“From the studio that brought you Master Reboot comes a first-person story-driven adventure puzzle game, set in the beautiful, haunting cyber-world of Elysia. Collect unique hand powers, discover multiple endings and choose your own destiny as you unravel the mystery of your digital afterlife.
Explore Soul Axiom’s rich environments and immersive story to unravel the mystery of your life, and your digital afterlife. You will be taken on an intriguing voyage of discovery, through beautiful, haunting locations, facing challenges that will lead you into danger on your mission to unlock your identity, your story, your mystery. But beware: some mysteries are better left unsolved.”
– The Soul Axiom Steam page (http://store.steampowered.com/app/279900/)
– The clever premise of the game –
Whilst modern video games explore a ton of different themes and feature an assortment of bizarre yet brilliant premises, there was something about Soul Axiom that felt particularly unique.
The game takes place in a future where upon death a person’s soul can be uploaded into a virtual reality environment known as Elysia. In Elysia, that soul’s memories and dreams become a reality, allowing any living user to enjoy the memories left behind by the departed. In Soul Axiom you take on the role of a new inhabitant of Elysia but, of course, things have somehow taken a turn for the worst and it’s up to you to fix the problems and solve the melancholic mysteries left behind by four unfortunate souls.
It’s a great premise and it’s full of mystery and intrigue. The game isn’t really forthcoming with detail (something that becomes a bit of an issue but more on that later) but it certainly offered something unique that I hadn’t seen in a video game before.
– A great variety of environments to explore –
Whilst there’s no denying that the visuals of Soul Axiom aren’t particularly great, the game does make up for it by offering a plethora of different environments to explore that each bring something new for you to uncover.
Given the dream-like nature of Elysia, there’s absolutely no restrictions to the locations you can visit in-game. The main hub area lives up to the ‘virtual reality’ premise of Elysia though with Tron-like bright neon lights and futuristic looking structures and objects. The game’s not restricted to cyber themed environments though with plenty of unique settings showing up throughout your adventure. You’ll venture through the likes of military bases, a space station, a castle, derelict ruins, a neon-lit flying pirate ship – there’s plenty of majestic sights to see in the game, even if they aren’t always graphically impressive.
There’s a great atmosphere to be found in Soul Axiom though, with the game feeling pretty haunting at times. Of course, this is helped by the occasional jump scare that the game likes to throw at you – Soul Axiom features an assortment of creepy figures that’ll try to freak you out. It doesn’t feel cheap though and it would certainly catch me by surprise.
On a downside, I did find the game to be a little too dark at times. I mean that literally too – developers Wales Interactive really need to bring some lighting into some of the game’s areas. I don’t know if it was just a means to hide some of the shoddier textures of the game, but there were times when it was frustrating that I couldn’t really see what was in my surroundings without upping the brightness of my TV.
– Competent puzzling –
The main bulk of Soul Axiom is spent solving puzzles and thankfully for the most part they’re enjoyable little enigmas. They’re typically based around one of three powers that you can unlock in-game – a power that lets you bring things in and out of existence, a power that lets you pause and manipulate objects in motion, and a power that lets you shoot out fireballs.
Each puzzle will typically require the use of one of these powers, though the game holds your hand a little too much at times. Each important piece of the puzzle will glow in the same colour that represents the power you need to use to solve it. It’ll certainly be off-putting to those who want to be able to discover everything themselves with no help from the game, whilst on the other hand it saves you from wasting time experimenting with each power until you find out what exactly you need to do.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t be resorting to trial and error in order to solve some of the puzzles in the game. Every so often you’ll come across a puzzle that feels so obtuse that you’ll simply try everything until you solve it as opposed to actually working out the solution yourself. It’s a little frustrating, but given how pointlessly convoluted some of the game’s puzzles are you’ll feel like you have no choice – it’s certainly not a satisfying way to progress through a puzzle game though.
To the game’s credit not all of the puzzles will leave you frustrated and there are actually a few real gems to be found. They’re not as consistent as the perplexities found in the likes of The Talos Principle or Portal, but there’s certainly plenty to enjoy here for puzzle fans.
– A good amount of content –
Soul Axiom certainly isn’t lacking in regards to content – there’s an absolute ton of puzzles to work through, plus multiple endings that justify repeated playthroughs. It’ll take around twelve to fifteen hours to work through the game on your first attempt, though that time could greatly vary depending on how much success you have solving the game’s puzzles. There’s plenty of collectibles to be found in-game too that give more details about the game’s story and characters.
– It takes too long to really engage with the story and get the pay-off –
Soul Axiom attempts to keep you intrigued with its mysterious tones and by keeping details sparse until the backend of the game, but it ended up leaving me feeling detached from the whole narrative. You’re only given snippets of details and cutscenes even cut off randomly, prompting you to progress further through the game before you can see exactly how events unfold.
It’s a real shame, especially given how intriguing the premise of the game is. As you progress further through the game you’ll start to understand the story more, and to the Soul Axiom’s credit it can hook you in by the end, but the fact that the game leaves you disconnected for so long left a sour taste in the mouth.
– Trouble with the frame rate and load times –
I doubt it’s the same case on PC, but the Xbox One version of Soul Axiom suffers from a very jittery frame rate. Whilst it managed to maintain a steady 30fps at times, sometimes it could drop so low that the distortion on screen was abundantly clear. It never hits unplayable lows, but it’s certainly noticeable and could be pretty off-putting at times.
Loading times can be a pain too – the game doesn’t seem like a demanding experience that require so many long loading times, yet you’ll find that you spend a lot of time staring at the ‘Elysia’ logo waiting for the game’s next scene to load.
Soul Axiom certainly has a lot to offer with its intriguing premise, enjoyable puzzling and wide variety of environments to explore – it just lets itself down with a severe lack of polish. The narrative feels disconnected and fails to engage you, the graphics are sub-par whilst there’s also the occasional puzzle that will frustrate the player rather than perplex them.
It’s certainly not all bad and puzzle fans will certainly find something to enjoy within Soul Axiom, it’s just a shame that the game’s negatives points are so glaringly obvious that you won’t be able to ignore them.
Developer: Wales Interactive (www.walesinteractive.com)
Publisher: Wales Interactive (www.walesinteractive.com)
Release Date: 8/06/2016 (Xbox One)
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), Playstation 4, PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Wii U (Coming soon)