Soulstice review: an enjoyable AA throwback with one fatal flaw

“Soulstice’s terrible camera holds back an otherwise ambitious and inspired motion game.”


  • Creative gameplay innovations
  • Fluid combat
  • Interesting characters and story


  • Terrible camera
  • Lack of setting variety

I often see people lament that the AA mid-budget games that dominated the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox era now not exist, but that couldn’t be farther from the reality within the 2020s. Publishers like THQ Nordic, Focus Entertainment, Nacon, and Modus Games are giving small- to medium-size studios the budgets to make ambitious, if not highly polished, games. As such, I find the games from these publishers to be a number of the most interesting available on the market, so I used to be particularly intrigued by Modus Games and Reply Game Studios’ fantasy motion game Soulstice.

An Italian game studio developed Soulstice, however it looks like something that will’ve come from a Japanese developer on the PS2 or PS3 within the 2000s. While its title and setting might lead you to consider it’s a Soulslike, in point of fact, this game plays like Devil May Cry and lots of of PlatinumGames’ motion titles. Soulstice is removed from perfect due to its terrible camera and lack of diverse environments, however it is so earnestly inspired and artistic that I like to recommend those intrigued still test it out.

The ties that bind

From the beginning, Soulstice doesn’t hide its inspiration. Like the start of Bayonetta, players fight hordes of enemies while fully powered up on a platform that appears to be infinitely falling. After a climactic confrontation against a mighty enemy though, things decelerate because the game flashes back to the protagonists Briar and Lute slowly rowing their way into Ilden, a city completely destroyed by a tear within the sky.

On this world, people pass “beyond the veil” once they die, but something caused this veil to tier over town, killing or corrupting everyone inside it. Briar and Lute are a Chimera, a superpowered warrior created after they almost died and were fused against their will, and are sent to Ilden to analyze and cope with the threat. It’s a compelling and intriguing opening, and while the voice acting can sound campy, Soulstice’s world and characters are thoughtfully fleshed out in a way that ought to please those that like to dig into video games’ lore.

Soulstice is fun, although its gameplay comes with one major catch.

Its presentation and cinematography also show inspiration from anime and manga like Berserk and Claymore, with heavily armored warriors and giant swords galore. Its story also has some surprisingly deep themes regarding toxic relationships, whether with people or organizations, and Soulstice is packed to the brim with cutscenes in between all of the motion. Mid-budget games often struggle to inform consistently engaging stories, but that’s one place Soulstice doesn’t fail. The budget mainly shows within the voice acting and lack of setting variety.

Just about all of Soulstice takes place inside Ilden, and while it’s a well-realized setting, it lacks visual pop for much of the experience. Ilden is a really gray city, and many of the game takes place in medieval cobblestone streets, buildings, and sewers that aren’t too distinct from each other. It’s noticeable in comparison with developers like PlatinumGames, which is often good at continuously changing up the setting and visual formula of the sport to maintain things engaging.

Briar and Lute attack a giant floating head in Soulstice.

Soulstice does have a couple of moments that shake up the visuals, but its limited setting does leave me craving for a globe-trotting adventure if this becomes a series. But in a game like this, the motion that takes place inside those spaces is a very powerful thing. Thankfully, Soulstice is fun, although its gameplay comes with one major catch.

Lights, camera, motion

Soulstice often looks like a PS2 motion game in one of the best ways possible. Players will face off against waves of enemies in fast-paced combat that rewards players who pull off massive combos and are rated for his or her performance at the top of every encounter. Combat is somewhat bit slower than something like Bayonetta but feels good as Soulstice also incorporates quite a couple of unique mechanics into this storied motion game formula.

This can be a deep motion system that any fan of the genre can appreciate because it brings recent ideas to the table.

Most of them focus on Lute, Briar’s younger sister, who’s magically bonded to her as a Shade. Lute will attack enemies on her own, but players can even control her to stop or deflect some powerful hits. Some Soulstice enemies are also color-coded blue and red. Briar’s regular attacks bounce off these enemies, so players will need to have Lute create an Evocation Field to wreck blue enemies or a Banishment Field to harm red enemies with Lute. These can’t last perpetually though, as Lute’s entropy slowly drains and may eventually cause her to vanish entirely for a short time if it runs out.

Battles in Soulstice are a relentless balance of activating and deactivating these fields to accumulate your combos and increase Briar and Lute’s Unity. At max Unity, players can use a special synergy attack at the top of combos or go Berserk, which massively powers them up for a bit and removes the necessity for Fields. In the event that they are low on health if you do that, it may well potentially kill the player in the event that they complete a fast minigame as Briar attacks on her own. Overall, it is a deep motion system that any fan of the genre can appreciate because it brings recent ideas to the table. There’s only one problem: Soulstice has certainly one of the worst cameras I’ve experienced in years.

Lute uses an evocation field against enemies in Soulstice.

Anytime close-quarters combat takes place near a wall in a fight where players can control the camera, Soulstice’s camera has a fit. And as Ilden is a city with many gigantic partitions, one can see how that becomes quite an issue. The camera will get stuck and never point in the correct direction, so it becomes difficult to see who or where you might be attacking. The lock-on system can also be pitiful, because it causes the camera to spin wildly around if an enemy is knocked back or if one is killed and the lock-on camera moves to a recent foe. These camera issues exponentially increase the problem of some encounters, namely ones against an enemy type that’s best attacked from behind and spawns other enemies that attempt to revive it upon its death.

Truly AA

Whether it’s as a consequence of a scarcity of experience within the genre or simply something the developers weren’t capable of address before launch, these camera issues do hold the sport back and forestall me from recommending it to anyone. If you happen to’re an motion game fan who has learned to cope with bad cameras before though, that is otherwise a creative tackle a classic motion game subgenre.

Briar fights an abomination in Soulstice.This enemy is super annoying to take down due to the terrible camera.

In an era where copying the Soulslike formula is all the craze, it’s nice to play something that harkens back to the form of motion game that was once more popular. Bayonetta 3 will probably eat this game’s lunch in a month if it has a bit more depth and AAA polish, but until then, Soulstice provides a worthwhile alternative with a whole lot of creativity and fervour on display that punches above its weight.

While it’s not amazing, I’m glad the AA scene is healthy enough that we’re getting games like Soulstice. It has a singular vision for a game and executes upon it wholeheartedly. It’s willing to take risks and put a Western spin on a predominantly Japanese-made subgenre. And although the camera issues do hold Soulstice back from standing toe-to-toe with genre greats, fans of 2000s motion game classics will appreciate a confident game that recaptures their spirits.

Digital Trends reviewed Soulstice on PC.

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