I've been a fan of Soul Calibur since the first game but I have to admit the series has been in decline since SCIV. SCIV is still the high water mark, and while SCV was a slight step down due to how they removed the equipment stats and nerfed the armor break feature, it was still very good and had excellent online play.
But the series took a huge step backwards with this latest installment. It seems the creators are taking a "back to basics" approach and cut out a huge swath of characters, some of which have become staples to the roster (including my favorite, Cassandra). They made one character, Tira, available only as DLC upon launch which leads me to believe they're going to be milking the fanbase for cash to get the rest of the characters as DLC packs over the next few years.
They've also stripped down the number of equipment customization options considerably. I'm guessing we'll have to wait to buy DLC packs to get the equipment variety options we've become accustomed to in past SC games. To be fair, even in SCIV and SCV they sold extra equipment as part of DLC packs. But SCIV and SCV had a lot more equipment options available at launch that didn't require the purchase of DLC. The least they could have done was provided equipment options for the characters they cut out of the game. It would have been nice to use Character Creation to make a Cassandra look-alike.
Like SCIV and SCV all of the customize-able equipment except for undergarments is destructible in combat, which is reasonable since this isn't supposed to be an adult game (still with some people can come up with some pretty naughty designs if they're creative enough). But I do think it was a bad design choice to attach shoes to a lot of the undergarments. I also always thought it was a mistake to take the stat bonuses out of the equipment when they nerfed the feature in SCV. Equipment stats added an extra layer of strategy to character creation and penalties for having your armor broken in combat that actually added depth. Now the whole feature is simply decorative. I'm glad it's still there n some form because it's the only good fighting game that has this sort of feature, but it would be nice if they went back to like SCIV's more robust equipment feature.
SCVI introduces a new "Libra" story mode that is similar to an RPG in some respects and is designed to help new players get used to the mechanics of the game, character creation feature, and different fighting styles. Your character travels the world going on adventures, earning experience and gold and even gaining party members as the story unfolds. Gold could be spent on weapons that change your fighting style or items that help you in combat, but only in Libra mode. Alternatively you could trade your gold in for RP points that can be spent on equipment that can be used outside Libra Mode. RP could spent to unlock equipment in Character Creation or Museum Mode features.
Libra mode is unique to say the least and there are some aspects of it that are interesting, but it seems to play a bit more like an interactive novel with interspersed moments of 1 on 1 fighting game combat than an RPG. After about 30 mins I was bored with it. The story didn't hold my interest enough to keep me engaged and the time spent menu noodling between the short bouts of combat started to feel tedious. The Tower of Lost Souls from SCIV was a much simpler and better "quest mode" for a fighting game than this awkward "Libra" Mode. But again I give them props for trying something different. It might be a good idea with better presentation.
The rest of the modes are the standard run of the mill fighting game fare that you see in most SC games. You have Arcade mode, Arcade story mode, Verses mode, Network verses mode, Character Creation, There's a museum gallery that gives you the stats and backstory on each character (and more if you spend the RP to unlock the extra features), and of course the xbox store where you can give Namco your hard earned cash to get the DLC that should have been in the game to begin with.
As always the controls and fighting mechanics are top notch, and I did have a lot of fun playing online. The special moves are much easier to pull off. Maybe too easy, but I can't complain about that because I've always been a below average player when it comes to online rankings and like to have a low learning curve. This is a great fighting game for newbs to just pick up and play, but I'm sure there's enough for the dedicated to dig their teeth into and become really competitive with.
So as a basic fighting game it gets a high rank, but I've come to expect much more from Soul Calibur so it loses a lot of points for that. 6/10