Platform: PS Vita

While writing this review I went off on a massive tangent, looking up the various “death scenes” available on YouTube from the movie The Thing (1982 version). This was inspired by my experience of playing Soul Sacrifice, one of the more originally designed titles from Mega Man co-designer Keiji Inafune.

Soul Sacrifice sees you captured and caged by a maniacal all-powerful sorcerer called Magusar. Magusar is capturing people and consuming their souls and your only hope of escape is via the Librom, a talking book made of flesh. The Librom implores you to read it, as it's a journal of Magusar himself. Through the pages you encounter forgotten and hazy memories that can be replayed as missions, undertaken by an avatar of your own creation.

As you complete the missions, the story unfolds, with animated text and artwork appearing along the pages of the Librom. Without spoiling anything, the story is gritty, gory and pretty grim!

 photo soul-sacrifice-01_zps0cf252ba.jpgIn the world of Soul Sacrifice you play as your avatar's avatar (how post modern), a sorcerer who can wield magic. Sorcerers in this world are used to exterminate the lives of creatures that have spawned over the land. The sorcerer must kill them and choose to save or sacrifice their soul – saving their soul gives you more “Holy” energy / points whereas sacrificing them gives you “Chaotic” energy / points.

What I loved about this concept is that sorcerers themselves can become monsters, as consuming more and more souls takes over their memories and body. The manifestation of soul absorption is physically presented by the sorcerer’s right arm being heavily mutated. Many of the boss monsters you encounter in the game, once defeated, will reveal a fallen sorcerer, and then you must choose to save or sacrifice their soul.

To say the least, the story is bloody (literally!) fantastic and highly original. The voice acting and concept of saving or sacrificing a soul brings certain moral dilemmas if you were to play this game solely for its story – saving or sacrificing can open or close missions off to you.

Unfortunately the story's strength falls flat when you realize that the saving and sacrificing system becomes a means to an end to just “level up” your character in a certain direction. Basically, saving souls gives you more health, defence and more access to sigils that can be carved on your right arm that exploit “Holy/ Divine” attributes, whereas sacrificing boosts attack power and allows you to utilize sigils that focus on “Chaotic / Dark” abilities. So, basically you have to either choose one and stick with it or balance them both.

 photo soul-sacrifice-02_zps9b5870c2.jpgThere are a vast amount of spells available and take some time to get used to. Spells have limitations in the sense that they can break if used too much, even healing spells. This aspect of gameplay may put gamers off, however you can repair spells with a substance called Lacrim that the Librom literally cries between missions (yes, I know, completely bizarre).

Spells can be fused to make new spells or boosted to create even stronger versions of the current spells, so there is never really any time during the game where you are stuck for using spells. However, there's no currency system so the acquisition of spells is solely down to you doing missions and killing monsters.

Ultimately, this game will be compared to Monster Hunter, as it's a quest based 3rd-person game that focuses on taking down monsters for item gains. While the comparison is fair, Monster Hunter focuses more on “boss-like” encounters whereas Soul Sacrifice focuses the extermination of lesser monsters as well as boss battles. True the former also has lesser monsters, but the general saturation of boss monster-only encounters is less felt in Soul Sacrifice, not to mention the fact that Monster Hunter has little to no story by comparison.

In saying that both games suffer from the same problem - repetition. However, soul sacrifice does gain back some brownie points by providing some semblance of a plot to mix up the missions. Unfortunately, it doesn't always come across that well.

Graphically, the game resembles a more gruesome version of Dark Souls: the boss monsters are some of the most original I’ve seen and can be plain disturbing in design.

 photo soul-sacrifice-03_zps130184a5.jpgThe sound design is well accomplished voice acting wise, however fails completely at times with its musical score. There are attempts at a semi-modern Classical / Folk Japanese acapela song during spell creations/fusing that can be horribly grating. I often found myself muting the game at these points..

As a whole the game can be pretty messy, from gameplay, story and its sound department, but in a way I think this is where the beauty and madness of Soul Sacrifice lies. Its imperfection actually adds to the experience, reminding me of John Carpenter’s The Thing and how its Animatronics look far more slick and realistic than over-cooked CGI.

There is set to be a lot DLC available for this game, so players will never be short of anything to do, not even taken in to consideration the online multiplayer, and the amount of spells available coupled with the challenge make the game a very addictive experience at times.

While it may lack variety, and seem messy in places, you have to accept the madness, accept the originality and allow your soul to be sacrificed into the game's world.