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April 2019

SoulCalibur VI

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: Oct. 19, 2018


PS4 Review - 'SoulCalibur VI'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 22, 2018 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Following the 20th anniversary of the SoulCalibur franchise, the weapon based fighting game returns to its roots whilst bringing brand new gameplay features.

Buy SoulCalibur6

In recent years, the SoulCalibur franchise has become increasingly convoluted and difficult to follow, and none of the games really quite had the necessary spark of success. In short, it was a game that desperately needed a back-to-the-roots reboot. Fortunately, that's exactly what SoulCalibur 6 is, and it's a solid return to basics that captures what makes SoulCalibur so fun.

Despite being numbered 6, SoulCalibur 6 is actually a soft reboot of the series. It picks up right where the original Soul Edge ended and is half-remake/half-alternate reality retelling of the first couple of the games in the series. The result is effectively the same as the recent Mortal Kombat reboot: a return to familiar storylines that eventually goes in its own direction. Almost all the familiar fan favorites are back.

SC6 is an instantly accessible fighting game. The basic controls are simple: One button is for fast horizontal slashes, one for powerful vertical slashes, one for kick, and one for block. Anyone who picks up the game can do reasonably well with these basics, but there are many more complex mechanics buried in the game's depths. This accessibility is probably SoulCalibur's greatest strength. Anyone can pick up and play the game and feel halfway competent, making it a really fun game to pop in and play for a while.

Inevitably, there's a lot of mechanical depth to SC6. Every character has moves that are unlockable, moves that can counter other moves, moves that hit high or low, moves with super armor, and so on. There are also two forms of specials: Critical Edge, which is a special powerful attack that can do a ton of damage, and Soul Charge, which temporarily empowers your character and often changes their move properties. Both of these are fueled by your Soul Gauge, which fills up as you fight.

Perhaps the most significant new feature in SC6's combat system is the Reversal Edge system. Effectively how this works is that every character has access to a Reversal Edge attack, which is half-parry and half-counter. If you successfully hit with it, the game quickly switches into a cinematic mode, where both players have to choose one of three attacks that have a rock/papers/scissors triangle. It can get more complex in that you can also block or evade attacks, but by and large, it's "pick one." If you both choose the same one, you try again, and there's a bigger reward in damage and vulnerability if you win.

What makes this system interesting is that each character has distinct Reversal Edge attacks. Rather than randomly guessing what the opponent is going to do, you need to figure out their end goal. For example, Kilik has Reversal Edges that can lead into one of his two critical arts, depending on which one he uses. His goal is to hit with that, but if the enemy knows that they can counter it, it might be better for him to use one of the weaker choices. On the other hand, Geralt from The Witcher has a Reversal Edge that does more damage if the enemy is Soul Charged, one that does the most damage otherwise, and a weak one that can ring-out enemies. Fighting against him is a game of figuring out whether he's going for the highest damage.

I'm a little torn on the system. I love the mind game aspect of it and the fact that each character has different specializations that encourage different usages. I'm little less fond of the way it slows down fights if it's overly used. At the end of the day, it's still a rock/paper/scissors mechanic, and you can eat a lot of damage by being unlucky enough to get hit. All in all, I like what it adds to the combat, and it's a lot of fun to use.

Another big strength of SC6 is in the variety of its cast. It has 21 fighters, and pretty much each and every one of them is distinct and interesting. Raphael the rapier-wielding nobleman focuses on moving around and positioning, and he excels at poking from a distance and ringing out enemies. Azwel, one of the new villains, can summon multiple weapons and changes stances based on what he's using. Geralt specializes in Soul Charges, both dealing more damage to enemies who are charged and himself getting quite powerful in his own Soul Charge. Kilik has the easiest to combo into Critical Edges in the game, which means his goal is to land those as often as possible.

The variety in the cast is wonderful, and it makes it fun to play pretty much all of the characters. There are some I genuinely didn't enjoy playing, but that was mostly because their play styles didn't mesh with mine. Nightmare relies heavily on Super Armor, which allows him to soak attacks to power himself up, a risky-but-rewarding play style that I found difficult to enjoy. There's a reasonably diverse cast, so you'll find a lot to like here.

Also included is the SoulCalibur franchise's iconic create-a-character mode. You can create a custom fighter using a bunch of various pieces and equip them with one of the fight styles from other characters. It's a pretty enjoyable feature, but it has its flaws. It felt like it had significantly less pieces to use than in previous games, possibly because two sets of additional items are being sold as DLC down the line. This was frustrating since I couldn't find seemingly basic items (like a single reasonable hat) that I knew would show up in later versions. The items that are in the base game are well-designed and can be layered and even patterned for a good amount of variety.

The create-a-character mode also plays into one of SC6's two story modes. Libra of Souls puts players in control of The Conduit (your created character), who is infected by the Evil Seed and must travel the world, closing and absorbing evil portals in an attempt to keep themselves alive. This is done in an RPG-lite mode, where you traverse the world map, leveling up and collecting new weapons to gradually get stronger. There's a morality system that lets you choose good/evil options to slightly change the story, and you get to spend time hanging out with the main cast of the game.

Libra of Souls is fun but honestly gets repetitive. There's some humor and dialogue, but the gameplay boils down to: go somewhere, fight a weak enemy, and repeat. Sometimes, it throws in special challenges, like a slippery floor or an enemy with regenerating health, but they don't change things much. The biggest problem is the loading time. There's lengthy loading before and after each match, and while it isn't too bad in small doses, when you're fighting a bunch of 5-10 seconds matches in a row, it quickly gets tedious. It's fun to have your own character's adventure, and if the plot grabs you, you'll probably enjoy the story.

The other story mode is Chronicles of Souls, which is the game's main story mode. It's divided up into the main story, following series long-timer Kilik, and a series of character side stories that follow the other characters. All of these are placed on a timeline, so you can see where the stories occur in relation to one another, and if you're playing Libra of Souls, you'll even run into your protagonist from time to time. The stories are simple and mostly told through still art and pictures, but they're a fun way to experience the SoulCalibur storyline.

Beyond the two story modes, SC6 is pretty much what is expected from a fighting game. There's arcade mode, versus mode, and online play. There's nothing special or unique in terms of fighting gameplay. There is a museum you can explore to unlock more history and backstory for the SoulCalibur world, but that will only be really worth the trouble if you get into the SoulCalibur storyline.

Visually, SC6 is a fairly good-looking game. The character models are fluid and well-animated, but they can look a touch bland. The environments are mostly dull, which is a shame because they should be varied and interesting, but most of them seem to run together. The game is wonderfully responsive, and I enjoyed the voice acting, no matter how cheesy it got sometimes.

Overall, SoulCalibur 6 is a solid reboot of the franchise. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but focuses on sanding off the rough edges and returning the gameplay and storyline to the basics. The result is a game that's a distillation of what makes the SoulCalibur franchise fun. There's enough room and depth for people to get into the real -gritty of the gameplay, but there's also a lot of room for enjoyable fighting. It's a bit difficult to justify the purchase just for the single-player portion, but it's excellent for a couch party game — just like SoulCalibur should be.

Score: 8.0/10

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