Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Injustice, Street Fighter… these games pit fighters against each other to duke it out with super human strength, super powers, grappling, and brutal, bone-shatter finishers. The players punch in and time combos so their fighters can pummel each other into a pulp until there stands only one.
Soulcalibur (including the very first arcade iteration, Soul Edge) marched to a slightly different war-drum; it is classified as a weapon-based fighter. Instead of fists, the players assume control of fighters who specialize in unique weapons; Nightmare and his enormous zweihander, Kilik with his bowstaff, Sophitia with her shield and short sword, Maxi with his nunchucks and so on. But, that’s common knowledge among the fighting-game community.
Soulcalibur 6 continues to keep life in this beloved and unique fighter after a six year hiatus. Instead of a direct sequel to Soulcalibur 5, however, 6 is technically a (soft) reboot lore-wise. This release comes just in time to mark the 20th anniversary for this soul-rending franchise. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
STORY/SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT
What I’ve always loved about the Soulcalibur lore is the fact that this particular fantastical universe takes place in our own world, throughout Europe, including France, Greece, and in a huge part of lore, Germany, extending through India, to Asian countries, such as China and Japan. Each of the countries have been symbolized by signature weapons wielded by representatives; Siegfried with the Zweihander from Germany, Raphael with a rapier from France, and Mitsurugi with the katana from Japan, to name a few. All of these fighters are connected in some way, as they are all connected through fate and the two Soul Blades.
Soulcalibur 6 has two single-player options with a lot of content to keep you busy for some time: Libra of Souls and Chronicle of the Soul.
In Libra of Souls, you make your own fighter and explore the world, making decisions that lean your character to chaotic or orderly, and hunting down the main antagonist in this mode, Azwel, who is bent on cleansing the human race and granting immortality at the cost of millions of lives.
As fun as this mode is with a bunch of different side-quests, upgrading weapons, grinding for weapon drops and leveling your character, this mode involves a lot of reading. This in and of itself is not a problem, however, it’s what you’re reading is the issue.
Yes, it’s a fighting game, but as of late, fighting game narratives and stories have actually been quite up to par. Unfortunately, that is not the case of Soulcalibur 6’s writing in this mode in particular. The dialogue is a mixture of juvenile and rudimentary, and the language used is oftentimes nothing short of laughable. I’ve constantly asked myself multiple times, “Does Project Soul think people actually talk like this?” Missed jokes, plain and dull wording, and odd pacing in the relationships between your character and Soulcalibur’s fighters all led to an experience that had me mashing the “X” button to skip through fluff dialogue when I understood the gist of the narrative at the time.
Although the writing in this mode is poor, the plot is actually kind of interesting (with a very special cameo, that’s close to my heart) and, mechanically is very fun. The game play loop is as follows: search around different landmarks, maybe get a random encounter, mash through the dialogue, fight, get XP, money and/or a weapon drop, upgrade your weapon, and MinMax your character.
For Soulcalibur lore fans, Chronicle of Souls is the single player narrative content you want to pay attention to. This game is a soft-reboot, so this mode gives veterans and newcomers a refresher/introduction to the origins of this series’ lore, and is told with voice acting dubbed over sketching artwork of the characters talking. Personally, with the very, very sparse use of cinematic cut scenes, it feels like the exposition and narrative was low in priority in development. The voice acting is just average, but a redeeming quality of this is that Project Soul got voice actor Doug Cockle to reprise his role as Geralt of Rivia in Soulcalibur 6, and he simply crushes his role (again).
However, this “campaign” isn’t a “play once through and you’re done.” No, a very interesting and cool thing Project Soul does is show you a timeline as to when things are happening during the origin events of Soulcalibur with respect to every character’s experience in that time. Let me explain…
You have a main story line that follows Kilik, Maxi and Xiangua on their pursuit of the Soul Edge and showdown with the big baddie (Gee, I’ll give you one guess as to who that may be…) This story is obviously followed from beginning to end of the timeline and is depicted on the screen. You can see this in the red at the top.
Below, you see each character and their experiences during the time of these main events. You can play through each of their perspectives and see how they are connected to the fateful Soul Blades. You can even see when, chronologically, their experiences occurred. To me, a lore junkie, this is extremely helpful, as it is oftentimes difficult for me to picture and get a grasp as to when things happened, and the passage of time, in video game narratives.
Bonus: you can even see how a certain Witcher is connected to the events of Soulcalibur.
This is pretty straight forward. You have an unranked playlist and a ranked playlist. Both of which what you’d expect; being matched up to a player that is best suited to fight you. Win or lose, you gain XP to rank up or down, gain titles, quotes, etc. However, for an online fighting game, connection and latency is hugely important. Project Soul accounts for this by giving you the option to filter your matchmaking criteria. I opted to find the best connection (it was called “4+ bars”) in my region. The matches I fought hiccuped once in a while, but ran very, very smoothly; very little latency and snappy reaction times from button input to execution on the screen.
I’m going to cut to the chase; it is more Soulcalibur for those who have been craving to relieve that itch for six years. That being said, it is simply the greatest release in the franchise since Soulcalibur 2. With the introduction of “Lethal Hits” (strikes that simply have the opportunity to send your opponent flying), “Reversal Edges”, and the return of “Soul Charges”, the fighting mechanics have both broadened and deepened since 4 and 5.
Naturally, I chose Nightmare and Geralt (who, by the way, is the most natural guest character to fit in the Soulcalibur universe since Link in the Gamecube version of Soulcalibur) to test out the important muscle of this game; the actual fighting. The moveset for Nightmare seemed slightly shortened since prior entries, as a handful of moves I’m used to, are locked behind Nightmare being Soul Charged. Speaking of Soul Charge, if you have your meter filled up, you can pull right trigger and unleash a critical attack (called a Critical Edge) for an awesome cinematic and major damage. This can be seen in a lot of fighters, as of late. These Critical Edges are similar to Mortal Kombat’s “X-Ray Moves” or Street Fighter 5’s “Critical Art Attacks”, with the same mechanic and outcome.
There has been some criticism by Soulcalibur fans that Critical Edge is easy and dulls the combat into a “one-button easy-combo”. After my experience online in ranked matches, I can say that it doesn’t feel like this, as the move can be dodged or blocked and needs to be fully charged in the first place. If missed, you are left vulnerable for a potentially lethal combo.
Reversal edges is a counter move where your fighter takes a guard-stance, awaits a strike from the opponent, and then unleashes a “Rock-Paper-Scissors” natured engagement, where you input a horizontal, vertical, or kick attack or a guard or a direction in which to step out of the way of a strike. The winner obviously wins the engagement and strikes the opponent for damage and an upper hand. This, like Critical Edge, seemed to be a point of contingency in the community. But again, this seems like a risk-reward situation, as it is slow, takes your momentum to a halt, and leaves you vulnerable.
That all being said, a glaring issue for those who want to learn from their mistakes and loses, is the replay system. Yes, you have access to replays from your online matches and only your online matches. That isn’t a problem, but when you do watch your replay, you can’t rewind, fast-forward or even freeze-frame the match you’re watching. This could pose as an issue for fighting game enthusiasts.
Aside from the poor dialogue writing, bad voice-acting, and seemingly-lazy campaign animation, this is an incredible weapon-based fighting game. It has to be one of my favorite Soulcalibur entries in the franchise. Snappy animations and response time, complex fighting mechanics, and a refresher on the fun lore of Soulcalibur are what drives this game home, for me.
- Good fighting mechanics
- New fighting mechanisms
- Geralt of Rivia as a guest character
- Loads of single player content
- Franchise origin story
- A flexible and fun character creation mode
- Best Soulcalibur since Soulcalibur 2
- English voice acting
- Lack of campaign cut scenes
- Poor dialogue writing
- Combat disrupting Reversal Edge
- Graphics leave some to be desired
- An average soundtrack that left me very underwhelmed
All in all, this game is fantastic in all of the facets that matter but lacks compelling dialogue and voice-acting for a story that deserves better. This game deserves:
Soulcalibur 6 was released on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC on October 19, 2018.