Friday, October 5

Review: Soulblight [Nintendo Switch eShop]

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression and particularly in the indie space when you’re competing against an absolute avalanche of titles failing to excite in the first 30 minutes is crippling. To make matters worse, further failing to come together and impress an hour or two in pretty well means you’re done. While it’s clear that there was some attempt to make Soulblight into something impressive, there’s simply very little to feel good about while you scratch your head wondering what the developers were thinking.

Billed as an action roguelike the top-down graphics and generally uninspired and clunky combat get it off to a rocky start. There’s a grapple system, you can dash and shove, you’ll need to watch your stamina… and as a whole it simply isn’t exciting and doesn’t really make much sense. If you sneak around and are careful of the red zones representing your enemies line of sight you’ll be able to stealthily kill them in a completely unrewarding and bland manner. As you progress you’ll take on certain “taints” that will influence how you play but they’re not well-explained and, truthfully, I didn’t care about getting deep enough in the game to understand them fully. Without a way to understand the consequence, good or bad, of killing animals or even Lost Souls when the game would give me a small warning but the influence of doing that made no obvious difference I just stopped caring.

For the most part while what elements there are look decent they’re also pretty hard to differentiate. Hulking blobs for you to attack have mild variations but are otherwise almost completely generic. Your appearance will show some variance based on your equipment, but not much. Initially I had a terrible time telling what “things” in the environments I could search, and the act of searching is then unnecessarily cumbersome. When you go through the transitions between areas the screen has a tendency to rotate in a way that makes me mildly motion sick. Even though most of the visuals aren’t that impressive the game still stutters and pauses periodically. Buying things at the often weirdly abundant shop stalls seems to be driven by a weird barter system of sorts for some reason. There are spots where you can transmutate components but the mechanics of it aren’t ever really explained.

If it seems like this is nothing but a laundry list of complaints that’s a fair criticism but I’m not sure how else to convey my frustration with this title. I love roguelikes and have played quite a number of different takes on the formula over the years. Sometimes things gel and work well, sometimes they don’t, but in the case of Soulblight it’s just such a fundamental mess and never truly changes enough per run that the distinction matters. This is absolutely a game that needed more time in development and a few brutally honest passes through playtesting and QA, and I absolutely cannot recommend it based on its myriad issues.

Score: 3

  • It’s obvious someone had fun with some animations in the transitions, though the camera rotation flourish made me a bit queasy

  • Combat is uninteresting
  • There are way too many elements that aren’t adequately explained
  • Interfaces like the shop or even searching a chest are needlessly cumbersome
  • The top-down style makes many elements visually ambiguous