Vita needs a really good game. Fortunately, it looks like it’s about to get one. Soul Sacrifice is very much like Monster Hunter – the game that everyone said Sony would need if it wanted Vita to succeed – only better. At least, that’s what our initial impressions are. We’ll have to see if the rest of the game lives up to its early promise, but for now, allow us to explain why we’re so excited.
First-off, there’s the story. It’s actually one worth reading with just the right amount of gothic drama to make it feel dark and moody without becoming a parody by being too heavy-handed. ‘Heavy handed’ is actually a very apt description… You’ll see why shortly.
The game begins with you in a cage, awaiting certain death at the hands of a demon known as Magusar. You manage to come into possession of a book. It’s a very special book, known as Librom. It has a name because Librom is very much alive. He’s got a face that wouldn’t look out of place on a WildHearts album cover and he talks to you.
Librom’s tale has never been told in full because, he says, everyone who reads him ends up dead at the hands of Magusar before they reach the last page. Bodes well for us then. But delve into his tomely innards and you’ll find ‘phantom quests’. These are the game’s levels and can be re-read as many times as you see fit.
And so to the game. While you can rewrite some aspects of Librom’s tale (such as what you look like and even the sex of the main character), you can’t change everything. So the first chapter sees you and a girl named Sortiara going around killing beasties, sating her bloodlust and facing some interesting choices.
For instance, you can choose to save or sacrifice the soul of any enemy you encounter. The decision affects which aspects of your character will be levelled up, but also has an impact on the story. Sortiara has significant issues and wants you to sacrifice everything. However, there’s a definite tug on the heartstrings when you kill a demonic cat-beast only to watch its pathetic soul meowing away on the floor, looking for all the world like a harmless house pet. Save the kitty and it jumps away. Sacrifice it and it’s gone forever.
<Mild Spoiler Ahead> The first chapter of the book ends with the fulfilment of a prophecy. Only one of these two characters – you and Sortiara – can live. So, to proceed, you must kill Sortiara. Oddly, you still get the choice of saving her, although when you do, she immediately continues to attack you in your fight to the death. And she won’t be so merciful. <Mild Spoiler End>
But once you sacrifice her, her troubled soul, complete with its bloodlust, becomes fused with your arm. This arm can then be augmented with Sigils, essentially the usual stat boosts you would expect from an RPG. Health, defence, attack… it’s up to you how you develop your character.
But the most interesting part of all the character development menus is the ‘Offerings’ system. Before you fight, you can choose six Offerings, selectable using three of the face buttons and toggled with the right trigger. In-game, these initiate certain attack or defence states, or act as health items or stat boosts.
Once activated as a weapon, the face buttons’ functions change again, enabling you to hammer quick combo blows or select a stronger, slower attack, reverting to your six icons with a tap of R.