Platform: PS Vita (PSN, £23.99)
Reviewing Soul Sacrifice Delta is like getting back with an ex. We were so good together during our intense love affair last year, even if things eventually fizzled after a few heady months. For the life of me I can't remember why we split up in the first place.
We've fallen straight back into our old routine: killing monsters in compact arenas with a diverse selection of spells and abilities. Soul Sacrifice condenses the monster hunting gameplay of... well, Monster Hunter... into a more straightforward and muscular format, with pick-up-and-play brawls against hordes of demonic fiends and enormous bosses; each boasting their own unique attacks, themes and tragic backstories. It's a compelling mix of twitchy hack & slash action with a focus on ranged spells and summons, constantly challenging players to make tough choices in the heat of battle as foes press the advantage.
Do you sacrifice an enemy to gain more spell power? Do you sacrifice your own skin for more damage? Will you sacrifice your friends to win a tough engagement? The core remains the same mix of punishment and progression, constantly evolving your playstyle, tweaking builds, crushing through a wealth of content and eventually becoming powerful enough to beat the final adversary, and we get along just as well as when when Brendan reviewed it last May.
Seriously, though, why did we split up? It must have been important. I'm sure it'll come to me as I lie in this filthy maggot-encrusted cage.
There's no easy way to put this: Soul Sacrifice Delta has put on a lot of weight since we last met... but damn -- "day-ummm" -- wears it really well. The Delta Edition includes a massive new story arc, new character-specific story missions, a faction system (underpinned by the mysterious new "Grimm" sorcerors) and even a new way of sacrificing enemies: Fate, which essentially flips a coin between saving souls and murdering fallen foes for unique benefits. Loads of new demonic fiends and the DLC-exclusive monsters have all been added into the retooled campaign, adding countless hours of new content and battles that feel totally fresh and exciting.
A brand new shop brings fleshed-out cosmetic customisation, alongside dozens of new skills and summons to wield. As such, Soul Sacrifice is deeper and more complex than I remember, drawing me back in and making me forget why we ever parted.
New players can enjoy this massively expanded content offering in one seamless whole and face the entire storyline from scratch. Magusar, an evil sorceror, has turned the world into a blighted wasteland in which people are caged to sate his lust for blood and sacrifice. We assume the role of a nameless prisoner awaiting his fate in a grimy cell, but a mysterious skin-clad book gradually reveals the grim truth behind the situation and dark secrets within its smudged pages that eventually uncovers a potential way out... and perhaps even a way to put everything right. It's a darkly delicious and po-faced tale, if a fascinating one.
However, old flames like me can just import a save file, cleverly rejoining a campaign in progress with a smart retcon that lets us get straight to the new stuff (a seemingly small yet important and branching diversion involving different factions and great new characters) without breaking the plot or retreading old ground. We even get to keep all our spells - and pick up our relationship right where we left off.
I still can't recall why we ever broke up. I mean, there's the cage... no, it can't be the cage. Please don't put me back in the cage. Surely there's another reason?
Soul Sacrifice is still rather fussy and obtuse, that much is true. A lot of important features and functionality is buried behind mountains of obfuscation -- gosh, but how my darling loves jargon -- not to mention exceptionally poorly-designed menus that make even the simplest things an utter faff. These are just quirks, though, nowhere near enough to end a passionate affair. Practice makes perfect, and you'll spend plenty of time in the cage practising alongside the skulls and charnel.
Some of my friends did call Soul Sacrifice "grindy" back in the day, but that wasn't entirely fair. Soul Sacrifice Delta is just focused on doing one thing very well -- killing monsters -- and it's perfectly designed for a handheld format despite the repetitive nature of the gameplay. If you've got a little spare time, you can leap straight into a fight that suits your mood, and better yet it gets along very well with all my mates. Multiplayer is better than ever, forcing you to work together and occasionally murder each other to survive the rebalanced encounters, coming out with unique rewards and making friends (if not terrible enemies) in the process. Delta even includes an infinite dungeon to pillage through in quadruple dates, so long as you're tough enough. It's all there: instantly accessible as you languish on the cold steel floor of that horrible, festering cage.
Oh no. Now I remember why we split up. It's that damn cage. Or to put it another way: Soul Sacrifice Delta still has a horrible personality.
Instead of a hub town full of interesting quirky people to talk to, Soul Sacrifice makes you spend all of your downtime in a disgusting filth-ridden cage with only maggots and a verbally-abusive book for company. It's just a horrible place to be, nasty, small, vomitous and deeply dull, making the entire experience feel more repetitive and monotonous as a result. Worse, though, the whole thing takes itself far too seriously, refusing to have any fun or lighten the mood from time to time with a poorly-acted story that eventually turns into a grinding, depressing slog -- all "muuuurder" this and "woe" that -- sucking the enjoyment out of the experience as it does so.
If Monster Hunter is the life of the party, Soul Sacrifice didn't even turn up. It sits in a darkened room listening to Radiohead and Rob Dougan, writing passive-aggressive status updates about how badly everything sucks while wondering why its friends stopped calling. Even I stopped calling after a few months. I wanted to hang out, I really did, but just couldn't stick around with a game that didn't ever want to have fun.
But things are different now. Soul Sacrifice Delta is bigger and deeper, still deeply pretty for a Vita game too, and does its best to make me want to keep murdering demons on the train or sprawled in front of the telly. The new content has more personality and verve, meaning that I just can't resist coming back.
This time, I think we're going to go the distance.
- Unique arena combat with huge bosses and nifty 'sacrifice' mechanics
- Massively expanded story and content, faction system and loads of new monsters
- Great multiplayer and compelling persistent progression
- Woefully drab hub area and nasty personality refuses to have fun (make your own with friends!)
- Fussy menus and mountains of jargon
- Repetitive by design
The Short Version: Soul Sacrifice Delta adds an extraordinary amount of brand new content and smart new tweaks to the handheld monster hunting experience, making it a massive time sink with a huge campaign and fantastic multiplayer. If you can put up with its morose and deeply depressing personality, you might find a new Soul Mate here.