The battle between good and evil rages through the ages and now a new generation of hero is needed to continue the fight against the darkness. Soulcalibur V is Project Soul's sixth entry into the Soul series and brings with it some changes to the core gameplay and a new generation of heroes. “Critical Finishes” and the “Soul Gauge”, long time staples of the series, have been replaced by the “Critical Gauge” and a few other mechanics have been changed to bring the series more in line with some of the other fighting games on the market. We're also introduced to Patroklos and Pyrrha, descendants of longtime series heroine Sophitia. Will these new heroes be able to meet their destiny and finally wipe evil from the earth? In Soulcalibur V we travel to 17
century Europe to find out.
I know it's silly to expect depth from the story found in a fighting game, but after the game's first cut scene I had really high hopes. This first cut scene was beautiful and epic, after watching I was really excited to take on the evil forces wielding the Soul Edge. Unfortunately after that initial cut scene the game resorted to using motionless charcoal sketches with voice-overs to tell the rest of the story. At first I was disappointed, but as I continued to play these motionless sketches started to grow on me and I figured it was more of a budget or time issue than an omission by the developers at Project Soul. After a few chapters I did get a few more of those awesome cut scenes but they were few and far between to keep me really engaged. The story itself is also pretty ridiculous. The protagonist Patroklos begins the game as a servant of evil doing an evil lord's bidding although unbeknownst to him. Later once his master's intentions are revealed, he was actually surprised, while I was thinking “Well duh!” I found Patroklos to be wimpy, whiny, and a little thick. His sister Pyrrha, on the other hand, was genuinely interesting. She was being manipulated by the “Malfested”, a race of corrupted warriors who seek only to destroy the forces of good, into killing innocent people under a twisted veil of self-defense. I found her to be conflicted and miles deeper than her dumb as a brick brother who wouldn't know evil if it breathed in his face.
Soulcalibur has always seemed more accessible to me than other fighting games, with the exclusion of the Mortal Kombat series. I typically find fighting games to be on the fairly complex side which can lead them to be exclusionary. I didn't feel this way while playing Soulcalibur V. There was a learning curve but it didn't seem as steep as some of the other fighting games I’ve played. Right off the bat I was able to pull of some decently powerful moves and combos without much effort but I could definitely see that with some practice I could be deadly. The characters and fighting arenas are really detailed and look pretty good but I found a few of them to be on the small side. I did notice some graphical clipping when it came to some of the custom costumes but that's to be expected when you allow players to edit their character’s appearance. I really enjoyed the high-mid-low variations on each attack and how you need to constantly watch your opponent's animations in order to anticipate the height of their attacks so that you can guard or counter effectively. It was also refreshing to play a fighting game that doesn't have a myriad or projectile attacks being thrown at you. Soulcalibur V is all about reach, since there's no jumping, at least not in the traditional sense, you really need to be aware of your positioning when trying to land your most powerful blows. I mentioned that the game is more accessible than other fighters but don't mistake accessibility for a lack of depth. With around 24 playable characters, each with their own unique weapons and fighting style, I found that even after my playtime I had barely scratched the surface of this decently deep fighting game.
Character creation and customization is one of the more buzz worthy features to be found in Soulcalibur V. Even the basic editor, without unlocking anything, provides a fun way to customize how people are going to view you online. You can base your custom creation on any of the game's characters and then edit their appearance to look like almost anything. I found that a lot of people would make Soulcalibur versions of their favorite heroes. During my online travels I managed to get my face beaten by Superman and Spider-man, or at least one player's interpretation of them. The character creator is fun to mess around with, intuitive, and provides a seemingly endless number of combinations for your character's appearance and weapons. So whether dominating online matches with Wolverine, or my custom fighter, Deer of Doom, the character creator is nice touch and certainly worth mentioning.
Other than the character creator, the online modes are the real meat and potatoes of Soulcalibur V. You can play ranked or unranked matches or join other players in the “Global Colosseo”. The Colosseo is like a big lobby where players can meet up, chat, engage in tournaments or simply pick a fight. It provides a little sense of community that is often lacking in the online space of most games. I was also impressed by the matchmaking. I had no trouble finding opponents who were around my skill level. There were no connection or lag issues that I noticed, and that can be a massive problem especially when it comes to fighting games.
Overall, I found Soulcalibur V to be an excellent addition to the franchise. Its ability to innovate and improve the core experience may keep this series relevant to fans of the genre for at least another few years. That said, there's isn't much here for people who aren't into fighting games but compared to the other fighting games I've played I did enjoy Soulcalibur V. It's a deep yet accessible fighting game with a robust online component and a great character creator. However, I can't give the same praise to the game's throwaway story. It didn't grab me but that's okay because the rest of the package is a solid experience.