Bandai Namco presents the latest in its weapons based fighting game series with SoulCalibur VI. The first new game in the series which started way back in 1995 (Soul Edge) and comes after SoulCalibur V in 2012. Fighting game fans should be familiar with the offering here against the likes of recent Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V games. SoulCalibur cemented itself as the definitive weapons based fighter despite competition early on from the likes of Battle Arena Toshinden. Now in 2018 and with its roster of 21 characters (22 if you include the DLC offer) how well does the game stack-up and more importantly is it worth a punt?
By today’s standards 21 characters doesn’t sound like much, however players can dive into the series favourite character customization mode to create new ones. Each standard character has a unique weapon which translates to a different style of play. For example Taki’s short blades offer quick strikes for up-close attacks. Siegfried on the other hand offers slow and powerful strikes at range with his huge sword. Players can attack using horizontal and vertical slices, a grab move and kick as standard across all characters. It’s the new stuff which changes the course of battle and is hard to avoid.
Critical Edge moves follow a standard theme in modern fighters where stored energy unleashed onto the opponent as a super-attack creates winning chances. These supers take large chunks off the enemy health-bar and essentially turn the tides of battle for losing players. Reversal Edge is somewhat divisive because it slows down the gameplay and creates a rock, paper, scissors type scenario. Whilst looking cool and cinematic it does interrupt the flow of fights. As an optional button press these trigger easily, however some characters automatically perform them during combo attacks. So not something avoidable unfortunately.
Stages with ring-outs make a return which provide heated moments and frustration in equal measure. Players punch, kick or juggle opponents out-of-bounds regardless of their remaining health for an instant K.O. which is cool. This feature places emphasis on the 3D movement, where players position themselves to avoid the trap here. Luckily not all stages feature ring-outs and require different tactics. As far as the fighting goes, it’s smooth, cinematic, enjoyable and tense as you expect. There are no faults here despite the new additions not appealing to all players.
In terms of modes, gamers can play against the AI in Arcade mode which comes with several difficulties to master. This is an 8 match time-attack with three rounds per stage. A versus option allows local players to square-up against each other or the AI with the addition of tailoring match parameters. A story mode follows the paths of each character complete with animated artwork, dialogue and fighting stages. Whilst a nice inclusion here, feels somewhat bare-bones in comparison to other games thanks to no CGI scenes or even those using the game engine. Libra of Souls fares better as a time-sink which allows players the chance to create their own character and travel the lands in a mini RPG experience. This option basically allows for various matches with less standard fight parameters. It’s a fun mode and fares better than the story offering in terms of overall depth.
Aside from training, and options to look at unlocked art or character profiles the biggest and one of the most fun inclusion is the character creation. Sadly, this is separated from the Libra of Souls mode. As a warning, spend hours making a character only to find you cannot import into the Libra of Souls. However, player creations make appearances in the other modes and even in online connected players games which is neat. Players can choose from a number of templates, customise by adding clothing parts, change colours and adjust body types. The options are comprehensive here although a lack of clothing items means using some imagination. Interestingly, it’s quite easy to recreate characters from other video games which comes as its own challenge.
Lastly, players who wish to prove their online prowess can compete against a wide variety of players across the globe. Again, a standard feature in modern fighting games. Whilst not for everyone it means competitive play is not far away for any player wishing to dive-in. As expected, online casual play or ranked matches present the best and worst of players. Expect, spam moves repeated characters and a steep learning curve to counter the variety of tactics opponents use. It’s all good fun though and works well here.
Visually, SoulCalibur VI looks good and plays smoothly as an optimised game. However, the visuals overall look dated in comparison to the likes of Namco’s other game Tekken 7 for example. The game looks great in 4K on PC presenting sharp visuals, but depth of field effects mask low-resolution texture detail. It’s a shame a modern coating isn’t applied to the characters. Still, in the thick of battle the details blur and it’s only during win-poses and character creation the focus occurs. Audio is fantastic though, providing an excellent selection of tunes to battle or create. Alongside the cries, quips or crashes of the sound effects and combatants it’s hard to find fault with the audio.
SoulCalibur VI comes as a welcome addition to the series despite some niggles. Overall, the package is grand and certainly appeals to fans of the franchise. It’s an accessible title for newcomers and generally heaps of fun to play across all its modes. Obviously, the lack of a bigger budget shows here, but what is provided is enough to charm like-minded players. That said, the creation mode whilst limited in comparison to previous offerings is the star of the show. It’s a game in itself to customise the default roster or make your own deranged or beautiful fighter. The fact players share creations online is a massive boon.