8-Hour Review: Soul Sacrifice (PS Vita)

At first glance, Soul Sacrifice appears to be an action RPG of the Monster Hunter style, but as you begin playing it that façade is lifted and an ever-deepening experience is exposed.

Sacrifice

Even in just the first few hours of the game, Soul Sacrifice becomes ever-more complex, and you can see hints of layers that will later be peeled back. With a constant flow of new mechanics, new abilities, new allies, and more – the game is enriched the more you play it. The pacing of the early game for this game is really well handled, although near the point I’ve reached it does start to wind down courtesy of the progression system in place, but I’ll go into that a bit later.

The story is told from an interesting point of view… that of a dying captive who has to relive stories of what led to this in order to absorb strength from a magical tome(no it doesn’t need to make sense, it’s a JRPG). What is really awesome is the tome itself… reminds me so much of Grimoire Weiss from Nier. And that is a good thing. The tome talks to you and has a snarky attitude and good voice acting… he is probably my favourite part of the game thus far.

combat

The game features a ton of replayable chapters – infinitely replayable chapters in which you can actually go back and change the decisions you make. This is important because the side missions you unlock depend upon the way you complete earlier side missions. If you choose to sacrifice one person in one mission, you may unlock a chain of missions elsewhere, while saving that person might unlock a completely different set of missions. This is a very interesting content delivery method, and one that has pushed me into replaying missions already and I’m still very early on. An impressive feat.

The graphics and soundtrack in this game are both incredibly well done, although I find that the missions do appear to take place in very limited format and arenas… the vast majority of missions I’ve encountered thus far are either kill x of one enemy or gather x items – easy tasks when you’re dealing with arenas that only take a minute to cross from one side to the other in most cases.(killing the enemies and finding the loot locations isn’t always that fast, though)

spell menu

Inside the missions, the gameplay is a pretty standard action rpg style combat with skills assigned to buttons. There are three elements that add a ton of diversity to the combat by adding depth and strategy. First, every enemy can be either saved or sacrificed. Saving an enemy restores some life to you, while sacrificing them recharges your abilities… leading us into the next unique element. Each ability has a limited number of uses, and if you let it run out completely it breaks and can no longer be recharged through sacrifice and has to be ‘fixed’ in between missions to use it again. The third really cool idea is the concept of ‘major sacrifice’. You can choose to sacrifice an injured ally or sacrifice some element of yourself(the one I’ve unlocked is my ‘skin’ but there are several others if the menu isn’t lying to me) to unleash some powerful effect. If you sacrifice an ally, they are dead and can no longer accompany you on missions; while if you sacrifice a part of yourself you suffer a semi-permanent penalty.

In addition to that, the game uses an element system that is mostly pretty standard… but it does feature one really cool twist from the norm. Naturally, attacking an enemy with their weakness provides extra damage, but you can also cause an enemy to be afflicted with an element by hitting them numerous times. This causes them to be stunned, but more importantly makes them weak to that element’s weakness allowing you to get an extra-strong attack – it seems to be even stronger than a normal ‘weakness’ attack. A fascinating strategic element that helps you when you just don’t happen to have the right abilities equipped for the enemies you’re fighting.box art

The ‘between missions’ element is where the REAL strategy lies. There is a lot of preparation that goes into it. You do, of course, have to pick your abilities before a mission. You also have to select several buff tattoos on your arm, choose which allies you want to bring, decide if you want to revive any lost allies or rewrite any sacrificed body parts(these two cannot be performed infinitely so this is, in fact, a choice)… and these are just the elements I’ve uncovered thus far. This creates a minigame that appears to have the potential to add some truly fantastic depth as the difficulty increases.

Overall I’m excited to see where this game takes me, and intrigued by the possibilities offered. My one problem lies with the fact that the gameplay, being as basic as it is, will quite likely begin to really drag on the longer one plays. Hopefully the game has enough mechanics to reveal over the chapters to come that this isn’t the game’s fate… but I’m certainly excited to find out.

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