Hands-on with Soulstice for PC, Xbox Series X, PS5

When people think of action adventure/stylish action titles, studios such as Sony Santa Monica, Capcom, Platinum Games and even Ninja Theory will be some names that will be bandied about. Italy based Reply Game Studios seeks to get their name into that conversation with their newest title Soulstice. Situated in a Dark Fantasy world, superhuman warriors known as Chimeras are tasked by the Order of the Ashen Blade to investigate a corruptive supernatural event that occurred in the city of Ilden. We were lucky enough to get a preview of the title as well as a hands on afterwards.

Reply Games didn?t hide any of their inspiration stating properties such as Kentaro Miura?s Berserk and Norihiro Yagi?s Claymore. The main character Briar certainly evokes both IPs with her hardened personality and gigantic weapon. Briar?s disembodied sister Lute, on the other hand isn?t as useless as Gut?s fairy companion Puck as she assists in combat in both defensive and offensive means and she is actually essential for puzzle solving. Briar?s giant weapon the Ashen Vindicator is not just a mere slab of iron, it actually a modular weapon which can transform into a various forms, the demo gave us access to the Ashen Enforcer, best described as a hammer that can crush enemy armor and launch lesser foes. A second weapon known as the Tearing Penance which can be best described as Ivy from Soul Calibur?s whip sword, it can be used for crowd control purposes. The menu indicates that you will have access to at least four more weapons in your arsenal. You will be able to freely switch between the various forms to let you customize the combat to your liking.

Speaking of combat, it felt like a combination of God of War mixed with DMC. With large arenas and your performance being graded. The less breaks and more variety in your combat, the higher your grading with be. The ranks are based on metals/minerals, with iron being the lowest and the highest being diamond with a cheeky declaration that Platinum is second best (I see you game devs). Briar will do most of the heavy lifting while Lute will fire at enemies instinctively, the only time you will control the younger sister is during the context sensitive defensive moments which success means you remain unscathed and failure means taking damage. Mixing things up will be enemies that are essentially spirits and ones which are crusted with glowing red crystals. The ephemeral enemies can only be hit when they are within an Evocation Field, the corrupted beings can only be damaged when they are within the Banishment Field. Both fields are generated by Lute and if you leave either on for too long, the strain will cause Lute to dissipate leaving you unable to harm these creatures.

These two fields also serve a purpose outside of combat. Evocation fields can reveal echoes of events long passed, reveal troves of blue crystalline shards which can be used to upgrade Lute?s abilities. Banishment fields can enable Briar to damage any corrupted crimson crystals which will obstruct your path, some of these growths will be part of the puzzles which you will need to solve. This activity definitely spices things up in between traversal and combo and I hope the team has some intricate puzzles lined up.

The finale of the demo features a boss encounter with a corrupted being dubbed Arrowhead. Again it?s another large combat arena, with Arrowhead using its high mobility to keep you at a distance. Weave through the barrage of projectiles and the swarms of grunts and make sure you don?t exhaust Lute as you will need a Banishment field to do any harm to that crystalline monstrosity. My first encounter humbled me as I had to spend almost an hour before I could successfully defeat him, garnering a laughable iron rating for the demo and missing the suggested par time of the demo by a large margin. However I did manage to redeem myself with a second runthrough of the demo, defeating arrowhead in one attempt and achieving a gold.

At Summer Games Fest, the title revealed its release date. For fans of action adventure that are still waiting for a release date of the latest God of War, they can find a viable alternative in Soulstice. I certainly look forward to fleshing out the origins and the capabilities of the Chimeras and hopefully see some sort of happy ending for Lute?you know like regaining her body. Soulstice will make it?s way to the PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC on September 20th, 2022.