Soulstice - Briar and Lute

Soulstice from Reply Game Studios looks like a loving tribute to PlatinumGames. It’s a fast-paced arcade action game with dark, semi-gothic themes and stylish combat. That said, the game also looks like what could be described as an Elseworlds version of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Before we dive into any comparisons with Nintendo’s famed Zelda franchise, though, let’s talk about what Soulstice is and what it isn’t. The game features quick combo-based combat, linear stages, and multiple missions that you can revisit. The set pieces in Soulstice are quite large and dynamic, and they’re filled with towering, gothic architecture that you’ll not only do battle in but also perform some platforming through.

Soulstice Gameplay

Despite its title, it’s best not to lump in Soulstice with the revered Soulslike genre. The folks at Reply Game Studios have cited From Software as a favorite developer of theirs, so there’s definitely some tonal inspiration. Of course, the team also listed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Drakengard as favorites, and when you look at Soulstice, you can see how those games might’ve had a stronger overall influence here.

Speaking of influences, in a recent Q&A and demo showcase, the developers stated that they were also inspired by a lot of dark fantasy. Specifically, Claymore and Berserk are two of the game’s biggest visual influences. Combined with Reply’s love of From Software, it’s easy to see how Soulstice gives off an almost-horror-like vibe.

For clarity’s sake, Soulstice doesn’t look like it would be a Zelda-esque game. Still, the game’s two protagonists, Briar and Lute, are reminiscent of Link and Fi. Unlike in Nintendo’s Wii-original-turned-Switch-remaster, though, your spirit companion in Soulstice is much more tangible. You’ll play as both Briar and Lute simultaneously, with Briar acting as your main combatant and Lute providing special defensive and offensive maneuvers to aid you in battle.

Interestingly, Lute has her own skill tree and abilities, so she definitely feels like more of an active companion. This is where my Elseworlds Zelda comparison comes in: Nintendo has always managed to create interesting companion characters like Navi and Midna, but these characters rarely feel tangible. They’re more passive than active, which is fine, but I’d like to think that in some alternate reality, Nintendo added a bit of playability to, say, Fi in Skyward Sword.

Soulstice - Boss Battle

Comparisons aside, Soulstice just looks like a really fun time. The game’s hands-off demo and trailer showcased a lot of what it has to offer. And what it has to offer is rich, action-packed gameplay across dark environments. Enemies range from ethereal beings like Lute to deformed monstrosities that would be right at home in a survival horror game or even a fantasy horror film.

Briar will swing a large blade and shoot arrows while Lute chips away at enemies’ health, creating an intense one-two punch that’s as deadly as it is stylish. It’s cool seeing the two characters you’re in control of taking down the dark forces contained within the world of Soulstice. Like the aforementioned Bayonetta, Briar can perform wild acrobatic attacks and dish out powerful combo finishers.

Clearing areas rewards you with a rank, which should be enticing to fans of score-based arcade brawlers. In addition to bragging rights, the higher the score you receive, the more in-game currency you’ll get, which can in turn be used to purchase upgrades and abilities for the two main characters.

Aside from chasing high scores, Soulstice will also encourage multiple playthroughs with its five difficulty settings. Three of these are available from the get-go, with two more difficulty options available as unlockables. The game will also include New Game+, with your characters’ progression carrying over across playthroughs.

Soulstice Dark Fantasy Setting

Though Soulstice features two playable characters, the game will not include any sort of co-op component. Though Reply Game Studios considered such a feature, it ultimately didn’t make sense within the context of the story the developer wanted to tell. The main focus is the relationship between Briar and Lute, and the studio wanted to keep that relationship between the protagonists and a single player.

Despite all of its influences — and my alternate reality Zelda theory — Soulstice looks like a promising action game that may just stand on its own because it offers up crazy gameplay, doom-and-gloom themes, gothic environments, and compelling protagonists. If you’re at all a fan of rapid-fire action games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, this is definitely one to keep a lookout for.

Soulstice is coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on September 20, 2022.

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