When it comes to fighting games, and despite Dragon Ball FighterZ’s brief step in the proverbial spotlight, Tekken 7 arguably takes to the throne this gen. There’s been some pretty decent additions overall, but for the most part, many fighters have come, had their time, and sod off. Soulcalibur VI’s core design is one that’s been structured to stand firm for a while yet to come, and despite a few elements here and there that lack refinement, I have every faith that this will please not only fans of the series, but wider fans of the genre.
Soulcalibur VI comes with a total of two story modes; Soul Chronicle and Libra of Souls. The former takes players to the series’ origins and is set within the 16th century. Here, you’re presented with a sprawling timeline in which the game’s impressive roster of characters bob and weave through it. You can indeed play these character stories individually and in whatever order you like as you work through the overall lore-heavy plot. To the game’s credit, the story is pretty vast and, when it wants to be, fairly interesting from time to time.
The plot is relayed to you through a series of short cutscenes and narrated imagery. Perhaps a given, the voice acting is a bit hit and miss, as is the writing. Though in fairness, the story of any Soulcalibur has always been a little hard to follow. Nevertheless, you’ll take on the role of your selected character, battle against a range of known fighters, new contenders and generic combatants, move the story along, and then rinse and repeat. It’s the most traditional mode of the two and does well with what its pacing, its design and its mechanics.
Libra of Souls, on the other hand, allows you to create your own custom character from a fairly deep pool of options, set their fighting style, and then take to the mode’s story. The biggest difference between Libra of Souls and Soul Chronicle is that Libra of Souls is set on a decently sized world map, has some RPG elements to it, and the freedom to explore the map as you see fit. It does fall somewhat inline with the events and the era of Soul Chronicle, but for the majority of play, you’re loosely in control of your character’s fate.
Beginning out, you’re given a linear path to follow that encompasses the standard; defeat your opponent and move onto the next. What makes Libra of Souls stand out is its surprising depth. Before long, you’ll have access to a shop that you can use to purchase goods in exchange for currency earned from fights. There’s two variations of currency within, Gold and Soul Points. Gold is exclusive to Libra of Souls, whereas Soul Points are universal and can be used to unlock brand new features in the game’s Museum.
The game does allow you to exchange currency from one to the other, which is useful when you’re looking to unlock the vast features from the aforementioned Museum mode. In any case, once you’re roughly an hour through Libra of Souls, the mode truly starts to open up. You’re afforded the option to explore along the main route of your story, allowing you to tackle side-quests and seek out stronger weaponry in an attempt to make your character more capable. The catch? Travelling from your point of origin will cost you some Gold.
The further you want to travel, the more Gold it will cost to get your carriage there. On top of that, you can be attacked by bandits along your way off the beaten path. If you win, you’ll gain some XP and goodies, however if you lose, you’ll kiss goodbye to your expedition and any Gold that it took to get you that far, as well as being returned to your starting point. To help you out, you can take advantage of the game’s mercenaries; NPCs that will help you in a pinch by fighting in your stead for one mission. It’s a relatively simple system to digest.
Naturally, Libra of Souls has more meat on its bones than that of Soul Chronicle. I’ve had an absolute blast bulking up my character’s level, weaponry and stats, collectively making my character more capable and resilient. There are times in which expeditions are necessary to grind your way up to being on-par with your story’s next opponent, but mercifully, the grind is fairly light and doesn’t deviate too much. Before each battle starts, you’re given a low-down of your opposition’s output, giving you an idea as to how well matched you are.
The inclusion of the food system helps to alleviate some of the difficulties found in this mode, such as granting you additional attack power or a reduction in how much you need to fill your gauge to utilize your special attacks. There’s more to this mode than meets the eye, offering several hours worth of content to soak up and enjoy before you hit the end game. It’s worth noting that your character in this mode cannot be used online. There’s a separate character creation for that, and although quite similar by design, you cant reinforce them.
In regards to the actual gameplay, Soulcalibur VI gets a big thumbs from me. The game remains quite accessible thanks to its fluid feedback together with its simple to understand systems. Each character from the sizable roster comes equipped with their own techniques, weaponry and moves. Combat is as precise as you could hope for it be, but rather than presenting a button-mash fighter, Soulcalibur VI is more grounded and somewhat tactical. The new Reversal Edge system is a prime example of that and functions remarkably well.
Think of Reversal Edge as a blocking stance that you’re able to utilize infrequently. If you’re attacked in this stance, both you and your foe will move in slow-motion. Here, the one to land the actual blow will be determined by what move is used. It throws a strategic layer into the fields of play that’s not too dissimilar to the likes of For Honor’s parrying and counterattack foundation. If anything, this is a welcoming addition for newcomers – being that it can often turn the tides of a battle when said fight isn’t going in your favor.
Timing is key in any fight in Soulcalibur VI. Guard Impacts will once again afford you a free dig and evasion if you time it right, whereas Break Attacks will nullify both this and Reversal Edge. Critical Edge is much like Street Fighter’s Supers, being that once you fill up your meter, you can unleash a special attack that will usually drain quite a significant portion of your foe’s health. Soul Charge takes from the same meter and allows the player to utilize additional attacks with more damage out during this state; each varying fighter to fighter.
As expected, Soulcalibur VI caters for 8-way movement, meaning that your character can move around your opposition at the flick of a thumbstick – handy for swiftly avoiding attacks and getting the upper hand. When all is said and done, Soulcalibur VI works wonders, everything from its depth and its scale, right up to its healthy roster of characters and its precise combat. There’s a few characters that feel somewhat OP, such as Geralt and Nightmare, but for the most part, there’s a decent balance throughout the entirety of play.
As alluded to above, each character feels different and brings their own unique personality, move-sets, and weaponry of varying sizes to the fields of play, further amplifying the game’s strategic backbone. It’s not always about strength or speed, but distance. To succeed in this game, you’ll need to ensure you’re familiar with the range of your weaponry, and then how to use that to your. Brute force alone just wont cut it nine times out of ten, Soulcalibur VI simply hasn’t been designed that way, it’s a much more involved fighter than expected.
When you’re done with both Soul Chronicle and Libra of Souls, there’s still plenty of content to work through and unlock. The game’s Museum is packed with features that will take hordes of Soul Points to unlock, in which there’s a great deal of extras to browse through and enjoy. Network allows you to take on global players through ranked and casual match types, whereas Battle grants you the ability to play in versus, arcade and training modes. Safe to say, there’s enough packed within Soulcalibur VI to keep you busy for hours on end.
On the visual front, Soulcalibur VI looks great. There’s a good variation of well detailed and decently themed environments to take to, and although some of the character models look a little bit devoid of life, there’s no denying that the game is a treat to behold. I’ll extend the same appreciation to the game’s effects during combat, dishing up some action-packed stunning sequences from start to finish. This is further upheld by the game’s audio cues and its soundtrack, which go like peas in a pod to compliment the overall feel and mood.
Soulcalibur VI offers a surprisingly deep game with some robust systems laying on its impressive foundation. Here, strategy and timing is equal to brute force, making for a fighter that’s tactical, fluid, and engrossing. The game’s two lore-heavy story modes, although convoluted, serve up a great deal of content on top of the game’s PvP sections, with no shortage of additional extras to unlock elsewhere.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.