Soulcalibur 6, The fighting game with swords and a swashbuckling vibe has arrived for the PlayStation 4, but the question is, has it gone a little blunt over the years or is it still as sharp?
If I was to describe Soulcalibur to an alien who, for some bizarre reason, had a very basic understanding of video games genres, I would describe it as the fighting game with swords. Mortal Kombat has gore, Tekken is like a martial arts movie, and Soulcalibur has pointed weapons.
Based on the marketing I’ve seen it’s really pushing the vibe that it’s a story orientated product, which makes a change from most online-focused fighting games as of late. Plus, that marketing is almost correct with a majority of its single player is dedicated to story.
In Soulcalibur 6 you get treated to three different story modes. Libra Soul – A create-your-own avatar story mode where you must make your way across a map and experience the main story from a different perspective. When it came to creating my avatar I spent ages trying to making it look as distinct as someone like Rafael, but ultimately it just looked a dude from Runescape… yes you can tweak your muscle size and eyebrows, but you just look generic.
As for other customization, the gear you can chuck on your character is purely cosmetic so you don’t look like a car crash mashing those high stat joggers with a shirt and tie combo, you can also keep tweaking throughout the game and none of the NPCs will notice you have different eyes or green hair all of a sudden. In terms of weapons, each class is based on a character already established in the game and is comfortably similar that you can switch between different classes if you fancy.
The story for Libra Soul, you’re a character who suffers from Link syndrome, where you can’t talk and you’re such a blank slate the player can put their personality on top all whilst going through a long pilot episode as you encounter characters from the main story. Well, in theory, you can do this but the dialogue trees literally lead to the same place. In one of the side missions, I refused to fight someone but the game made me do it anyway. Also, the moral choices seem to be mean nothing as it doesn’t really come into the campaign and feels like a keychain accessory.
What I like about Libra Soul is the leveling system similar to an RPG or Dragon Ball Xenoverse, so if you get stuck, you can just do some grinding and overcome most obstacles. Though in some places, it just doesn’t make any sense. I’m not talking about the gimmick matches where only certain moves are effective or when the floor is slippery, either.
You see, you can level up and that improves your health stats (which is quite minor after a while) and your weapons separately (but grinding that is like grinding blood out of a stone) despite this, characters a couple of levels lower than me were still whacking chunks out of me and my little band of mercenaries who are about as useful as a Gotham City Police officer.
This makes a few side missions a little annoying but overall the griding up levels can be quite fun a series of usually quite rich side stories await. It’s when you come to the boss that the leveling system means jack. When I first encountered him I was level 40 odd and he was level 55. Grinding to Level 58 allowed me to unlock a new powerful weapon but it turns out it didn’t matter since he still trounces me over. So more grinding is needed I supposed.
Onto the main story – which is supposed to tie into Libra Soul as you encounter your avatar in one level – you may notice from the dramatic cutscene that it revolves around a powerful magic sword. It’s overall pretty cool and you think it’s going to mean that the story involves Sophita the Greek swordsman but she briefly turns up as an NPC.
Instead, it’s a tale involving Kilik, Maxi, and Xianghua traveling from Asia to Europe to beat up an evil knight. Though I liked the story as it had this Pirates of the Caribean swashbuckling vibe and the voice acting was great, but in terms of animated cutscenes they’re far and few between. The only extended one outside of this opening one is the one with Geralt the guest star from The Witcher.
The in-depth story really comes from the third story mode featuring solo character stories as you get a real sense of start, middle, and end, as well as character growth as certain moves are locked, to begin with.
The combat flows like a river as I felt I switch seamlessly from the middle strike, upper strike, kick and drop a special strike. I felt that I could play as any character and get used to them quickly. I could play as the staff-wielding Kilik who uses long-range strikes the move over to the up close and personal Maxi with Nunchucks and then move over to Sophita. Though the finishers are a little tame and could do with a being a bit more Dragon Ball Z-like.
One thing I remember from playing Soulcalibur on the Xbox 360 is the real-time damage were, with a good whack, you damage the other guy’s clothes and armor. That’s taken a back seat which really makes it a feel a little meh when you’ve decked out a tough win and you’re clothes are all still intact.
Of course, no review is done without a natter about the multiplayer. There are two modes available, and since I don’t really play online that much, I started with the casual mode – a mode for those who just want to play for a bit of fun. Well, I wanted to play for fun, but I ended up in rooms of 8 or less waiting for their turn whilst two play and the others twiddle their thumbs.
Playing a match, the gameplay was smooth except for a laggy blip that could potentially cost you a win – but that’s to be expected with online multiplayer. Though maybe this could be improved with better matchmaking.
Then there’s the dreaded Ranked Mode. While it’s much quicker to get a battle going, I get the sense with online fighting games experience doesn’t always trump skill or wise strategy, it sometimes falls down to meta and that’s already apparent with the game’s leaderboards being dominated by the same selection of characters.
Overall, I like Soulcalibur 6 even though the story modes could’ve done with more attention. The combat is easy to pick up despite having a thin roster which will likely be padded out with DLC, which is a bit of a letdown since it could’ve been done through progression.