Soul Sacrifice Review

Soul Sacrifice's penchant for mindful action distracts from its occasionally repetitive quests.

Many games require decision making, but Soul Sacrifice emphasizes choice more than most. Everything, from the abilities you possess to the monsters you battle, is subject to choice: to save or to sacrifice? This notion is ingrained in both story and character progression, presenting you with limitations and dilemmas that make this grim monster-hunting game very appealing. Decision making alone isn't the only reason to give Soul Sacrifice a try. It's rich with evocative characters, has creatively fiendish enemy designs, and is coated with an effective layer of gloom and doom. Pleasingly, the captivating presentation and narration overshadow the game's repetitive tendencies, and the weight of every decision makes the otherwise straightforward action a truly thought-provoking affair.

This flesh-chucking monstrosity is but a taste of the horrors within.

Before your journey begins, you're locked away in a cage made from flesh and bone, awaiting sacrifice at the hand of the ultimate sorcerer, Magusar. A mysterious book, the chatty Librom, emerges from the remains of the sorcerer's last victim. Part necronomicon and part snarky companion, Librom is your portal to the past of Magusar's former partner, and through it, you experience Magusar's rise to power. As the game's quest hub, customization menu, and glossary, it's an inventive approach that suits a portable game quite well. The lack of an overworld is odd at first, but since you're a prisoner, it makes sense in context.

While reliving the life of a sorcerer once sworn to hunt possessed humans and animals, your primary charge is simple: defeat and sacrifice your enemies in order to rid the land of foul beasts. You trudge through rotten wastelands to frozen caves, casting spells, pummeling enemies, and dodging incoming attacks while managing your limited pool of resources. Every mission has clear-cut conditions; you must defeat a set number of common enemies, locate hidden items, or topple horrific archfiend juggernauts. In order to surmount the often difficult campaign missions, you're often forced to beef up your character by undertaking optional Avalon Pact missions. This is unfortunate, since most Avalon Pact missions lack challenge or variety, especially in the first half of the game. It's a blessing, then, that there are so many interesting side stories peppered throughout to distract you from the repetition at hand.

You head into every mission with a set of six abilities, or offerings, ranging from melee weapons to summon spells. You start with a small selection, but every mission rewards victory with new offerings based on your performance. An offering can turn your arm to stone, heal your party, trap your enemy, and even stop time. Without a stock of offerings, all you can do is run. Offerings can be used only a certain number of times during the course of a single quest, though sacrificing enemies and tapping into one-time-use environmental pools lets you replenish an individual offering's cast count. If, however, you get sloppy and sacrifice all of a particular offering during the course of a mission, you must wait until the end before replenishing your ability to use it.

Decisions, decisions.

Coordinating the relationship between your various offerings is critical during the challenging archfiend battles, and losing access to just one is often enough to tip the scales in your enemies' favor. You could carry more than one of a particular offering into battle, but it's better to diversify your capabilities. Thankfully when you possess multiples of a single offering, you can sacrifice the extras to boost the cast count of another. Like most actions in Soul Sacrifice, this action carries ramifications. The decision to boost an offering's cast count diminishes your resources for fusion, a process that lets you create completely new and advanced offerings. Fusing offerings isn't critical to success, but it gives you a chance to delve a little deeper into the elemental variations for most of your existing inventory.

Once an enemy is defeated, it's up to you to choose whether to save or sacrifice its soul, permanently boosting either your stamina or strength stat, respectively. Souls also act as replenishments during battle: sacrifices refill some of your offerings, and saved souls restore a bit of health. The decision usually comes down to your needs at the time, but the smart player will take the time to coordinate their decisions. Since your choices effect skill levels, you may find that too many snap decisions shape your character's traits in ways you never intended. However, outside of a few pivotal instances, your decision bears little weight on the story at large.

While you don't have equipment in the traditional sense, you can equip sigils, which are symbols carved into your right arm. When you defeat enemies and absorb their soul shards, new sigils are unlocked. Each sigil has two conditions attached, but the second becomes active only when you've struck the proper balance between sacrificing and saving your enemies, reflected by the affinity of your arm, and determined by your tendency to save or sacrifice.

Maybe if I play dead, the centaur-carriage will leave me alone.

Like gathering new offerings for fusion, you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to grind through old missions to acquire the right ingredients to produce a new sigil. That's not so bad, but limiting certain abilities to your arm's affinity seems unfair given how it's managed. You have to spend resources on lowering your life or magic levels, and then replay missions in order level up the opposite levels. Sacrificing items and resources is one thing, but asking the player to sacrifice hours of hard work takes the notion of sacrifice a bit too far for the game's own good, especially when you consider the repetitive nature of most missions.

When the going really gets tough in combat, you may execute dark rites: extremely powerful spells that come at the cost of your body and stats. Casting infernus, for example, burns your skin while releasing a powerful inferno that engulfs the entire map, hitting enemies for a ton of damage, but also halving your defenses. While a dark rite may save your hide and help you complete missions, it comes at a price that gets steeper every time you pay it.

Sometimes, setting your body aflame is the only sane option.

The only way to undo the act is to spend lacrima, which are tears shed from Librom's large, weepy eye. Librom is constantly building up lacrima, but you may only harvest it between missions. On top of undoing black rites, lacrima will reinstate depleted offerings, rewrite quests with multiple outcomes, and remove either magic or life levels. The cost of restoring a black rite grows with every use, discouraging you from using it unless absolutely necessary. So you may conduct a dark rite that saves yourself from losing progress, and find yourself stuck with a harsh penalty for the next half-dozen quests as you wait for your lacrima to replenish. It's a punishing process that really makes you think twice before resorting to a quick fix during a tough conflict, and it's one of the better applications of sacrifice within the game.

The allies you save can join you during Avalon Pacts, and so too can other players through local and online co-op. Playing online is simple: rooms are established with a custom name, an optional password, and restrictions to certain play styles or Avalon Pacts. You can communicate with your fellow teammates through simple ready-made text strings, but if you're playing with people on your friends list, you can also tap into the Vita's Party app to enable voice chat.

Teaming up with higher-level players can make the occasionally difficult Avalon Pacts easier, obviously, but it's also possible to defeat the entire game without touching co-op. Unless you have a group of established friends to play online with, multiplayer doesn't have the same draw as solo play. Quite often, other players are busy chasing their own goals in battle, and the means of communicating with people outside of your friends list leaves little room for negotiation.

Your view from beyond the grave.

If you don't have what it takes to overcome your enemies, there's still life after death. You can prompt your offline or online allies to sacrifice your soul, unleashing a powerful attack in the process, but they can also bring you back to life at the cost of their own health. You may also choose to simply die, which opens up an interesting means of participation. When dead, you can tap on enemies or fellow sorcerers with the touch screen to weaken or strengthen their abilities respectively. For sorcerers in over their heads, this is an effective way to contribute to the cause without feeling like a waste of space, and an inventive use of the game's take on life and death.

You won't find an epic saga within Librom's pages, but you will encounter an eclectic cast of sorcerers and monsters. Tragic tales of sacrifice between family members and lovers is common, as is an occasional sorcerer driven to madness, warped by the memories of sacrificed victims. These moments are illustrated through motion-comic cutscenes, brought to life through hues of red and values of black, and narrated by an effective and believable cast of actors. It's a shame that the story of the fellow sorcerers--often the most interesting and poignant tales regarding sacrifice--are bitterly brief. Magusar's story is the only one that avoids the pitfalls of brevity, but moment to moment, it fails to provide the same sense of satisfaction.

When approaching Soul Sacrifice, you need a bit of patience to get into the meat of the game. The systems at play are immediately confusing, but after the first couple of hours, the game eventually deals out the necessary info when it counts. Many action games fall into the realm of mindless button mashing with little motivation to consider your actions, so it's refreshing to see Soul Sacrifice take the opposite approach, emphasizing the themes of consideration and sacrifice at every turn. No doubt, thoughtful players will be rewarded with power, while the impatient will be met with frustration.

Teeth; it's what's for dinner.

Delving into Magusar's story unveils a world rife with tragedy. It's rare to see a game embrace the horrible so wholeheartedly. In a way, it's a good change of pace. While it's impossible to overlook the repetitiveness of some quests, the grotesque environments and enemies keep things visually interesting. It's not without its problems, but Soul Sacrifice's strong identity and rewarding commitment to the decision-making process are reason enough to try your hand at ridding the land of foul archfiends.

The Good
Forces you to make interesting decisions
The original and gloomy visual style stands out
A plethora of intriguing characters and side stories
The Bad
Repetitive mission challenges
The main storyline falls flat in the middle
7.5
Good
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Discussion

133 comments
grbolivar
grbolivar

Where's all that people that said "Vita has no games" now? ;)

PS Vita is getting stronger, very good games like this one and many others. 

mulder_000
mulder_000

Well, good to see this is coming to PS+.  I was wanting this game for awhile!

Renoo27
Renoo27

Nice. I was really on the fence about getting a Vita, but this has swayed me. I'm getting one. 

blueboxdoctor
blueboxdoctor

This game shows the Vita is still getting good games.  With this, the Jak and Daxter collection, KZ, and Tearaway it looks like a good spread of games (plus a few others I'm not interested in but other seem to be).  They seem to be hinting at some new Vita games to be shown/announced at E3 so that should be interesting.

leeko_link
leeko_link

Just bought this game last week, had been enjoying it nonstop since. If I had to give this game a score, it'll be an awesome 8/10. It's not perfect but there's not really anything major to complain about either. Hopefully it'll improve with a sequel. Oh yeah and I bought my first Vita along with this too. Best ever purchase I ever make plus I got a free 32GB memory stick from a friend so I don't have to waste money on retailer high end ripoff prices.

ahpuck
ahpuck

Well, I finished this game and sold my vita, at a good price too. I realized the vita is not going to be better than this and well, this is a solid 7.5.

nemandus
nemandus

Lot of good things about this game.  I hope they take everything that was done right and add to the 2nd game. 

The target quest times need to be increased.  Takes longer to prepare and load a quest than it takes to do the quest.

Game is also way to easy.  Would like to see an increase to difficulty (not by kill timers and such).

What does everyone else think?

nonfanboygamer1
nonfanboygamer1

This game is very addicting. I got over 50hrs on it. I think it's much better than MH on 3ds (ive played both btw). I don't think the Vita will ever get much respect.

poopinpat
poopinpat

Game has a hell of a demo.  Buying this soon.

dadkwashere
dadkwashere

I think that 7.5 is an appropriate score, although I would personally rate it a 8. Its a good game, but its true that it gets rather repetitive at times, especially if you decide to farm monsters. The reason why this is a problem is because you are trying to get duplicates of the same spell to fuse them together to make a longer lasting version of the same spell. Another minor problem is the stupid dark arm character's AI but it shouldn't matter since I sacrifice those characters anyway.

ps3gamer4ever
ps3gamer4ever

i may get a PSvita and some games if the price go down again. i have a 3DS and i don't wanna pay so much money for vita now.

jflkdjs
jflkdjs

What! No video review?!!!

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

this game looks absolutely intriguing, and if it's even half as hard as a demon's souls game then i will probably have to pick up a vita to give it a try. so far the system has kinda shunned by the consumer so far with it's triple A console ports, and not much on the innovative side. i'm not saying that vita games need to take advantage of it's touchscreen and whatever other bullshit they tacked on there, but the gameplay mechanic revolving around sacrifice is a very innovative idea from a game developers standpoint.

any game in which you can genuinely get stuck because of your own stupidity is a game that deserves praise. there has been too much hand holding in gameplay, perhaps that's why the gamer demographic seems so damn retarded these days (whether it's obnoxious racism on voice chat, a poor grasp of the english language, or just plain ol' stupidity)

 it could be attributed to the fact that game developers have already viewed their consumers ars a bunch of mindless COD fanactics...but with a never ending supply of mommy's allowance, these (for lack of better words) mindless sheep will buy whatever looks most familiar to all their other triple-A games.

here's to hoping the vita isn't just a half-assed console port-to system, but a fresh and new experience with innovative games that can't be experienced on anything other than a vita (such as this game). i think if developers moved forward with that kind of mindset, then the vita can't fail. sure there are shareholders on the publisher side of things to worry about...but perhaps that's why all these game journalist websites/blogs have been talking about the "rise of indie gaming, fall of triple-A" kinda stuff already..

thehawk3986
thehawk3986

This game is seriously awesome, definitely one of the best games the Vita has to offer. I wish Kevin Van Ord reviewed this one...

People who are on the fence about this one please go out and pick this one up. The Vita is slowly picking up steam and we need to help it by purchasing great games that are released for it.

Luwker
Luwker

Would definitely buy this if it came out on PSN, too bad I don't own a Vita :/

DemiNite
DemiNite

Steep learning curve? Well, if you think figuring out the boss pattern and weakness is considered that way, then I guess? I've been addicted to this game since the demo came out and I've been playing it almost everyday!! Multiplayer is the crux of it though!! Best way to play it!!


dadkwashere
dadkwashere

One of the better Vita games. Deserves a higher score.

Sfr528
Sfr528

I've been following this game since the demo was released in Japan and been conflicted about purchasing a PS Vita just for this one IP.  The game looks like an amazingly entertaining game with fun co-op... the problem is buying a brand new system for just one game seems like a steep price to pay.

I know it sounds greedy of me, but I really hope the game does well enough to merit a release on the PS3.  I would gladly drop 50-60 dollars on this title, I'm not sure if I'm willing to spend 300+ dollars for it.


erxevo
erxevo

why didn't Kevin Van Ord review this game ?

gato2087
gato2087

7.5? pfff.... This game is a good 8.5 or more.

phoenixto
phoenixto

one of the best vita games period

Aleksa8
Aleksa8

The one thing I didn't get about this review is the "Steep Learning Curve" demerit.

It couldn't be that hard to figure out the mechanics. You'd pretty much learn all the mechanics in the game within five minutes  of play, and there's even a test mode for you to try out the function of each skill.

Tak666
Tak666

I won't criticize the review but to be honest, as a person who plays Soul Sacrifice since it came out in EU, I find the reviewsat least strange.

The game is really, really good. The atmosphere, boss fights, character customization, storyline - all are outstanding. I can't get enough of this game, it's 9.5 for me and for everyone interested, but scared to buy it, because of the reviews - test the demo, this game is really great and refreshing.

acelogan1989
acelogan1989

definitely get this game , already bored with MH3 on 3DS , because lack of MP

robbiejones
robbiejones

i didnt like the demo so ima give this a miss

chazy035
chazy035

3DS has better killer apps (Mario and Monster Hunter).  Whats going on with the Vita! Lol!!


Nintendo 4 Life!

tgMan69
tgMan69

@ahpuck You may end up regretting your decision - if you haven't already. Once the PS4 comes out, the Vita will really start showing its true worth. Like the 3DS, the Vita likely will improve significantly once it's had a little time for developers to get some momentum. I've only had mine for a couple months, and honestly I haven't used it a great deal yet, but I know the time is coming when it'll become something I use almost daily.

Sfr528
Sfr528

@Aleksa8 It's funny how one gamer can find a steep learning curve to be a negative of the game while another can find it refreshing and fun.  I happen to fall under the crowd that enjoys it when games take a lot of effort to master because it just feels that much more rewarding when everything finally clicks in place.  

I also happen to love it when games don't bog the player down with incessant amounts of tutorials.  I want to know the basics of the game and figure out the rest from there.  It's ridiculous how much information some games try to force feed down our throats. 

louie_cloud
louie_cloud

@Aleksa8 the reviewer possibly didnt understand how simple the game mechanics are

shadowhunter0
shadowhunter0

@Aleksa8 yeah even in the demo there isn't a steep learning curve it only really gets hard when you fight that last boss

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

@robbiejones maybe if you said why you didn't like it, then people might understand what you're tryin to say instead of just brushing off your comment as bs

explicitnature
explicitnature

@robbiejones I'll tell you something right now, nobody cares if your not going to play the game. What's the point in even commenting if your not interested?

Aleksa8
Aleksa8

@chazy035 These comments make me ashamed to call myself a Nintendo fan.

I honestly thought Nintendo fans were above the notion of starting "console warz" on the web. :/

jecht_35
jecht_35

@chazy035 Its people like you that make Nintendo fans look derpy lol. These comments also brings out the trolls. So in the future please be respectful...wait this is the internet never mind -_-

DEATH775
DEATH775

@chazy035 Seriously I don't care about mario games and MH. Played it didn't like it. The last thing I bought from Nintendogs was a Gameboy. After that everything that comes from them sucks.

explicitnature
explicitnature

@chazy035 Comments like that prove how childish and terrible Nintendogs are. 

"da 3ds haz bet3r k1lr apps lik m3ri0 n m0ns hUntr" Durr hurr you panting dog.

SteamyPotatoes
SteamyPotatoes

@chazy035 Mario can take a hike, MHFU > MH 3 with no online play, quite happy to wait for MH 4 in 2014 when that exclusive contract runs out.

johnblitz
johnblitz

@tgMan69 @ahpuck  thanks for the feedback about VITA, the only thing worth playing for me now is this game, and with having only 1 game that interest me (after the VITA being available for a year now) I'd rather wait for that moment when VITA becomes something you'll use daily. As you've said even you dont use yours daily so I think its still not a 'must' buy  as of the moment.

As for AHPUCK's situation, he may have done the right thing, he can always Buy another Vita when good games start to come out :) its not as if Sony will stop Vita production anytime soon. As a matter of fact, Vita's price might even be a lot lower when lots of great games arrive.

Aleksa8
Aleksa8

@Sfr528 @Aleksa8 I suppose so , but regardless of perspective, it's insane to consider this game as one with a remotely steep learning curve. I mean, it outright tells you that you're doing something right. "Archfiend vulnerabitity achieved", "Destroyed cursed parts achieved" and so forth. Do we as gamers honestly need more tutorials to explain a game that's so pick-up-and-play as Sou Sacrifice? That's not to say the game doesn't have depth, but it comes nowhere near titles like Demon's Souls or Monster Hunters in complexity.

Truvietplaya
Truvietplaya

@johnblitz @tgMan69 @ahpuck 

I bought the vita a few months after launch and only had 2 games back than. Sold it shortly after. There was a drought back than for months! Nothing came out. Now I bought one again for a good price and there is a lot of games I look forward to especially that Killzone. Looking for a good solid shooter online cuz I'm a CoD, Halo player but I like these types of games too. 


Soul Sacrifice More Info

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  • First Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    Soul Sacrifice is a brutal combat experience where every decision made will have consequential results.
    8.4
    Average User RatingOut of 142 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Soul Sacrifice
    Developed by:
    comcept, SCE Japan Studio
    Published by:
    SCEE, SCEI, SCEA, SCE Australia
    Genres:
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence