Yes, I know, the Devil May Cry-style action-adventure game must start with a pun referring to Devil May Cry 3's "Devils Never Cry." Unapologetically setting the tone for my first impressions and looking back at the footage I recorded, I was prepared to dig into Soulstice. As I was getting used to the sisters, Briar and Lute, I couldn't help but notice the world surrounding them. It's a challenge to create a "dark and bleak" world without relying on muted colors with different shades of grey, brown, and green.
The first chapter introduces the player to a world destroyed by Chaos (not that Chaos) and warriors that are known as Chimera are tasked to fight against Wraiths. The story is very "good vs evil and the 'good' is a grey area," with Briar being a Byronic Heroine and Lute being the wise, innocent sister. Soulstice's contrast in personalities between the two siblings is evident as Briar is the one who carries the most weight on her shoulders. Stoic, quiet, and full of snark, she often has to steel Lute's resolve who is just as protective of her sister.
Actually, I found Lute to be slight of an annoyance in the beginning and I wasn't sure why. Perhaps a blue spirit following Briar around who would occasionally chime in dialogue reminded me too much of Navi from Ocarina of Time, but eventually, she grew on me. What I found most impressive about Briar and Lute is that they were voiced by the same voice actress, Stefanie Joosten, best known for playing Quiet in Metal Gear Solid 5. (Apparently, she was also the announcer voice in Muse Dash which was something I did not know until today...)
The gameplay is similar to a previous game I looked at, Asterigos Curse Of The Stars, in that Briar has access to two weapons that behave differently. In its normal form, her weapon is a greatsword, but utilizing heavy attacks it turns into a hammer. The hammer is used to soften the opponents, beginning heavy combos that are cleaned up with the sword. Purchasing the Deluxe Edition gives the player enough resources to unlock the first few moves for each weapon.
Even looking at the animations and the commands, I felt a "Bayonetta / Devil May Cry" vibe. In the terms of the latter, you have some of Dante's signature attacks including Stinger and Helm Breaker. For Bayonetta, you have delayed combos and the freedom of movement. What's unique to Soulstice is Lute's role in combat, as she serves as a protector to Briar.
When an enemy is poised to attack, Lute can deflect the attack while Briar continues her assault, working in tandem with each other. Missing the timing of the parry will cause a delay, thus Briar receiving damage. It's a great mechanic that doesn't break the flow of combat, but there is one negative.
Soulstice's camera sucks, which is like saying "water is wet" when it comes to playing action games as this tends to be hit or miss. The problem is that combat takes place usually in a confined location. You'll see a hit marker showing an enemy is about to attack, but you can't see the prompt unless the enemy is on the same screen. This means that the best strategy is to round every enemy up you can find before fighting so you don't get blindsided.
I mentioned before how the graphics are Soulstice's shining point and for a game that is exclusive to current-generation consoles, it's certainly impressive. The shadows, environments, and depth of field is something that is underrated in this game. The lack of a HUD outside of combat makes the game feel cinematic, which is impressive for an indie title. It doesn't necessarily reach God of War levels but it does a great job in its immersion. Overall, Soulstice looks to be a fun action title meant to whet the appetite until Bayonetta 3, but those who don't have a Switch (or just not a fan for whatever reason) have a solid alternative on their hands.
Soulstice is available on Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S.