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Test: Soulstice – Good big Beat’m Up that stains – PXLBBQ

Briar & Lute, Imperfect Chimera

Soulstice follows sisters Briar and Lute, who are on a mission to join their comrades and close the tear in the Veil that allows monsters to enter the Kingdom of Keidas. Briar and Lute constitute a Chimera, an entity created by forging two souls that give rise to two halves: an enhanced physical body, Briar, and the spirit-like Shadow, Lute. As they reach a realm that is reminiscent of the aesthetics dear to FromSoftwarewhich must have been a routine mission for a lower class Chimera turns into a fight to save the world.

From the first minutes of what looks like a ForeshadowingI couldn’t help but make the connection with the series Claymore by Norihiro Yagi (I read here and there that others saw Berserk!, each its references), with a Briar, considered as a low-class chimera, who must appeal to a power that transforms her into a monster, without sinking into madness, like Claire in Claymore. But in terms of style, we clearly feel the inspiration of Devil May Crywith fixed camera environments that evolve with the character and highlight the sumptuous settings, red and blue crystals to collect to evolve, combos mixing strong and weak blows with different weapons, as well as a score at the end of each confrontation.

Nevertheless, even with these two big inspirations, Soulstice manages to create its own identity by mastering both its gameplay and its storytelling. The story, gameplay, different displays of power, and aesthetics of Kingdom of Keidas are totally captivating and keep players hooked throughout.

When it comes to combat and exploration, Soulstice plays exactly like Devil May Cry. Combat centers around using weapons that have specific uses, combos to develop special abilities, and obtainingan overall score at the end of each fight and level. Exploration is all about platforming and finding items that provide agent and health, and each area uses a fixed camera perspective which changes each time the player moves to a new location.

Despite these striking similarities, Soulstice is not a pale copy and this mainly thanks to Lute. Like a certain Atreus, it is not playable but acts as an independent entity which warns us when a blow is going to reach us, can block enemy attacks if we react at the right time and do some damage from a distance.

Luth’s most important ability is his use of fields of evocation and banishment. These fields are crucial as some enemies and objects can only be hit when they are inside the corresponding fields. However, players must act quickly because the field breaks if used for too long and Luth will be inaccessible for a few seconds, while she recovers. While one can upgrade fields and unlock abilities that damage enemies when those fields are broken, it’s still dangerous to lose Lute’s abilities in the middle of a battle. Since our attention is focused on making big combos to accumulate the Unit necessary for Synergy specials, the loss of Lute is a real handicap.

If they perfectly manage to do justice to the art direction of the game, preset camera angles make it difficult to gauge distance and view alerts counter if an enemy is off-screen, which usually results in hits that seem to come from nowhere. Although players can adjust the camera, it moves slowly and since attacks are mostly melee for most of the game, trying to adjust the view and fight at the same time is too much of a hassle. Ranged weapons are appearing, but this is coming late, and the lack of ranged attacks – apart from Lute’s – is felt for a very long time.

But here I quibble a little to be critical, but I must admit that Soulstice manages to maintain a good overall balance, never actually frustrating us. The fights are both exciting and brutal while the exploration passages between the fights also encourage us to take advantage of the art direction of the world and Briar’s equipment.