Death, the bane of mankind. We both fear and loath it but in Soul Sacrifice we are surrounded and embrace it. The moral of Soul Sacrifice is that any goals can be achieved by sacrificing your friends or part of yourself and becoming powerful through death … even if it’s your own.
The story takes place in a magical world where mankind is reduced to sacrificial livestock for the corrupted magician named Magusar. The main character is naught but a helpless prisoner until he is given a chance in the form of a mysterious and chatty diary.
Belonging to a nameless, long lost wizard that befriended Magusar before he lost his humanity. The diary explores their dark, depressing journey and offers a chance to the prisoner to learn Magusar’s secret in the hopes of one day breaking free from his cell and defeating the overlord.
Librom, the diary, tells the story in a refreshing way, disguising the mundane ‘mission 1,2,3’ in the form of pages with a short part of the story unlocked each time alongside an imaginative and unique art-style. It best resembles a combination of Monster Hunters and God Eaters while suffering from similar problems, namely repetition.
The Gothic style and music presents the helpless world as it should be, though you will often find yourself facing demons that are simply re-colored, as well as revisiting the same old maps that are nice, but variety would have been even nicer.
The story strangely draws us in but the mediocre customization and unsatisfying loot makes the repetition more apparent. Gaining a handful of new spells and reinforcing them offers little distractions considering monster hunting games such as these require either deep customization or looting.
Soul Sacrifice also creates a satisfying illusion of choice. Allowing us to decide on what demon to save or sacrifice. Each life spared increases defensive prowess while each sacrifice increases magical strength. When facing bosses, saving them will give you a new ally but do not expect any background from them, they are simply battle-drones. Regrettably your decisions have no effect on the story as a whole, which feels like a missed opportunity.
Battles themselves are fantastic and by giving the player six slots for spells per mission with a certain number of usage each (called offerings) before they expire. This can give the player a tactical decision in fights as losing spells can put them at a disadvantage while the more powerful the spell, the less offerings it has.
Another way to improve battle performance is though sigils, which are basically buffs. Either improving strength with certain elements or becoming statistically superior. If all else fails there are even Black Rites which are forbidden spells that require a bodily sacrifice such as skin or brain cells that lower a certain aspect of your abilities. If, somehow, you die your ally can revive you back into the fight or sacrifice you for a blast of strength.
If sacrificed, your vengeful soul makes life hell for demons by powering up allies and weakening monsters by tapping them on-screen, a new approach to dying that makes an already fairly easy game far less challenging.
There is nothing particularly special online. Players put up a room, with an optional password, along with some restrictions for normal mission runs. It is quite easy to completely enjoy and go through Soul Sacrifice without going online once and the small online population is proof of this.
This game embraces its dark nature and although you develop no connection with the prisoner, you inevitably feel sorry for the nameless magician in the diary because of his tormented journey. Battles with bosses are fantastic and the Gothic story is well worth following, lamentably it is the loot and customization that proves to be Soul Sacrfice’s Achilles heel. Players will often feel forced to grind the same missions for minor improvements to spells and nothing else, repetition becomes too obvious with too little reward or exploration.
The illusion of choice also has no overall impact on the story despite constantly being given options, in the end these are solely for improving combat performance and the type of spells or sigils available.
Despite this, the chatty diary is well worth reading and bosses are well worth killing.
Developer: Marvelous AQL, SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Director: Teruhiro Shimokawa
Genre: Action – adventure.
Release Date: 14/05/13