Souldiers (Xbox Series X) Review

Souldiers (Xbox Series X) Review 3
Souldiers (Xbox Series X) Review 6
Souldiers
Developer: Retro Forge
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Played On: Xbox Series X/S
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
MSRP: $19.99
Release Date: 02/06/2022

Jumping into a Metroidvania is almost cathartic at this point. An opportunity to jump into fantastical new worlds and get lost is an allure I can’t seem to pry away from. This allure describes Retro Forge’s debut title, Souldiers. Souldiers is a dungeon-crawling action-adventure that hits all the proper notes of the ‘Vania’ styled gameplay but slams the genre with difficulty that would humble any fan attempting to plunder its MASSIVE depth.

Souldiers drops you—a capable warrior of the Kingdom of Zarga, under the command of General Brigard—into a life-or-death situation that involves a Valkyrie, and an offer of a way out of what she calls “certain death.” General Brigard, demonstrating great bravery, rushes headfirst into a portal that leads to Terragaya, a land not quite on the side of the living, nor the dead. Although the writing is sound, and the story adds much needed juxtaposition and character introduction between gameplay segments, the game is better viewed as strictly an action game.

Souldiers (Xbox Series X) Review 1

This is where the player can choose between three fantastically designed classes that have drastically different playstyles. The Scout, Archer, and Caster classes are the permanent player choices of unnamed hero. The scout is an unstoppable truck, donning a knight helmet, a sound block, and well-rounded play mechanics, possibly the ideal starter character. The archer functions as a safer ‘poke them from afar’ middling character, while the Caster might as well be a tattered bedsheet considering the class has virtually no defence against the MANY dangers a player will face and feels the hardest to play.

I can’t stress this enough, try all three classes before moving forward. This game is HUGE, and you cannot change classes or characters in the middle of the action like in Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse, where flight was possible to skip many segments after recruiting Alucard. This was meant to be played with one class rather than three, because all challenges in the game can be overcome regardless of choice. This is a notable achievement, a game designed with three differently functional protagonists in mind.

Souldiers is a dungeon-crawling action-adventure that hits all the proper notes of the ‘Vania’ styled gameplay but slams the genre with difficulty that would humble any fan attempting to plunder its MASSIVE depth.”

The difficulty slider may feel misleading. The hard parts of the game—which feels like all of them—are intense no matter which option you choose, and the difference between the ‘normal’ and the ‘easy’ difficulty felt so minimal that after trying the ‘hard’ mode, I just stuck in the middle. The game’s presentation upon starting is a 16-bit time capsule that drags the player back to the early 90s of the Nintendo vs. Sega console wars, without breaking a sweat. The game is gorgeous and sounds great, while staying true to its retro presentation. Hats off to Retro Forge.

Souldiers (Xbox Series X) Review 4

An issue plagued me for the first 30 minutes of play however, the analog controls felt bad for the 2D-action Souldiers brings to the table but felt pleasant when accessing the character skills screen. I recommend adjusting movement to the +Pad immediately, the analog controls felt brazenly sensitive when tilting even slightly downward, making the character go through the ‘duck’ animation. This is asking for death in Souldiers, the +Pad is your saviour. Although the skills screen is MISERABLE with the D-Pad, the tradeoff is immeasurable.

Souldiers controls amazingly for a 2D-action platformer, with segments that feel original Ninja Gaiden-esque difficult, and just as frustratingly hard. There’s a platforming section where the player has to traverse a dimly lit cave, with small pillar foot spaces—with an action platformer staple—bats, coming at the hero, all while a fireball swims around the area at small speeds threatening a more than likely weary traveller. The dangers, including this scene, are passable if you have incredible patience, or memory to remember all the pitfalls that await the unnamed hero. Triumphing over these obstacles feels incredibly rewarding.

Souldiers controls amazingly for a 2D-action platformer, with segments that feel original Ninja Gaiden-esque difficult, and just as frustratingly hard.”

However, checkpoints (which feel similar to another Souls game) are called Dragon Swords, and finding one feels ephemeral due to how scarcely they’re placed throughout the map, a much-needed breath of fresh air while traversing the punishing terrain of Terragaya. This can feel problematic, with checkpoints so far and between, sometimes continuing feels like too much after white-knuckling through a hard 10-minute sequence without rest. A player can feel elated for pushing past a hard spot, just to die and be sent back to the save point. Everything the player retrieved before perishing, is lost even rare pendant drops. This can demoralize even the hardiest of warriors.

Souldiers (Xbox Series X) Review

While Souldiers has many gorgeous biomes with incredible music, the ‘Spider-Lair’ feels way too big for a game section with its mechanics. This section relies on poor lighting for WAY too long, and it fatigues the player to no end. This can make for solid platforming, like an old school Donkey Kong Country title, but the area outstayed its welcome, simply due to the sheer length of it. The other biomes are also meticulously designed, the Fire Temple feels like literal hell, and there’s a connective tissue hub city for upgrades, shops, and traditional adventure game functionality, which organically keeps each biome connected.

Souldiers can overall be a 2D Metroidvania fan’s next gem. The platforming segments feel great and rewarding when overcoming them, making it through challenging boss fights makes the player feel truly heroic, and the art style loads up on nostalgia, exciting older fans, while playing fluid and looking great enough for newer fans to the genre to feel right at home. The title has flaws, such as the ‘grab ledge’ mechanic constantly halting momentum while platforming being a major culprit, as well as cheap pitfalls that return the player to a different part of the map, making the trek back feel unnecessary and tedious. Souldiers is a solidly put together 2D action-adventure with fangs tailored for the most punishment seeking player, but a well-crafted one that is easy on the eyes.

A retail version of the game reviewed was provided by the publisher. You can read more about CGMagazine reivew policies here.

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE

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