Preview: Soul Sacrifice

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I’m not one to believe that a single piece of software can save ailing hardware, but Kenji Inafune’s latest work has been instrumental in revitalising the Vita in the land of the Rising Sun. It’s true that Japanese and Western tastes are not always in sync, and sometimes there’s probably a lot of eye-rolling from both sides of the artificial cultural divide.

But, I just couldn’t find fault with Marvelous AQL’s latest spell-flinging action-role playing extravaganza. What’s the best way to describe the Soul Sacrifice demo? I threw some gaming-related jargon into a hat, and pulled out “Action-J-RPG”. It’s not an open-world action J-RPG like Dragon’s Dogma, nor is it as unrelentingly or mercilessly difficult as Demon Souls (or its sequel). There’s certainly some inspiration taken from the Monster Hunter games. But, Soul Sacrifice is its own game, and it comes with its own steep learning curve.

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For instance, one major difference is that Soul Sacrifice hammers you over the head with this simple take-home message, “Play smart, young wannabe sorcerer. Your arsenal is a limited commodity”. You have to keep stock of your spells, and while the game might feel like a button-masher, it’s far more cerebral – subtle… even. But wait, let’s cover the basics before we launch head first into this title.

Soul Sacrifice flings you behind the eyes of a nameless prisoner. You quickly learn that you’re in a frightening, hellish dungeon, and the macabre atmosphere turns even more sinister, when you discover that all those imprisoned are being sacrificed by an evil sorcerer. All is not lost, because in your darkest hour, you discover a demonic book that promises power and crucially freedom. All you have to do is, open it and read it. It’s incredibly exciting because you’re not exactly sure whether this book is a saviour or a possible tool of your demise.

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Nevertheless, the book contains pages upon pages of lore. It describes the monsters you may face, and even attempts to tell you a little bit of the back-story. But, the most interesting feature of the book is that locked within it are battles from ages past. It is those battles that will ultimately allow you to gain new powers, and insight into this strange and dreadful world (and its connection to the villainous sorcerer, who’ll eventually become your nemesis).

Interestingly, Soul Sacrifice comes with a decent character creator. You can customise your gender, change your face, hairstyle and even your clothing. But, the culture of customisation extends even further, and becomes an almost intrinsic feature. As you venture through the various arenas (and build up your character’s spell arsenal), you’ll discover that spells can be upgraded, and you can even equip news spells from the huge selection of unlockable spells. If you think about it, the biggest challenge is actually spell selection or choosing the right spells for the right occasion  It’s on this simple point that Soul Sacrifice almost transcends similar games. The spells are incredible, with a range and variability that will leave any aspiring sorcerer drooling in anticipation.

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In addition, killing your foes leaves you with a decision; you can either spare them or sacrifice them. Sacrificing your foes boosts your spell power, and in some cases even refills your arsenal, but altruism carries its own rewards. Save your enemies and you get boosts to your life bar, or even protective buffs. It’s a very simple mechanism, that I doubt has further storyline repercussions, but for a game like Soul Sacrifice, its a welcomed addition.

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The demo came with the first chapter of Soul Sacrifice, and from what I’ve experienced it’s absolutely fascinating. The full game promises co-op multiplayer, where up to three other players can join you on your adventures. Obviously the bosses will be scaled up, but even if you’re an anti-social gamer like myself… something tells me the game will be a blast – whether online or off.

Watch out for it in stores or on the local PlayStation Network after May 1, 2013.

Last Updated: April 30, 2013

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