In Souldiers, the game we’re looking at today we find ourselves in Ascil, a war-torn continent ruled by three nations. The Royal Council of Zarga has entrusted General Brigard to lead the fight for them. The King’s advisor and sorcerer Arkzel suggests leading the troops into a cave for strategic advantage, however, after a devastating earthquake, they find themselves trapped in darkness. Before their eyes a luminous silhouette appears amongst them, inviting them to accompany her. The apparition is a Valkyrie, an entity finding those about to face death and offering them the chance to continue their existence in her world.
Near the end of the little introduction, I’ve just given you the player is given a choice of 3 unique starting classes. Each of these comes with its own abilities and comprises of scout, caster, and archer. You’ll gradually be able to upgrade your character with new abilities and moves to overcome a wide range of tough enemies and bosses. Initially, your abilities are fairly standard and you begin with the familiar setup of a normal attack, heavy attack, block, and dodge. This is a comfy way to start and obviously something that builds and expands as you go.
The rub with what I’ve just said is that most of the skills and abilities you’re waiting for aren’t apparent for the first couple of hours of the game. The cool stuff comes with the elemental states you’ll unlock by pumping points into your skill tree, these come in addition to your other abilities so make a cool pairing and, of course, add much-needed depth.
This wouldn’t have been an issue if the Dev team hadn’t decided to introduce us to their game by starting us in a spider cave! Anyone who knows me knows I am not the biggest fan of spiders so this wasn’t the friendliest introduction I could have hoped for. The issue is that you spend your time learning the game in quite a dark setting with very erratic AI giving off the wrong impression that the mid to later game actually will give you. While visually the starter cave is basic and spider-like, (obviously, it’s full of arachnids and yummy, fuzzy little eight-legged friends,) the actual design of the layout is quite intriguing.
Generally, Souldiers is a mix of well thought out puzzles, some tough yet solid boss fights, and just enough space between checkpoints to make things a challenge. With most Metroidvania games including this one, your environment will be your enemy with such things as spike traps and those pesky hidden buttons that’ll trigger a blow dart to the back of your head. Once I got through the first run of the level, I found myself better prepared for the enemies. I also eventually go used to the dark atmosphere. As I learned from my mistakes I noticed that I made fewer and that, it was pretty obvious I was getting better at this title.
Combat in Souldiers is pretty intuitive and fun. You also have a bar that’s only used in combat which corresponds to your guard and poise. Basically, you can block a number of times before it breaks, leaving you briefly unable to parry, dodge, and so on. The ability to dodge is a big deal in this game as it grants you a decent chunk of immunity frames that you will want to use.
Souldiers is visually stunning in my opinion, as much as it draws parts of the art style from the much-loved Genesis era of gaming, it takes more of an Eastward approach. The animations are spectacular, with lanterns being their own independent light source that you are able to interact with as well as a lot of things going on within the beautiful pixel art that was just not manageable back in the 90s. It brings back that nostalgic feeling whilst also taking advantage of today’s coding and technology.
Souldiers is a very competent little gem with a few minor miss-steps. The art style is amazing, visually pleasing with that classic throwback, combat is solid and feels well thought out, and I very much enjoyed the puzzles this title throws at you. Considering it flew under the radar and had barely any marketing this is definitely a game to check out if you want a touch of that nostalgic feeling and, of course, enjoy Metroidvania-style games.
A blast from the past with modern flair.
Overall - 7.5/10
A game with soul!
Souldiers is a well-thought-out Metroidvania-style puzzler with just the right amount of nostalgia thrown into scratch the itch. If you like a good puzzle RPG and you’re looking for something with a bit of 90s flair this is a very solid choice. Definitely a potentially underrated gem.