The amount of exclusive games on the Playstation Vita is staggeringly low, so when a new title is announced, all eyes are on that game to be the Vita’s killer-app. Not only is Soul Sacrifice an original game coming to the Vita, it’s directed by the legendary Keiji Inafune, perhaps best known for co-creating Mega Man. With the involvement of Inafune, the expectations coming in were incredibly high, and while Soul Sacrifice isn’t the best game Vita has to offer, it’s a solid, welcome addition to a library in need of original games.
In Soul Sacrifice, the main character is a captured slave who is about to be executed by the game’s main villain, Magusar. While witnessing another slave trying to break out, the main character discovers a talking book, named Librom. Librom retells the story of a sorcerer who was once close to Magusar and plays through the sorcerer’s memories written in Librom’s pages. As the player level’s the sorcerer, more is learned about their past and involvement with Magusar. While reliving the sorcerer’s memories, the protagonist learns how to cast spells as well, and at any time can choose to face Magusar – even at the beginning of the game – though defeat is almost assured unless fully prepared.
Soul Sacrifice’s combat is very comparable to a game like Monster Hunter, though it has its own flavor. For every spell you cast, you must sacrifice part of that spell. Each spell has a certain amount of casts before it has expired, though with upgrades the amount of casts can increase. So, at the beginning of the game, you may only be able to cast your ice sword three times per instance. This adds an interesting strategy to Soul Sacrifice by forcing players to manage their spells efficiently. The trick here is that you can only revive an over-used spell in the main menu, so if you overuse your spells, it could spell doom for your character.
Those familiar with any Monster Hunter game may understand the repetitive nature of the combat found in Soul Sacrifice. Combat takes place in various stages where you must complete the objective given at the beginning of the chapter. This may range from eliminating all the minor monsters, collecting soul gems, or killing a giant monster. While completing these taks, you’ll be slaying countless enemies that may only differ in color, which isn’t terrible by any means, but after learning enemy attacks and patters, eventually dulls the luster once found when first playing. This is luckily countered with the fantastic array of spells given throughout the game. Spells ranging from turning into a flaming ball, summoning a giant golem, and sending trails of frost toward your enemies is awesome.Weaknesses for each monster can be found which gives bonus damage and points to increase your overall level score, and influences the player to research each monster type before starting a level to customize their spell load-out.
In order to grow in power, the player must choose with each kill whether they want to save the beast they just defeated, or sacrifice their soul. Both of these options grant bonuses in very polarizing ways. Saving the enemy you just killed will grant health instantly to you, and increases your overall health and defense. While sacrificing that enemy will add casts to your spells and increases overall damage. This plays into Soul Sacrifice‘s interesting level set up. The max level achievable is 99. This doesn’t mean 99 for both Life and Magic, it’s the addition of both. So any combination up to 99 is allowed, and gives the option to choose if you want to play the game aggressive or defensively.
If you thought a handheld game like Soul Sacrifice would lack mythology and lore, you would’ve thought wrong. Watching the sorcerer’s story unfold through Librom’s pages is dark, gritty, and compelling. Abstract text and beautiful art fill the pages that detail this story and adds a rich style unique to Soul Sacrifice that kept every unlocked segment a reward in itself. The moody narration of each page sets a great tone when entering each level and enriches the overall experience, giving more insight into the quest that may have been lost without this impressive presentation.
While the environments in Soul Sacrifice can be intriguing, they are too few in number. For a game taking about 40+ hours to complete, seeing the same background over and over is tiresome and breaks the illusion that this is a journey, and makes it seem like you’re trapped in a never-ending nightmare. This only is made worse by the aforementioned recycling of enemies, making some levels feel exactly the same as dozens you may have done before.
The AI in Soul Sacrifice can be mind-numbingly frustrating at points. Fighting alongside the “all powerful” Magusar loses its believable context when Magusar is being taken down by petty monsters and is running in circles aimlessly. If you’ve been defeated and are waiting to be saved (or sacrificed!), the ally AI can spend a baffling amount of time just standing still or running in questionable routes to assist your character. In combat, the ally AI is mostly incompetent. Using only basic attacks every so often makes them virtually useless in combat, and they seem more of a hindrance when in the heat of combat rather than an aid.
Soul Sacrifice totes a multiplayer mode which allows up to four players to play online or through ad-hoc connection. While playing the game alone can sometimes become monotonous, playing with others is an absolute blast and livens up the experience. Hours can be spent going through countless quests online with others, and it is a phenomenal multiplayer experience for those looking to play their Vita with friends. Those worried about the game becoming too easy with four players can rest easy, as the game’s enemies scale to how many players are in the same game, keeping the difficulty level at a challenging degree no matter how many fight together.
Soul Sacrifice isn’t the Playstation Vita’s best game, but it succeeds in bringing a meaty RPG to a platform needing a much deeper game library. The surprisingly interesting lore helps make the game become more immersive and keeps the interest high through the somewhat repetitive nature of the game’s combat and environments. AI can be incredibly annoying, but can mostly be solved by playing the game with others online. Those looking for a great RPG on Vita may find their answer with Soul Sacrifice, as it is one of, if not the best option for Sony’s handheld.