Hey Poor Player goes hands-on with Soulstice, an ambitious dual-protagonist hack-and-slasher from Reply Game Studios and Modus Games
Looking and feeling every bit the part of a dark fusion of Devil May Cry and Kentaro Miura’s Berserk, Soulstice makes a strong first impression with its fast-paced combat and moody, gothic atmosphere. Developed by Italian developer Reply Game Studios and published by Modus Games, it puts players in control of Briar, a scarred, eyepatch-clad warrior with a massive sword. Joined by Lute, her spectral sister, the two form a hybrid supernatural weapon known as a Chimera, which exists to battle otherworldly Wraiths that plague the land.
I recently had the chance to go hands-on with Soulstice during a preview event where I got to experience a vertical slice of two of the game’s levels. And after hacking and slashing my way through hundreds of corrupted soldiers and ethereal enemies, I can’t wait to see what’s in store when Soulstice launches this Fall.
The first part took place on a bridge leading to the gates of Ilden, a ruined city infested with creatures that seem to have emerged from a tear in something known as “the Veil.” It’s a setting that would look right at home in a Dark Souls title, complete with requisite barrels and jars that are ripe for the smashing. As I worked my way across the ruined bridge, I encountered groups of zombie-like horrors in desperate need of killing. These encounters gave me my first real taste of what Soulstice‘s dual-protagonist system has to offer.
While you play as both sisters, Briar is the only character you have direct control of. Pressing the Y button unleashes a slash with her towering blade, while the X button executes attacks with her secondary weapons, which took the form of a hammer and a whip in the demo. These weapons can be chained together to create devastating combos that will send your enemies flying across the screen. I quickly found myself gravitating towards the whip due to its extended range and speedy lashes, but all of the weapons were very satisfying to wield. The developers promise seven weapons will be available in the final game, including a bow to deal death from a distance, which should expand Briar’s offensive capabilities quite nicely.
One thing worth noting is that while Briar does have a dash she can use to get out of trouble, she has no way to block or counter her enemy’s attacks directly. That’s where Lute comes in. When an enemy targets Briar, a contextual icon will appear above their head. Press the corresponding button in time, and Lute will fire off a ghostly projectile to cancel the attack. As you work together to damage enemies and deflect their assaults, a gauge in the upper right corner of the screen will fill, symbolizing the Briar and Lute’s Unity. And, once filled, the two can unleash a devastating Synergy Attack.
This ability is tremendously helpful – especially when encountering the more powerful beasties the game throws at you. However, you’ll need to be careful, as getting hit just once can send your nearly-full Unity gauge down to zero.
Lute isn’t just handy for countering attacks and upping your offensive capabilities. The ghostly gal can also create localized fields that can alter the world around her. For example, pressing the left trigger will create an Evocation Field. Represented by a blue semicircle, this field can cause clusters of ethereal crystals to manifest, which, when shattered, can be spent on upgrading Lute’s abilities. The Evocation Field can also be used to pull otherwise untouchable enemies beyond the Veil and into the physical realm so that you can damage them.
Lute’s other field casts a red aura. Known as the Banishment Field, it’s best used for crushing clusters of red crystals, which often bar access to certain areas—collecting the remnants of these crystals awards you with a currency which you can spend to upgrade Briar’s movesets for each of her weapons.
These fields are undoubtedly handy, but you’ll have to work quickly once they’re activated. Leave them on too long, and Lute will overexert herself and need to rest for a few seconds. In typical situations, this is no big deal. However, the demo capped off with a boss fight against a ferocious, fast-moving creature named Arrowhead, who I could only damage with the Banishment Field active.
The combat was undoubtedly the main attraction in the portion of Soulstice I played. However, there was a brief moment where I used Lute’s abilities to flesh out the narrative a bit. Outside Ilden’s gates, I encountered an echo from beyond the Veil. Using my Evocation Field, I discovered the source was the memory of a group of Order knights attempting to wheel a suspicious armored carriage into the city. This investigation scene reminded me of the criminally forgotten Murdered: Soul Suspect, which I appreciated quite a bit. It’ll be interesting to see if this mechanic is expanded upon in the finished product.
Overall, I really enjoyed taking my first steps into Soulstice’s spooky, ruined world. With its deep and satisfying combat and unique dual-protagonist premise, it’s shaping up to be a promising treat for fans of God of War, Devil May Cry, and other character action games.
Thankfully, with the game’s September 20 launch on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC just over 3 months away, we won’t have to wait too much longer to see if Soulstice has what it takes to live up to its potential. Until then, be sure to stay tuned to Hey Poor Player for the latest news on this ambitious upcoming release from the teams at Reply Game Studios and Modus Games.