Sometimes the task of reviewing certain games falls into a difficult space. Objectivity is key and you need to remember that flaws can’t simply be overlooked just because a game is fun. On the other hand, depending on the type of game in question the fun level can be one of it’s most important facets. Soul Sacrifice falls into this category. This game has many… many flaws but stick with it and underneath you will find one of the Vita’s most addictive and enjoyable games to date.
Soul Sacrifice is huge. We are talking Monster Hunter levels of huge. At a guess I would say there are over 150 missions in the game. It’s worth noting that unlike Monster Hunter the missions in Soul Sacrifice are not quite as varied. While Monster Hunter offers up hunts, fetch quests, captures and exploration based missions most of Soul Sacrifice’s quests boil down to “Go kill shit…”. This is not necessarily a bad thing, when killing monsters is this much fun. I’ve talked at length about the games mechanics in a previous post so I’ll won’t be diving into them again…
With Soul Sacrifice, Keiji Inafune repeatedly poses players with the simplest of moral choices. Save or Kill. Each has its own reward in the game, but favouring one to extremes is likely to prove bad in the long term. These interactions are present throughout the game with every enemy offering up Magic or Life points based on your decision. Some of the larger enemies or Archfiends will join you if saved or provide you with new magicks if sacrificed. Even your allies are part of this desperate choice and desperate it truly is. In the heat of a large scale battle with a gigantic beastie, the temptation to murder a friend is all too powerful, especially when it could mean the difference between your life and death.
Players can even choose to sacrifice parts of their own bodies including flesh and eyes to unleash exceptionally powerful magic. These sacrifices have long lasting effects such as halved defense and blindness, but can be reversed using a mysterious substance known as lacrima. Lacrima is rare and as such over use of these “Dark Arts” is ill advised. The combat system has a substantial amount of depth, though it doesn’t come close to delivering the kind of intricate structures on offer in Capcoms Monster Hunter games. What it lacks in diversity, it more than makes up for with solid mechanics. You never find yourself battling an unwieldy control scheme… something I’ve felt with Monster Hunter from time to time. On top of that the sheer number of magic combinations on offer allows players to tailor their combat styles in a variety of ways.
It’s not all combat however and where Soul Sacrifice completely outdoes Monster Hunter is in the storytelling department. The story is a tour de force told in a non-linear manner full of twists and turns. At the outset of the game, the player character is trapped in a cage. We soon meet the man responsible for your imprisonment, well … man is a bit of stretch. Magusar is a sorcerer .. Not just that, but he’s the most powerful sorceror of all time. Which would be fine… you know… if he hadn’t gone mad with power. Anyway, after tearing another prisoner asunder right before your eyes, Magusar departs and the player is introduced to the Librom, a talking “diary of the dead” which allows its reader to relive the memories of its author. By living through these adventures, our prisoner can gain the powers needed to defeat Magusar as well as learn more about this accursed world and how it got this way.
Visually the game jumps from fantastic to downright awful far too often. Certain monster designs are beautiful and unique, but over all they are far too repetitive and lack any real consistent design. The environments are fairly simple both in terms of layout and artistic design. Texture rates are relatively low throughout and issues such as character models mouth’s not moving in-game are minor but noticeable — particularly in cutscenes. The sound is impressive, especially the stellar voice acting but headphones will be required to get the most out of it. The games difficulty curve is quite steep. Early missions will seem simple for veteran Monster Hunters out there but about halfway through the games story the difficulty ramps up to near impossible levels. This challenge brings a huge sense of gratification upon completing any particularly troublesome missions.
As it stands, Soul Sacrifice is not the platform defining title many were hoping for. However, it is one of the most addictive action games on the Vita and surprisingly, tells one of its most enjoyable stories. Due to the nature of the title, I find it difficult to recommend to everyone. All I can say is that if you are a fan of Monster Hunter, this is as close as you’ll get on the Vita for now and you could do much, much worse (God Eater Burst). If you’ve never played a Monster Hunter title, grab the Soul Sacrifice demo for yourself now, free from the PS Store. It offers up over four hours of gameplay and if you enjoy your time with that, do yourself a service and pick this up as it only gets better from there.
Verdict: U.B.A — Ugly but addictive. More than a Monster Hunter wannabe, only let down by presentation issues and repetitive quests.