Think of the craziest thing you can. Regardless of how insane or wacky it is, Soul Sacrifice is more bizarre. It’s like an acid trip on mushrooms in Wonderland. But who says that’s a bad thing? Josh takes the red pill and sees what’s down this strange rabbit hole.
Coming from the mind of gaming guru Kenji Inafune (Megaman, Dead Rising) Soul Sacrifice is the story of an innocent person (you), thrown into jail by a cruel and powerful sorcerer. As you await your death circumstance puts you in possession of a demon book which keeps you entertained with stories of magic and heroic battles. If this seems like a strange plot line, that’s because it is. The book explains it can change the protagonist in its story (an unknown sorcerer) to you, allowing you to relive the battles fought by the original protagonist as you follow his rise to power.
The story is geared towards keeping you emotionally invested in the tales of lost love and sacrifices made, but for the most part it just feels like a simple method to connect a series of multiplayer bot matches together. Truthfully, it’s not the kind of game that needs much story, but gamers focused on immersing themselves in a role-playing game’s world may find Soul Sacrifice a little shallow from a narrative perspective.
Once you get past the odd story concept, Soul Sacrifice’s true nature starts to unfold, throwing you into battles where you use your varied magical abilities to vanquish your foes. Using the magic you have chosen before the fight commences you wage war against huge enemies with a group of warriors and attempt to bring these creatures down.
The magic works on a principal similar to the alchemy in the anime/manga series Full Metal Alchemist; no spell can be used without giving up something in return. It’s all about equivalent exchange and balance. For example, some moves may require blood and reduce your health bar, but as a rule you need to spots littered around the map where you can sacrifice living things in exchange for more power.
Soul Sacrifice has a unique system of dealing with downed players and enemies. Once someone is dead or dying you have the option to save or sacrifice them. Saving an enemy results in a small boost of heath, but saving a fellow player will cost you half your health bar to bring them back.
This forces you to make tough decisions and can cause friction with players who are prone to death. Sacrificing a player will cause them to fall out of the battle and they can only observe the rest of the match, offering boosts for the remaining players still fighting and damaging the defences of the remaining bad guys. As an interesting side note, every time you make these choices it levels up your character changing not only your skills but also your appearance as you choose to save for good or sacrifice favouring evil.
Fights are measured on skill with bonuses rewarded at the end of the match. Using the right elemental attacks, successfully countering and quick wits all add points giving you a higher rank. The higher the rank, the better the rewards. These rewards are given out in the form of new magic spells to use in battle, which in turn help you achieve better ranks and so the cycle continues.
From here it’s all uphill. There is a considerable amount of grinding to get top tier magic but this repetition barely registers. Once you get through the first chapter, multiplayer unlocks and suddenly you can do all of these missions with friends or random online players. With a decent team, missions become a breeze and you will be stacking up and combining your magic abilities to create even more powerful ways to deal out the death.
Soul Sacrifice is by far the best online game I have played on the PlayStation Vita so far. Though the story is a tad convoluted and the gameplay could be called repetitive, it is incredibly deep and perfectly designed for a handheld. Skirmishes are short enough for bus rides or waiting rooms, or if the mood calls for it, a more long drawn out boss battle, which is all decided by the player.
If you’re looking for something to break in the analog sticks on your Vita, Soul Sacrifice is perfect and had me working up a gaming sweat. It may not be the prettiest thing to grace the Vita, but it is certainly one of the deepest. Absolutely worth a look.