If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect a whole lot from Souldiers. The visuals looked pretty and the gameplay looked fine in early footage, but I just expected another Metroidvania-style adventure that followed the tried-and-tested formula we’ve seen in so many other releases. And you know what? It offers just that. Souldiers doesn’t really do anything unique with its gameplay and will probably give a sense of familiarity to those who play it.
What it DOES do is bring a real sense of quality that helps it stand tall over similar titles in the genre. Whilst Souldiers won’t win any awards for innovation, it’s clear that a lot of care and attention went into forging a world that felt brilliant to explore and that was full of creative and challenging enemy encounters. It’s just a finely crafted adventure that’s a LOT of fun to play.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Souldiers tells the story of a kingdom named Zarga that finds itself engulfed in a war, with the player taking on the role of a member of its army. After seemingly meeting your death following a tactical mishap, you get a second chance thanks to a Valkyrie that flies in to save you. The catch? You have to venture through Terragaya, which brings with it some threatening monstrosities that pose a danger to both yourself and your homeland.
Players are immediately given the choice as to what sort of hero they want to be: a Scout, an Archer, or a Caster. Each brings their own pros and cons based around their individual stats and what style of play you prefer, whether that’s getting up close and personal as the Scout or battling from afar with the Archer or Caster. On the flip-side, the Scout is equipped with a shield that makes him more apt at defensive manoeuvres, which is ideal when you do fight up close; the Archer and Caster have to be more nimble and rely on their wits to evade attacks, so you’ve got to be careful if enemies do manage to break through your ranged assault.
I tried out all three characters and they’re all fun in their own little ways. My personal favourites were the Scout and Caster (it could be a little bit finicky getting the accuracy perfect with the Archer’s attacks), but honestly, it’ll all come down to your style of play. No matter who you choose, they all complement the wonderful world design and intense battling that Souldiers offers. There are also plenty of different situations in the game where having one class of character would be more beneficial than others, so you never know where you character choice may (or may not) work to your advantage…
“I’ll admit that it’s hard to say what Souldiers does differently to similar titles, but there’s this top-quality consistency to it all that just makes the game a real joy to play.”
Players will traverse across the game’s expansive 2D world, with plenty of room for exploration and to discover secrets as you navigate the environments. It’s got the typical Metroidvania-style hallmarks of design, though in a more direct manner that makes it easier to know where you need to go and with less obstacles in your path to get there. Thankfully, this more linear style of progress really complements the gameplay, with the set-pieces, puzzles, and battles against enemies perfectly designed to ensure your always kept on your toes when navigating the game’s challenging levels. There’s a wealth of enemies to face off against on your adventure, but Souldiers ensures players are well-equipped to deal with the threat (even if some classes are better at handling certain enemy types than others). Each battle just felt meaningful, and whilst some are easier than others, it always felt satisfying to overcome a foe.
One of the things that makes combat feel so good is the upgrades players can unlock, with their skillset enhanced as they progress through the game. It’s also possible to find additional weaponry to use, more powerful equipment to boost your stats and apply buffs, and even elemental orbs that give your attacks an element-based boost. Those elements can be a game-changer when it comes to some encounters, and whilst I wouldn’t say Souldiers is a super tough game, some of its more challenging battles will be easier to handle if your savvy with their use. With plenty of thrilling and cleverly crafted bosses to fight in the game, you’ll NEED that extra advantage.
There’s just something about Souldiers that makes it feel so finely crafted that I found it hard to put the controller down. Battles were more than button-bashing affairs but instead demanded timing and patience, the puzzles helped add variety when exploring the expansive dungeon environments, whilst upgrading my character and unlocking new abilities always felt like a genuine treat. I’ll admit that it’s hard to say what Souldiers does differently to similar titles, but there’s this top-quality consistency to it all that just makes the game a real joy to play. Whether exploring or battling, you’re going to have a lot of fun.
Check out some screenshots down below:
It helps that the game looks so wonderful, with some brilliant 16-bit pixel art on show that really helps bring the dangerous world to life. There are plenty of little details to be found with both the visuals and sound design that help emphasise the atmospheric presence of the game too, whether that’s seeing little things like creatures crawling throughout the dungeon, the lighting effects that offer solace in the more dimly lit locales, or the foreboding groans of monsters that are ahead of you. It just looks and sounds fantastic.
I’ve got plenty of praise for Souldiers and had a really good time playing it, though there were a few little sticking points for me. For one, some of the checkpoints felt a bit too far apart, especially since some enemy encounters can be especially dangerous at the first time of asking. It wasn’t such a problem when I played as the Scout because he could handle himself better when caught out by surprise, but the limited health of the Caster did leave me in PLENTY of situations where I’d have to die in order to learn. Add some lengthy loading times to the mix and it can make for some moments of frustration.
There were a few technical hitches in the early review build I played too which I was told would be fixed in a day one patch on the Nintendo Switch, though there was nothing TOO problematic. Sure, I had a few minor frame rate stutters here and there and I did have one crash, but there was nothing so bad that it felt game-breaking. Still, it is worth noting that the publisher made me aware beforehand, so there may be a few little hiccups when playing – hopefully, they’ve all been ironed out for launch, though.
Souldiers doesn’t do anything unique, but its fantastic world design, intense combat, and lovely 16-bit visuals ensure it’s a whole lot of fun to play. Sure, it does have some frustrations along the way and there *may* be some technical issues on console right now, but it doesn’t stop the game from being thoroughly entertaining and one of the more memorable 2D adventures that I’ve played.
Developer: Retro Forge
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC