It is no secret that one of the biggest body blows to the Vita in it’s early life, was the decision by Capcom to move their ‘Monster Hunter’ franchise over to Nintendo platforms. Monster Hunter Portable 1st and 2nd, morphing into Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, was responsible in Japan at least for the continued popularity of the PSP console and its popularity there was probably responsible for the Indian summer of games that the console saw, long after interest had run out in the West. Gran Turismo, Kingdom Hearts, Peacewalker, all the kind of games that Vita owners would kill for, all came out in the supposed end years of the machine.
It should therefore be of no surprise that amongst the genres of game available on the Vita, the ‘Monster Hunter’ genre looms large. In other words, games where you fight a series of battles against bosses, harvesting items from small battlefields and using those items to level up the armour and weaponry your character has to fight bigger and harder bosses. Toukiden, Freedom Wars, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace all feature in the Vita owners pantheon, but it is Soul Sacrifice that we are here to discuss today.
Soul Sacrifice Delta came out in 2014 and was an expanded version of the Soul Sacrifice game that game out in 2012. It is set in a world of sorcerers, combating ‘monsters’ which appear to be horrific versions of real people (or animals?). When you defeat an enemy, they appear to dissolve into a kind of black sludge from which emerges their original identity. The differentiator in this game compared to others in the genre is the fact that you can choose then to ‘save’ or ‘sacrifice’ the soul of the individual concerned.
There are differing effects depending on which you choose to do (and which faction you choose to belong to – more on that later). When you start the game at least, you will choose ‘save’ in order to restore a bit of health, or ‘sacrifice’ to restore your ‘offerings’.
The ‘offerings’ are the magic that you can use, effectively your entire arsenal of weaponry available. As you complete missions you will receive more and more weaponry to choose from. All of the weaponry is visually impressive at least, some might form a giant fist which you can use to pummel enemies into submission, some enable you to turn into a giant stone ball that you can charge towards enemies. In addition, there are a series of defensive weaponry that you can use, including shields, barriers, walls, and other effects including a rather useful raise of speed.
In typical RPG style, the weaponry has elemental properties, so for example fire and ice properties are added to weaponry which may be more effective against certain types of monster. In all there is a staggering amount of magic available to you. All of the magic however is of limited usage, and this is where it may become necessary to ‘sacrifice’ souls in order to restore offering.
So far the game sounds fairly complex, and it certainly contains a great deal of depth, however in the same way as many games of the genre, the actual gameplay is remarkably simple. Basically you dodge, dodge, and dodge again, trying to time your attacks in between enemy strikes, while finding the time and space to restore health, offerings and armour in between.
Simple, but compelling. These games are an acquired taste admittedly, but I find them perfect for a combination of console-style depth and portable ‘pick up and play’ gaming. It is an incredibly addictive hook, as you dive into mission after mission, ensuring that you level up, obtain new offerings, collect material for ‘sigils’ (inscriptions on your arm that confer certain stat enhancements) and so on and so forth. The desire to progress is great and perfectly handled here.
The ‘arenas’ that the game runs in are fairly simple for a game like this. Contained in one area, rather than across several ‘rooms’ in Monster Hunter, the arenas are fairly compact also in comparison to games such as Freedom Wars. There is fairly limited interaction with the scenery as well, there are not really areas to hide / areas the monsters hide, merely some areas where you ‘press to hold’ in order to form a weapon, armour or restore offerings.
This may be off-putting to those who prefer a deep, involved quest such as those in Monster Hunter, and indeed it is much simpler than that game, but I found it particularly refreshing. The reduced scope means that missions can be completed relatively quickly, meaning that the game has real ‘pick up and play’ quality. However, unlike most games that possess this, there is also a real sense of progression, with the RPG stylings granting level ups and more material as stated before.
The game flows incredibly well on the Vita, with controls responding well, camera at exactly the right sensitivity, and no visible drop in frame rate that I was aware of. Monsters and threats are clear, and offerings are easy to use and understand.
Visually, the game is acceptable, but nothing more than that. This is not a game that you would use to show off the graphical power of the console, with graphics only slightly more advanced than a PSP title, but nonetheless they are more than acceptable, and has already stated, very clear and easy to see. Sound is absolutely acceptable, there is no memorable soundtrack but it sounds perfectly good to the ears.
As someone who is new to the series, I cannot comment on the differences between this and the original game but I am assured that the game is an improvement in every way. There is now a greater balance between ‘saving’ and ‘sacrificing’ for example (in the original game a ‘save’ did not net a great deal of health, encouraging players to almost continually ‘sacrifice’) and the roster of enemies has been dramatically increased.
One of the key additions to the game is that of factions. Now players can join one of a number of different factions, which have different missions and notably, a different structure depending on how you wish to play the game. One encourages players to ‘save’ more, one to ‘sacrifice’ and another has the option to leave to fate. All ‘factions’ balance the play in different ways, so all styles of players can enjoy the game. The missions are structured in such a way that you will be given the opportunity to try each faction out before picking which way you wish to progress.
The addition of factions is a fine one, those hoping for a great story will perhaps be disappointed however. What story there is is presented in such a way as pages on a book. There are limited animations available, but the story is far from gripping, and you may well find yourself skipping the pages in order to get to the mission that you are involved in.
While the game is very well balanced, this does have a small downside in that it does seem that there are no fantastically powered weapons. Indeed, for all the graphical variety in the weapons available, it seems to matter very little which magic you bring along or how you set yourself up. I’m sure that more experienced players may disagree, but it would be nice if there was an aim to go for, in line with the superpowered armour in Monster Hunter, say.
However, these are small quibbles in what is, ultimately, a fantastic Vita title. With great playability and depth, this is a title that is perfectly suited to the platform and will keep you coming back again and again.
At A Glance
- Title: Soul Sacrifice Delta
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: Yes
- PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC
- Memory Card Space Needed: 3165MB