, this is the only part where there is a random drop aspect as far as getting superior versions of soul shards which are used to unlock sigils to carve onto your magic arm. They basically improve your base stats of specific elemental damage or weapon type. It is when you are hunting for sigils that you will find it frustrating to acquire. Thankfully, I didn’t need to rely on sigils that much even in high ranking avalon pacts.
There are no real consequences to the sacrifices you make versus all the hype they made about your choices in this game. Every choice you make outside the main story line can be reversed with Lacrima, a fluid you gain from finishing pacts in the game. You can revive sacrificed allies, fix broken offerings, and reverse black rite penalties all with the help of a seemingly endless supply of Lacrima. It works to the player’s advantage of making the game easier and less punishing and yet at the same time, it makes the game lack a sense of immersion.
The AIs of this game are either selfish pricks, total tools, or both. While the Avalon pacts are meant for multiplayer with other human beings, you can attempt to do these missions alone with 2 other AI controlled allies. Unfortunately, these AI controlled allies are most of the time just worth sacrificing to deal extra damage to the boss. They seem to do only two things: 1.) Steal the souls of your kills and then 2.) run off a die then ask to be revived and then rinse and repeat from #1. AI controlled allies would have been much more useful if you could actually set offerings (equipment) and toggle their usage priority so they wouldn’t be as useless as they are now.
Frame rates drop when there are too many elements on screen. The effects of the game are pretty damn good and that’s why the frame rates really dip when combat becomes an all out frenzy. Perhaps they could have lightened the graphics a bit just to ensure that our eyes won’t be strained like hell when all hell breaks loose in a mission.
Questionable choices in female character costumes. While I don’t relish in skimpy female costumes nor am I being offended on the behalf of the female population of the world I just found some costume designs really absurd.
Things That Can Swing Either way:
Combat is rather arcade-y by being very fast paced. Coming from someone who just played Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate a lot recently, the combat of Soul Sacrifice is fast paced and you can even call it arcade-y. There is a lot of button mashing and weapon spamming at times but it doesn’t lose the core concept of a skill based game. You will need to run and roll around to avoid big blows, and you will have to learn the attack patterns of Archfiends (Bosses) to either put up a defense or setup a counter attack to interrupt big attacks to avoid getting wiped.
Standardized and simplified equipment. All weapons can be looted, fused (crafted), or boosted (upgraded) to the maximum level without having to grind for an indefinite period to get the best weapon possible. This balances out everyone and yet it may be less appealing to some who may feel less special since everyone gets to use the same gear. Weapons have three levels small (S), medium (M), and cap out at Large (L) so there is a pretty short way to the top. I have yet to explore the depth of the weapons, combinations, and how they play over with sigils and what-not but it seems like there is much room to explore to find better ways to defeat archfiends. On the other hand, I’ve been pretty successful without much experimentation so that also says something about the game’s depth.
Black rites are powerful attacks that can turn the tide of a battle in your favor. These are unlocked by reaching a certain divine or magic arm level or alignment if you will and after losing 75% of your health. While extremely powerful, your character will suffer huge penalties such as losing half your defense, or constantly lose health after using a black rite. These effects are permanent until you unseal the black rite with lacrima. In the start, you will be prudent in using them but when you progress and the lacrima rolls in, you will use it all the time as a finishing blow.
Some battles tend to be grindy. I am referring to pacts where you have to face two (2) archfiends at once. Some of these pacts are almost impossible to accomplish with AI alone and would require smart human beings to systematically take them apart. These are very challenging quests that could consume a lot of time (the longest battle I’ve been in was around 44 minutes or so) and it normally involves unloading all your offerings and then running around to find recharge nodes or sacrificing minor monsters to replenish said offerings. Beating these pacts are very rewarding but they are also quite stressful to the point that you may not want to do them again.
Character customization and costumes or raiments as they call it in Soul Sacrifice are unlocked after completing more pacts (missions). This is a bit relevant as I have mentioned in my impressions that you do not craft armor in this game. You look is entirely dependent on what raiments you have and what catches your fancy. There are quite a number of costumes (13 and counting) and different colors per costume available so you could technically look a bit different from anybody else. You can also swap gender, facial features, and costumes anytime so your character doesn’t look stale or boring.
Soul Sacrifice is a solid game for the PS Vita for both single player and multiplayer. It’s complimented by a good online experience outside the typical Ad Hoc capabilities which really amps up the game’s replay value. It will probably not sell PS Vita units, but it’s a heaven sent for existing PS Vita owners who are in dire need of a new good game for their handheld. There are also planned releases of FREE DLC for Soul Sacrifice down the pipeline. I’m actually excited to see how the free and paid DLC will come into play for the game. If you own a PS Vita, you should definitely buy this game and if you’re looking for a reason to buy a PS Vita, Soul Sacrifice ought to justify the purchase.
Playtime: 65 Hours and counting.