Developer: Retro Forge
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Platform: Steam (also available on Switch, Xbox, PlayStation)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 02.06.2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Going for a Soul Ride
Souldiers is a standard Metroidvania that follows different soldiers on their quest through the afterlife. I platformed different locales, solved simple puzzles, and defeated ferocious enemies. Does this classic formula still hold up today? Find out in this Rapid Review.
As I began the game, I was introduced to a platoon of soldiers preparing for battle. Suddenly, they all end up in the afterlife and work on assisting the local Valkyries. It was a simple premise, and it worked well to establish the plotline. While it set the scene, the storyline was not overly engaging, and I did not feel attached to nearly any of the characters. Still, I was not expecting to be interested in Souldiers for the story. Thus, it did not disappoint me much that I was not engrossed with it.
Despite my lack of interest in the story, I did enjoy watching some of the cutscenes. Though they were slow, they helped differentiate locales and foreshadowed tough enemies and bosses. Even some bosses would engage in conversation with me, segueing into their fights. While I liked the idea conceptually, every time I died, I would need to rewatch the same cutscene or reread the same dialogue. I tried skipping them, but the option was not available. Moreover, as I watched them more and more times, I noticed how sluggish the transitions were. The lack of skipping options coupled with the already slow pacing of these cutscenes made them more frustrating than exciting.
Even though many of the story elements disappointed me, I was easily able to get into the combat mechanics in Souldiers. To begin my adventure, I got to select between three separate classes. I could be an archer, a caster, or a swordsman. Playing as any of the three characters makes the game feel wholly unique. I appreciated the options and found they added a lot of value to the whole package. Plus, there are four available difficulties. I could easily tailor this game to my taste.
When looking at the characters, apart from the differences in their move sets, the adventure remains largely the same. Since the level designs and layouts accommodated all three soldier types, the stages seemed a bit less targeted towards my individual skillset. Plus, the upgrades I could unlock were similarly broad. Still, I did not think this was a bad thing and enjoyed having the ability to play the game under different but similar circumstances.
Moreover, despite featuring commonplace upgrades, it is a lot of fun to move throughout stages in Souldiers. As I progressed through the game, I unlocked different abilities such as a wall jump, a double jump, and an air dash. These were super fun to leverage despite having been seen in other titles. Instead, to differentiate itself, Souldiers features an elemental system. Most of the enemies have a weakness as well as a resistance. While this is commonly seen in role-playing games, this was the first time I experienced it in a platformer. I liked it a lot, even though it did not have an enormous effect on the game. Overall, even though my character abilities were not overly involved, I enjoyed learning how to use and master them.
Crossing Enemy Lines
Additionally, the enemies were fun to face. As I mentioned previously, I had to consider which element I was using when going against an enemy. However, some enemies and bosses featured even more advanced implementations. One enemy put up a shield that neglected damage dealt by a specific element and another could only be damaged by a certain element. These made me think on my feet and encouraged me to master the mechanics. Even apart from these specific enemies, I enjoyed going up against the enemies. They telegraphed their attacks, had distinct weaknesses, but still posed a genuine threat.
The bosses were similarly excellent. In fact, these ended up being the highlight of my adventure. They were challenging but when I died, it was always my fault. I rarely found myself getting frustrated even when I kept dying. However, sometimes I did. Some fights have dialogue in the middle of phases of the battle. Thus, when I got sufficient at the first section of a fight, I would need to continue watching the intermittent dialogue. It was frustrating, and greatly reduced the pacing I desired. Still, this is only a minor gripe, as I enjoyed the fights regardless.
These fights also forced me to learn my combat mechanics. I had a dodge, a shield, and plenty of ways to deal damage. These are simple, but they had a large skill ceiling, as I only had a limited amount of shield before I had to wait for it to recharge. Certain moves could only be blocked while others could not be blocked. It was a lot to process, but it made the game far more exciting and rewarding.
So Many Places to Be
In addition to the engaging mechanics, I enjoyed the expansive yet easily digestible world to explore. There were a variety of different locales to explore such as marshes, plains, and caverns. Plus, Souldiers featured an expansive map that both highlighted collectables and showed me which locations I had not explored yet. While I did get lost a couple of times, I was always able to find my way with the map. Moreover, the developers did an excellent job in having the map circle in on itself. This meant that once I explored an area enough, I was able to navigate to a specific segment much more quickly. I liked practically every part of the world-building.
Moreover, as I explored the world, I had a lot to collect and find. Since Souldiers is a Metriodvania, I expected to need to renavigate old areas to collect powerups that were required for completion. This was not the case. Instead, there were optional upgrades to collect if I felt I needed them. I think this worked well although it did make the game seem more linear than a typical Metriodvania. However, this ended up making the game a lot of fun. Even though I did not find myself continually revisiting old locations, I had a good time exploring the worlds and finding various items.
Heart and Soul
Plus, the worlds looked great and were interesting. The game features a lovely pixel art style. I also liked how the enemies all telegraphed their attacks. Even the visual effects helped keep me informed. When my shield broke or my dash was ready to use, there was a clear and distinct visual notification. Overall, the game visuals helped keep me engaged and stay interested.
Furthermore, the sound design is solid. The music was loud and triumphant, keeping me motivated in fights as well as incentivizing me to perform well. Plus, much like the visual telegraphs, there were clear audio queues when I could dash and when my shield broke. Both the sound design and audio design worked well to make Souldiers rewarding.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Souldiers. There are distinct characters to play as, multiple difficulty modes to select, and an expansive adventure with rewarding and engaging enemies. Despite the relatively linear level Souldiers is a lot of fun and a game I can easily recommend.
4 out of 5
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