Soul Sacrifice is not Monster Hunter. If there is one thing I learned from my hands on with the recent code, that's it. I'd be hard pressed to say what Soul Sacrifice actually is, but then that's the beauty of it. Souls Sacrifice is something different, it's a little unusual and could be well worth your time.
It's not often that you come across a game where the main story stems from an evil talking book, but that's what we have here. You first meet this book shortly after watching a human being ripped to shreds by an evil sorcerer, although just before his untimely demise he mutters something about being so close to mastering the secrets. Now your character must also try master it's secrets, otherwise he'll succumb to the same blood filled fate as the now shredded human.
As well as providing the main source of the story, the evil book is also your game hub. Early in the preview I was taken through a few pages of the book, reliving the stories it had to tell by entering its pages and taking on all manner of beasts. Later the book opens up more, allowing you more scope to explore its pages and even re-write them in some respects. It certainly is an interesting concept and when reading the chapters, one that nearly always results in a fight.
Throughout the action you'll meet up with all manner of sorcerers, beasts and demons, each of which pose a considerable threat. Luckily you have plenty of ways to take them out, be it through close or ranged combat. Your main ability to take the enemy out comes in the way of magic. These magical abilities are mapped to a palette represented by the three face buttons: triangle, square and circle. Before going into battle you are given the chance to choose the abilities you would like to take with you, allowing you to customise the aforementioned palette with six abilities, three of which are switched between by using the right shoulder button.
The magic on offer certainly seems to offer up some pretty impressive effects, such as long range 'gun fire' style attacks; the ability to turn your arm into a large hammer or even the choice of firing ice at the enemies. There are literally hundreds of spells on offer, and if that's not enough you can even pick up additional, temporary 'time limited spells' from felled enemies.
Away from the magic, upon killing an enemy you are greeted with a save or sacrifice option. Depending on your choice, you'll fill a meter which will then rank you up through the levels. Based on my limited time with the game it was quite hard to understand what effect this will have other than a few minor stat boosts, however I've no doubt that this would become clearer later in the game.
Soul Sacrifice does seem to provide some pretty deep RPG elements, with you being able to boost your magic and even unlock new abilities. Although I wasn't able to test co-op, apparently you'll also be encouraged to pick spells to compliment those of your partner, allowing you to unleash even more brutal attacks on the enemy, and believe me when I say that the spells are brutal. During co-op you can even sacrifice yourself should you be killed which allows you to help teammates take down stronger enemies; in fact at one point I was accompanied by a NPC character and did see this option, although I opted to be healed, showing how willing I was to continue the fight.
Graphically Soul Sacrifice feels a little basic to me, although perhaps this just fits in with its nature. The battles and enemies are all quite impressive, it's just the environments feel like they could do with a little more love. This isn't really that big a deal, because it's the action that counts and Soul Sacrifice seems to have it by the bucketload.
Soul Sacrifice arrives next month and I can't wait. It's the type of unusual fight fest that the Vita has been crying out for. It's no Monster Hunter but if it does for Vita what Capcom's title did for PSP then it's going to be something special indeed.