Despite incredibly powerful technology behind it, not even the most ardent fan can deny that the PS Vita has floundered somewhat since launch, with an unimpressive release schedule of titles. At the end of the day, a console is only as good as the titles released on it, and so far the Vita has failed to have a dedicated killer app. It needs to have a reason to get it, which can either be one supremely amazing game, or several unique enjoyable ones. Soul Sacrifice, despite its hopes of being the former, is at the end of the day merely part of the latter group. Which still isn’t a bad thing.
Soul Sacrifice stars the player as an unseen sorcerer, trapped in a cage awaiting certain doom at the hands of an evil immortal Necromancer. From there, he is approached by a mysterious talking book, who promises to give him the power to escape and defeat the Dark Lord. Gaining this power takes the form of reading the journal entries of another unknown sorcerer in the book, who was the best friend of the evil Necromancer at some unspecified point centuries before. Not only does the player gain the understanding of what truly happened in the past as he progresses, he also finds himself reliving the battles of the previous sorcerer and gaining his powers in the present, so that he might use them for his own purposes.
This story presentation works quite well in guiding the player along gradual plot developments, and it manages to do so with almost entirely text, which is a remarkable achievement. A word to the wise however, Soul Sacrifice is a very dark game in tone and content. It is definitely not suitable for anyone under the age of 18, and it is genuinely very creepy. However, if you are well-adjusted and enjoy that sort of thing, weird Japanese horror fantasy type things; to be exact; you won’t be disappointed.
The majority of actual gameplay takes the form of battling in a specific arena, using up to 6 weapon slots to choose from a selectable array of weapons, explosives, summonable creatures, area effects and so on and so forth to allow for an array of battle possibilities. New weapons are earned from specific battles, and the descriptions before choosing a battle tell you what you might earn, cutting down on grinding time in that regard. Weapons can be customized or upgraded or combined to create new forms for the player. There are also ultimate attacks, which are activated by sacrificing a body part of the player, allowing for a large attack, but a penalty thereafter until you restore that part at cost. The battles against larger creatures are reminiscent of Monster Hunter, in terms of needing to hit the correct spots with the correct elements or weapons, but is a bit faster paced.
Enemies in the plot are formed out of negative energy or magic coalescing around a living creature. Animals create basic enemies, whereas humans create larger Archfiends. A human affected by avarice would always create the same type of Archfiend, and so forth throughout the cardinal sins, such as gluttony, sloth, and so on. Upon defeating an enemy they return into their basic form, and can be either saved; allowing for a health boost, or sacrificed, in return for a damage boost. Leveling up is handled by this process, and two bars are present, one for either action, and provide larger maximum HP or more total damage respectfully. A player can level up one or the other, or keep both in equilibrium, based on their desired play style.
The player is assisted in missions either by NPC allies they have saved, or by human players that join them online; another similarity to Monster Hunter. The NPC allies have rather poor AI, but for the most part they do what they need to. The largest overall flaw with Soul Sacrifice that drags the rest of what was an ultimately very compelling game is the sheer amount of grinding required. Added to this is the issue is that enemy variety is very minimal, and grinding becomes a huge chore that can easily stop a player continuing, especially without any human allies. It’s this factor more than any other that drags the game down from Amazing to simply Good. It’s a game unlike any other that is definitely worth getting if you own a Vita, but does not rock the world if you do not.