Soul Sacrifice

Soul Sacrifice, the nightmarish action title dreamed up by Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, has already gained one stellar review in Japan, giving the PlayStation Vita a prolonged shot in the arm in the process. With the imminent Western release just a few weeks away, Sony’s released a gigantic playable demo for the title in both Europe and North America, and based on our generous playthrough, owners of the handheld are in for one hell of a treat.

Sacrificial statues

Centred on a talking, one-eyed book named Librom, the first thing that you’ll notice about the Marvellous AQL and Japan Studio collaboration is its dark, foreboding tone. Languishing in a prison, and mere moments away from execution, you use the aforementioned tome as a means to access a number of different stages, each of which plays host to a wealth of bleak arenas and tense combat scenarios.

After an atmospheric introduction, the demo thrusts you into the first chapter, a ‘Sorcerer’s Ordeal’, which effectively acts as a tutorial, and guides you through the key aspects of the gameplay. There’s a nod to BioShock at the core of the experience; harvesting or releasing the spirits of downed monsters allows you to boost your attack or defence levels respectively, offering an immediate and densely strategic reward in battle.

David and Goliath

Throughout these opening levels, you’re accompanied by an ally named Sortiara, who shifts in and out of combat, providing support as you attempt to down a slew of grotesque enemies. It takes some time to learn the essence of the action – spells have a limited number of uses, and can be refreshed by sacrificing fallen foes – but once it clicks, it’s extremely gratifying, especially when you come up against some of the larger antagonists.

Completing missions extends the narrative – dramatically retold through the animated pages of the aforementioned novel – and also rewards you with new spells and attack types, which can then be combined to boost their effectiveness and later fused to concoct new spells. A long-distance throwing attack, for example, can be coupled with an electrical element in order to create a supercharged grenade. The interface is borderline overwhelming at first, but it soon becomes second nature as you flick through the pages of Librom to construct your own perfect warrior and loadout.

Difficult decisions

Beyond the opening chapter, you’ll also experience a selection of shorter missions, which see you offing a variety of colossal beasts. The gameplay here feels closer to Monster Hunter, as you work alongside computer-controlled counterparts or real players online to slay these gigantic foes. Cooperating with other people is particularly rewarding, and it’s empowering when a downed assistant actively encourages you to sacrifice their body rather than revive them in return for a potent magic attack.

While the demo offers a fairly robust slice of the action, the main campaign promises a lot more. With hundreds of quests, monsters, and spells up for grabs, the adventure pledges to keep you engrossed in its dark humour and bleak visuals for upwards of 30 hours. You can transfer your save data from the sampler directly into the main game, so if you’re eager to get a head start on your sorcerer sidekicks, it’s certainly worth bookmarking your progress ahead of the title’s full release later this month.

Have you played the demo for Soul Sacrifice? Are you looking forward to the full game? Let us know in the comments section below.