Presented during the PC Gaming Show of E3 2021, Soulstice returns to us a year later under the same conditions with, this time, a demo in support and an announced release date for the September 20, 2022 on PC, Xbox Series and PS5. Developed by Italian studio Reply Game Studio (Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf, Theseus) and published by Modus Games, this game AA presents itself as a action-RPG located in a universe of dark fantasy giving pride of place to combat, but also to exploration and puzzles. We were not only able to try our hand at first minutes of the gameup to the first boss that can be reached in less than an hour, but also talk to the development team, including project manager Samuele Pereso, as well as game director and creative director Fabio Pagetti. This allowed us to get a first idea of what awaits us.
On the other side of the Veil
Briar and Lute are two sisters reincarnated within the mysterious Order of the Ashen Blade (Ashen Blade) in the form of a Chimera. Their two DNAs are therefore confused in a single carnal envelope, that of Briar. Lute, she is not more than a shadowwho accompanies her sister in a fusional way and can protect her as well as assist her by allowing her tointeract with ethereal beings and objects that she reveals thanks to her auras. Sent to the city of Ilden, one of the three capitals of the Triarchy of Sacred Kingdoms of Keidas, they discover that a rift overlooks the City of Lights and that the Veil has been torn, letting in creatures from the other side to invade the world. However, they do not have time to wait for reinforcements and therefore constitute the only and last rampart of humanity against this invasion.
Their two DNAs are therefore confused in a single carnal envelope.
Even if Lute does not feel ready yet, they have no choice but to try to purify the corruption of the citywhich only a Chimera is able to do, in particular to confront the Ghosts able to take possession of the bodies of their victims transformed into Possessed. The transformation into a Chimera has indeed granted Briar superhuman strength and staminawhile Lute’s sacrifice granted him the essential mystical powers to this confrontation. During their epic, they will learn that the Order has already been there and could have a link with the fracture of the Veil. The plan pursued by the latter seems much more complex than what they thought. They will also discover at the same time the truth about their past and the origin of their power.
Two for the price of one
The heart of the game therefore lies in the duality that unites the two sisters who must work together. Their unbreakable link, each with their own personality, and especially the presence of Lute clinging to the shoulder of Briar, gives all its charm to the title. The graphics, which make use in part of the cell shadingmay not be of the latest generation, but the gloomy atmosphere is licked. In any case, we note very clearly theinspiration drawn from video games and other Japanese manga, notably Berserk. Briar’s armor, like her arm bandage or her huge sword, not to mention her minus eye or the supernatural creatures she has to face, are undoubtedly reminiscent of the work of Kentaro Miura, who is also preparing to see an epilogue initiated by his friends and assistants, following his untimely death last year. Also note the presence of Stefanie Joosten (Quiet in Metal Gear Solid 5) to double both Briar and Lute. The title was currently only available in English, but should have French subtitles when launched. Various accessibility options are also offered, and it’s even possible to reduce the gore effects if that bothers you.
It’s about juggling between the different weapons to take advantage of the various combos they put at your disposal.
hack and slash requires, Soulstice offers fast movements, as well as jumps and double jumps essential for the exploration phases. Although you have to manage two characters, only Briar’s is actually under your control, whether for movement or melee combat. She has several weapons (sword, axe, whip, etc.) to unlock and evolve, and you have to juggle between them to take advantage of the various combos that they make available to you. Everyone can opt for the fighting style of choice. That said, aside from simple and heavy attacks, you only have the option to do dodgesand it is better not to deprive yourself of it. Parry point therefore, no counter-attack or other stamina management. This leads to a result more nag than tacticalbut one should not neglect certain techniques to use. Lute is indeed there to assist Briar using her supernatural powers. And if its actions can be contextual and managed by AIlike his ranged attacks, others are to trigger yourself at the right time, QTE style, such as shields or counters. But above all, it is thanks to her auras that she can manage the fields and the progress of the fights.
According to the enemies and the needs, it is a question of alternating between the various fields available.
the blue evocation field that it can deploy makes it possible to reveal the invisiblee and therefore to touch ethereal creatures otherwise inaccessible to Briar. And the red banishing field annihilates them impenetrable defenses of the Possessed. Once on the ground, the latter release the Specter who possessed the body and it must then be quickly eliminated thanks to the blue evocation field before it regains possession of its host and thus returns to the charge. Depending on the enemies and the needs, it is therefore a question of alternating between the different fields available. But beware, in the absence of blows struck in this dimension, Lute sees its entropy increase and generates an overload once the maximum is reached. She then disappears for a few seconds, leaving Briar to fend for herself while waiting for her return. Gold, their synergy is the keystone of their power. The more it increases (hits and successful defenses, while avoiding enemy strikes that make it regress), the more effective Lute becomes. Moreover, when the synchronization is perfect, a powerful weapon-specific synergy attack can be triggered at the end of the combo. However, unfortunately, she never wanted to learn during this first contact. This also allows Briar to enter combat drunk (Rapture) for a short time, but we couldn’t try that. Even though a danger could well hover over the use of this techniqueit should however turn out to be particularly devastating and help turn the tide of a fight.
In red and blue
The title therefore takes a little Souls side and will suggest 3 starting difficultiesas well as 2 other more extreme once the game is over. And, despite the presence of different classes of enemies (Ghosts, Corrupted and Possessed), it must be recognized that if at first it seemed to us not to be than a health walk (but that was only the beginning of the adventure), the boss who was waiting for us at the end of the demo with his great resistance and speed, his many waves of enemies in support and his very problematic abilities, was already another matter . Apart from fighting, Soulstice also offers exploration. It is also not an open world, or even semi-open, but the straight line that we must follow has some side roads to explore for additional rewards. However, we regret the continued presence of invisible walls. Impossible to descend from a platform by an unplanned side for example, nor to jump over the slightest unauthorized obstacle, even though you have made incredible crossings just before.
The camera angles chosen do not always allow good readability.
Fire also has no effect other than blocking you, and while many props flicker to indicate destructibility, there’s no point trying to do the same with others, even if it’s the same object. The plans are also imposed and the camera angles chosen sometimes turn out to be a little too close or badly placed for good readability. Except during battles, the camera can only be rotated slightly. And, as soon as it is released, it resumes its initial position automatically, so not necessarily very pleasant. We find ourselves, whatever the case, confronted with a few platform phaseswhere Lute can also be useful for exploiting some of them in ethereal form, and puzzles of increasing difficulty to solve. It also allows to follow and discover echoes of the past to learn more about what happened in Iliden.
The two sisters evolve in parallel, without one taking precedence over the other.
As for the RPG side, it is by destroying decorative objects or eliminating opponents that you will collect a red currency. You will also come across clusters of red crystals (crystal infections due to corruption) barring your way, which you will have to destroy with the banishment field of Lute, increasing your capital even more. Cobalt veins also allow you to harvest a blue resource thanks to the evocation field. And it is with a certain Layton, whom you will come across regularly, that you will be able to spend these crystals to learn new skills for Briar (red crystals) and Lute (blue crystals). Note that you can also cancel purchases made previously to be reimbursed, and then allocate these recovered resources elsewhere. There is therefore no not to choose who will benefit from the obtained wealthwhich allows the two sisters to evolve in parallel, without one taking precedence over the other, which is rather well seen.