Soul Sacrifice PS Vita review – It’s a (killer) kind of magic but what makes Keiji Inafune’s take on Monster Hunter a hit?
They may not be blockbusters in the Uncharted or Killzone mould, but Vita is steadily building up quite the impressive library of quality, somewhat under-the-radar titles. We’ve had Virtue’s Last Reward, Persona 4: Golden, and now Soul Sacrifice, which takes familiar tropes from the monster-hunting genre and turns the looting on its head in a gorgeous, impressively deep package.
Soul Sacrifice PS Vita review
The setup is that you’re a nameless prisoner of the evil sorcerer Magusar. Trapped in a cage and next on the sacrificial plinth, your death is delayed after you discover a magical book called Librom under a pile of bones. The talking tome contains the stories of past sorcerers, its magic capable of transporting you into their memories so you can relive their battles, gathering the knowledge and power you need.
With an awful lot of nonsensical exposition that’s dealt out at a slow place, the story wafts around your ears like so much natural gas. Reading through Librom for story progression is tiresome, even once the plot picks up pace. He’s full of sassy character – but you are trapped in a cell, so connecting with and caring about the supporting cast is a tall order.
There’s a lot of great stuff on offer elsewhere, though. Soul Sacrifice takes the Monster Hunter structure of boss-hunting and removes the gear, replacing it with dozens of incredibly satisfying spells. Melee, ranged, transformation – each changes your play style, and can be customised and altered as you see fit. It’s this constant discovery that makes combat so engrossing.
Soul Sacrifice takes the Monster Hunter structure of boss-hunting and removes the gear, replacing it with dozens of incredibly satisfying spells
When you kill an enemy, you get the choice to save or sacrifice them. Saving grants you a health boost, while sacrificing refills your spells. You have the same choice with AI companions, reviving them to the fight or sending them to the great beyond in order to unleash damage upon your enemies. Managing your health, spells and AI makes each battle extremely tense, and you’re soon experimenting to progress. It can border on frustrating, sometimes repetitive, but finally beating a bastard-hard boss is exhilarating.
As well as some of the best combat to hit Vita, Soul Sacrifice’s multiplayer is excellent. With so much customisation available, playing with friends is rarely a case of stepping on each other’s toes. Every avatar is different, and you slip naturally into individual roles depending on how you preferred playing in the single-player.
The sacrificing system is exactly the same, only here discarded players aren’t left bored and twiddling their thumbs once KO’d – they’re still free to run around the battlefield as a shade, tapping the touchscreen on enemies to lower their defence and give surviving team-mates a better chance at victory.
Soul Sacrifice’s barmy vibe occasionally gets in the way, but the combat and customisation are good enough for you to soon put that aside. It’s a brilliantly well-structured handheld game, both offline and on, and despite the lack of a traditional hub world it never sacrifices depth for the sake of portability. Familiar ideas are wound up with fresh ones, resulting in one of the strongest games of its kind to hit the system so far.