Soul Sacrifice is probably not what you’re expecting and that is most definitely its strongest suit. It’s not Dark Souls for Playstation Vita, nor is it a Dynasty Warriors clone.

It is, however, a package that you will become emotionally invested and actively engaged in, and has real potential to be a system seller for Sony’s mini-box of wonder.

Developer: Marvelous AQL

Format: Playstation Vita

Release: May 3rd EU

Players assume the role of a slave forced to serve a corrupted sorcerer. The player will spend time with the slave during their final moments as they rot in a cage, preparing for a final sacrifice. Starved of food and water, the slave can only crawl and gasp, mumbling nonsense to themselves so they can stay alive and maintain some semblance of hope.

Fortunately, that hope appears in the form of Librom, a talking demon book that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Necronomicon found in Evil Dead, The book contains stories of the young apprentice before he becomes an all-powerful sorcerer and the slave can revisit these battles in the form of phantom quests. As the slave relives each battle, so their strength increases.

This is a varied title that has elements of Dynasty Warriors, Monster Hunter and even Army Corps of Hell. The pages tell the story of the apprentice sorcerer and his accomplices as they journey together, fighting monsters, sacrificing souls and earning experience. The Sorcerer can be fully customized, from head to toe, and the same goes for his arsenal. Many projectiles can be added making using of all the elements, fire, water, lightning and can be combined to bring down any combination of foes. This offers a great diversity in combat and allows the player to mix up their strategies. However, these powers are drained in battle and will need to be renewed through the Librom.

At a later stage in the game, the Sorcerer will also assume a power in his or her arm. This arm can be infused with various attributes that are illustrated like tattoos and will improve the sorcerer’s overall competency.

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Control is driven from a third person perspective and focuses around various battlefields of different sizes and styles. Like Monster Hunter, players will sometimes be tasked with killing specific monster types and like Dynasty Warriors, will sometimes face hordes of creatures and dive headfirst in a bid for survival. Sometimes there’ll just be one big boss to defeat. There are even mission types that unravel themselves as players move around a distorted battlefield and they learn the requirements through narrative snippets.

Enemies are mutated creatures like cats and rats that have been morphed into grotesque abominations with sinister tendencies. Once the abomination has been floored, the creature’s real form is revealed and it will be the player’s choice whether they allow the creature to live or if they sacrifice their soul. By choosing life, the sorcerer’s life-force grows, and if they’re sacrificed, the sorcerer’s magical qualities are improved. The player will need to balance between the two, but it will be their decision on how they prioritize. Creatures vary in size, strength and stature, and as you’ve probably gathered from the above picture, the game isn’t afraid to make you seem puny and insignificant to your opponent.

The difficulty curve is pretty steep and you’ll find yourself face down on the ground more often than not. Fortunately, a network connection enables you to play with friends and this is undoubtedly the best way to play. While it doesn’t make the game too easy, you’ll certainly notice enemies crumble much easier with effective strategies and the combined powers of strengthened magic.

Soul Sacrifice is also unique in that, if you so choose, you can fight the final boss from the very beginning. The option is always open and available to you. Don’t get me wrong, if you attempt it, you will die a horrendous, punishing, painful death and feel completely humiliated, but it’s nice to see that the challenge is available for people at any stage of the game. It also gives a stronger sense of in-game progression. It’ll prove that with every battle, your character does become stronger. Something absent from far too many games in recent times.

The game is full of depth with an in-game progression system, and the story is full of some real emotional twists and turns. On the whole, this is a great package that would be a very comfortable fit on a home console. It looks, sounds, feels and plays like a major release, which makes it all the more impressive that it has been squeezed onto Vita. Questionable voice-acting aside, the score is powerful, dramatic and heart-rending enough that you will forcibly captivated by it.

Final Analysis

Soul Sacrifice is another solid reason to pick up a Playstation Vita. With plenty of DLC already confirmed for release, likely to be added as additional pages in the Libram, and a 15-20 hour campaign already out of the box, the game has a powerful message to share and remains entertaining and interesting enough throughout as it delivers it.

One of the finest releases for Sony’s handheld so far.