Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4/5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
With several different kinds of Metroidvanias out there, it is difficult for a game to come out and raise the bar. We have seen great ones like Dead Cells, Hollow Knight, and Castlevania that has a place in the genre’s history. However, it has been a while to find the next big thing. Look no further. Retro Forge released a new game called Souldiers, and I have to say, this is the kind of game that Metroidvania fans need right now.
Souldiers tells the story of an army battalion getting trapped and is about to experience a slow, painful death. When out of nowhere, a valkyrie appears and provides the leader of the group a choice. Either stay there and perish or get transported to the world of Terragaya and fight for them. Option B is the way to go. This is where the adventure begins. What makes Souldiers even more interesting is that you would expect to play the hero or the main character in the story. Not in this game! Souldiers makes you choose from 3 generic job classes. You can choose between a scout, an archer, or a mage. Your character is nameless, and you have been appointed the task of exploring the new world. My initial playthrough of the game was with the scout. However, each class has positives and negatives. Scouts are great if you love to fight close-up and defend against attacks with a shield but are weak on the magic side of things. Archers have significant ranged attacks and are the only class that can attack upwards. Their downside is that it takes time to reload when they run out of ammo. Mage has the lowest stamina and health, but they can do high amounts of burst damage.
The world of Terragaya is not a forgiving place. There is an incredibly diverse amount of monsters in this game that can easily take you out if you are not prepared. Thankfully, Souldiers has you covered. In the game’s natural progression, you level your character up, defeating your foes. When you clear enough mobs, you level up and earn mastery points. Using your mastery points unlocks unique talents in a specific talent tree for your chosen job class. I strongly advise experimenting on what complements your play style best.
Dear Villagers did an excellent job on the controls in Souldiers. The placements where you need to change your style to clear a puzzle feels flawless. When using the right-analog stick on a controller, the game utilizes shortcuts to use critical items that you may need immediately to pull out without going into the menu options. This makes the game flow less interrupted, keeping you in further immersion. I loved how simple it was to move my right analog to a particular direction, use the essential item I needed at the time, and then convert back to my normal mode without pausing. Small details like this goes a long way to make a good gaming experience into an incredible one.
The 16-bit pixel art style that Souldiers provides is hands down some of the best I have seen in a long time. The chibi-like style of the characters fits the storytelling of the game. The art style is not the only thing to praise in Souldiers. The amount of animation detail alone in this game is incredible. You usually see an idle animation for your character alone in games like this, but in Souldiers, they take it to another level. There is background animation of critters like spiders, armadillos, and more that is not just a background. If the player keeps a close eye on what they are doing, these background animations can lead you to secret areas of the game! There were multiple times in my playthrough when I was utterly stunned that there was more to explore. These subtle, simple animations like opening up the map menu, the death of a mob or a character, and even taking out crates and vases are streamless in the game.
Do not sleep on the music score in Souldiers as well. Composer Will Savino made incredible stage pieces throughout the journey of this game. Some of my favorite parts are music naturally transitions and morphs slightly to become a new sound and banging beat. An excellent example of this is when you explore a cave that already has a murkiness mood. Then all of a sudden, you hit an area that has no light. Savino transforms the stage piece depicting your dark situation flawlessly with muffled, ambient beats.
Overall, Souldiers is an incredible game and is something to check out. From the time of this review, I have clocked 15 hours of the fun, and still, I am continuing to find many new experiences in the game. For only twenty dollars, you get a complete experience from beginning to end and replayability. Souldiers has raised the bar when it comes to the metroidvania genre. I am looking forward to seeing where these games will go in the future.
This game is incredible. For only $20, you get a complete gaming experience without microtransactions. Gameplay, Music, Story, Graphics... This game is the total package.