Soul Sacrifice Hands-on Preview from E3 2012 -- Out-Monster Hunting Monster Hunter?By Adam Rosenberg - Posted Jun 14, 2012
Calling Soul Sacrifice, the upcoming PlayStation Vita title conceived by no less a superstar than Keiji Inafune, a riff on Monster Hunter is oversimplifying things a bit, but it's also not an entirely inaccurate comparison. The co-op-friendly third-person action game from Marvelous AQL and SCE Japan Studio is built around the concept of running through short missions where you fight a bunch of monsters and slowly, ever-so-slowly, fill up your arsenal with the hundreds of unlockable abilities.
The action all spins out from a central interactive menu that also serves as the setup and framing device for the larger story. The game begins with you waking up alone in some sort of cell, with the Vita's gyroscope allowing you to peer around the room by physically tilting your device. In the room with you is a diary that serves as a plot device, character stats sheet, and portal into the actual quests you can embark on.
The diary belongs to some sort of sorcerer, and a big part of what drives the game involves figuring out who wrote this diary and why you're in this place with it. First you set up your character for a given level, mapping up to six abilities across three face buttons (the right trigger serves as a modifier, allowing you to access the second set of three). You then choose a diary entry to explore, with each entry serving as a portal into one of the game's levels.
The actual play feels very solid, much more like a proper console action game than one of the PSP Monster Hunter titles. You've got full control of the camera thanks to that second analog stick, lock-on controls, responsive dodge mechanics (on that fourth face button, natch)... the works. It's a winner on the visual side too, with cool enemy designs and a generally solid look overall.
The big twist to the game is right there in the "Soul Sacrifice" title. Every time you bring down an enemy, anything from a standard rank-and-file grunt to a boss, you're given the option to either Sacrifice or Save the downed being. I admit that I'm still not entirely clear on how this works into the bigger picture, but traveling the path of good or evil will eventually unlock specific powers on each side of the morality line.
The crowded environment of Sony's E3 booth isn't exactly the best place to digest the insane amount of content and gameplay that Soul Sacrifice offers. The time I spent both playing and talking about it left me looking forward to seeing more, however. The PlayStation Vita's game library continues to look stronger with each new release, and Soul Sacrifice is definitely one that serious fans of deep, customization-heavy action-RPGs ought to be looking forward to.