CultureReview

To Sacrifice or to Save

By Alex Curthew-Sanders

The PS Vita was a tragic hero of a console, but there’s one game that really brings the hero into the limelight.

If there’s one console that seems to have gone under the radar, it’s the Playstation Vita. Technically, Sony’s latest handheld device that was released back in 2012. When Sony released the Playstation Portable (PSP), it was a huge success. With almost 90 million units sold, it certainly showed Nintendo that they had competition down in the handheld department. The PS Vita was supposed to be the successor to the PSP, boasting all sorts of new gizmos and much needed improvements. Some of which included the addition of an analogue stick, a superior OLED screen, and a far more powerful CPU in general. Allowing it to run more graphically complex games than the PSP could, and people were excited. So, what happened? Well, it all comes down to the cost, ultimately. With it being, at times, upwards of £300 for a handheld, you have to ask yourself, “why not just buy a PS4 instead?”. Being a Sony console, it naturally got a hold of some exclusivity deals, and there was one particular game that stood out from the rest. Soul Sacrifice.

Librom staring into your soul. Owned by Sony.

Soul Sacrifice, like its namesake, is built around this idea of magic always coming at a cost. So much so, that all the spells in the game are actually referred to as ‘offerings’. A premise which is intrinsically built into the fibre of the game’s mechanics. So, what is it all about then? You begin the game trapped in a cage, with no knowledge of how you got there, where you are, or even who you are. Trapped in the cage with you is a sentient book, one that serves, quite creatively, as the main menu area for the game. The book informs you that the world has basically ended and it’s all because of your once friend, Magusar. It is then that you begin to read the book, Librom, to unveil your past memories and eventually take Magusar down in the real world. Librom isn’t just a glorified menu though, there are many fun little interactions you can have with him in the cell. For example, using the touchscreen you can flick him around and he’ll scold you for it. A minor detail, but it’s minor details that show how much developers care about their games.

The game itself has you go through your past memories and uncover the truth of what happened to you and Magusar. The main story beats of the game are presented through lovingly crafted and beautifully voice acted audio book style presentations, with occasional illustrations within the book itself. It’s a very refreshing way of telling a story, and one that fits in with the game’s tone perfectly. It all revolves around sorcerers. Sorcerers, in this world, are categorised by their right arms, from which they use to cast their various offerings. The right arm often taking on a different appearance depending on the disposition of the caster.

Two sorcerers making their way through a crowd. Notice the signature right arm. Owned by Sony.

The practise of sorcery is presented as an incredibly dangerous venture, and not because of the physical dangers. The psychological effects of casting these offerings are explored quite deeply throughout the story, with many of the characters getting drunk on power and going insane because of it. The game’s enemies reflect this mantra too. All of which were once regular, but deeply flawed individuals that decided to sacrifice parts of themselves to fulfil their deepest desires. One of which involved a masochistic knight cutting off his own head and then using it as a club to beat you with! You fight these enemies with offerings of your own, such as empowering your arm into a huge club or drawing a sword from your body. You then have these “black rites”, that are essentially ultimate attacks. By sacrificing a pivotal part of your body, such as your skin, you can deal an immense amount of damage or provide a game-changing boon.

But where the game really shines is in its choice. Whenever you defeat any enemy, you have the opportunity to either sacrifice them or save them. Both options being indicated nicely on the screen by both your hands. Sacrificing grants your more power, thus you will deal more damage to your foes whilst saving them fortifies your defence and recovery prowess.

An example of the choice you have to make after defeating your foes. Owned by Co-optimus on Youtube.

The more you lean to one side or the other, the more your appearance will change. Taking on a more demonic form the more you sacrifice or a more angelic form the more you save. Not to mention that by saving your foes they can serve as your allies in combat as well. It presents what is essentially “levelling up your character” in a very unique way that fits right into the game’s established world.

There are so many things that this game gets right, so much so that I would go as far as to say this ranks up there with the other Playstation greats such as God of War. It’s just a shame its overall potential was limited by Sony’s greed.

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