Summary : Soul Sacrifice reminds me of why I purchased a Vita in the first place. With both gripping and compelling gameplay, Soul Sacrifice reminds us that our actions always have a consequence.
Soul Sacrifice is the story of a prisoner whose ultimate fate is to be devoured by the sorcerer Magusar. While languishing in his prison made of spikes and human bones, he discovers a talking book called Librom whose cover is made of flesh and other person bits. Now my initial reaction would not be to talk to the book with eyes that lives in a prison made of people parts, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. In order to escape your gruesome fate, you’ve got no choice but to trust Librom, who contains the knowledge of multiple sorcerers who failed to escape Magusar. Your mission is to get Librom to impart his knowledge and gain enough power by living through those memories and this time end the story with a happy ending.
The best part of Soul Sacrifice is in the title. There is sacrifice, and there are choices that you have to make. The game presents you with choices, and they are all in the shades of grey. I found myself racking my brain over some of the decisions the game asked me to make and constantly worrying about the consequences of my actions.
There’s also the lore of Soul Sacrifice. In this world, sorcerers protect humanity from monsters that are formed from living beings being twisted into abominations. It’s the sorcerer’s duty to defeat these monsters and gain power while doing so. Unfortunately, like most things in the game, there is a downside to those actions. Yes, you are protecting innocent people, but by destroying these monsters you’re also killing the being trapped within, be they animal or in some case human.
But there is another choice, a controversial choice. In the game there are those who don’t follow the code of sorcerers to destroy the monsters. Instead, these rogues defy the code and save the innocents who’ve been turned into these creatures. However, cleansing them and saving the being inside (be it cat, bird, or human) means pardoning them for what they’ve done. And that means everything, every evil horrible action that’s been committed, even if they were done before they turned into a monster. And while it could be argued that you’re doing a good thing by saving these beings, the process of saving them requires a sacrifice. If a sorcerer goes too far and saves too many he will in the end turn into a monster through the sheer taint to his soul. And it’s something that you’ll have to really think about during your playthrough.
The key of getting through Soul Sacrifice is finding a balance between the two paths. Sacrificing monsters will give you offensive power, and you’ll be able to do more damage to enemies and use more of the offensive sigils. Saving monsters will boost your health and allow you more access to both health and defense sigils. You can’t max out both, so finding out what works for you is going to take some experimenting.
The combat in Soul Sacrifice is also stellar. The game is all about fast paced combat that allows you the freedom to experiment with different weapons rather than forcing you to stick with one. And there are weapons almost everywhere you look. Every time you complete a level you’ll be given various items to pick and equip. Then you have the option of sacrificing those items. For example, sacrificing a broken axe will turn it into a big axe for a limited amount of time. You can also sacrifice items like plants for boosts to your health.
You might be tempted to spam this feature and overuse items. Well, you can’t, because Soul Sacrifice will punish you for the urge. Overusing items will cause them to break, so you are required to switch around. Luckily, you can bring six different items into battle with you, and you can combine items to create stronger and longer lasting new items.
You could rely more on sigil attacks, however that could also blow up in your face. For example, using a giant fire spell will burn your body and cut your defense in half. Large scale magical attacks almost always require you to sacrifice your body in order to pull them off, so it’s recommended that you save them for desperate situations. You can reverse the effects that these attacks have, but eventually you’ll run out of the currency that’s used in the game, and then you’re out of luck.
The last of your abilities as always requires a sacrifice. You have the ability to resurrect dead comrades at the end of a battle. But if you do, then you’ll also lose a part of your own health. But if you chose to sacrifice them, then you’ll get a lot more power which is good, however that also comes with a price. Sacrificing your allies will kill them. Like most effects this can be reversed, but every time you do the cost gets higher. In my case, it got to a point where I didn’t have enough currency to pay.
Soul Sacrifice sends you out on various tasks, and you’ll have the chance to fight against the baddest monsters in town. You’ll always get the choice between saving and sacrificing them, with either choice giving you a huge boost to the corresponding sigils. There is something that you need to consider, and that’s if you choose to save any of the afflicted, once they’re healed, the characters will join your party, giving you access to their abilities. These characters are split into three categories: Balance, Dark, and Divine. I would say that if you end up sacrificing a lot, it would be a good idea to bring a Dark companion and vice versa. These characters have opinions, and if you go against their natural tendencies there is a good chance of them leaving your group.
The star of the game is Librom, who tells you the story of the different sorcerers. He’s witty, funny, and incredibly dark. He also is the only way to get your hands on Lacrima, a liquid that will reverse the effects of your choices. But it’s not infinite, so be careful.
Visually, Soul Sacrifice is stunning. The game is very detailed, with both the characters and the surrounding environment popping out at you. The level of detail with the characters might just be the best on the Vita and makes me wonder how Soul Sacrifice would look on the PS3. Keeping up are the soundtrack and voice acting. I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack, and the orchestral work in Soul Sacrifice is amazing. The battle themes are epic, and the voice actor who plays Librom deserves a reward.
Soul Sacrifice also has some great multiplayer action. You can take either one to two players along the journey with you, making your decisions have consequences not for an AI, but your actual friends. It’s a great twist, so be sure to play with people you don’t like if you plan on sacrificing them.
There is one flaw, and while it’s not a major one, I’m hoping it’s just a bug and not intentional. It’s been reported that if you replay the levels, you can change the outcome of any of your previous decisions and gain both bonuses. For example, say you beat a big monster boss and sacrificed them, giving you a bonus to your offense. By sacrificing that boss, you’ve essentially killed them and can’t have their human form join your party. But if you replay the level, not only will you still have that offensive bonus, but you can change your mind, save that boss, gain a defensive bonus, and have the option of getting them in your party. And you can do it over and over again in any level you choose. Soul Sacrifice is about the choices you make having almost unbreakable outcomes, and ones that you have to live with. Knowing that you can now change them whenever you feel like it is a major disappointment and ruins the impact of the decisions that you make.
It doesn’t, however, change the fact that Soul Sacrifice is amazing. It’s dark, heavy, moody, and in parts actually funny. The combat, the lore, the music, and the voice acting all add up to an incredible and unforgettable experience. If this was the first game that I ever played on the Vita, Soul Sacrifice would have made my purchase completely worth it.
(Note: This game was reviewed after 20 hours of gameplay on the PlayStation Vita. This copy was purchased by the reviewer).