Pixel Art RPG “Soulvars” Offers Cool Visuals and Fast Gameplay! – PC/Steam Game Review

Soulvars game PC Xbox Nintendo Switch PS launch
Soulvars (Image: PR/gianolabo/Shueisha Games)

Soulvars is a pixel art RPG title with deckbuilding elements that offers some cool visuals, an engaging soundtrack, and fast battles. However, it isn’t without certain minor issues.

I was provided with a free digital code for Soulvars on PC/Steam for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.

A quick history lesson: for those who might not know, Soulvars debuted in the gaming market back in 2022 for mobile devices. After the game’s positive reception, solo developer ginolabo found support from Shueisha Games and now the RPG offering is available on multiple gaming consoles.

One of the things that stood out to me in the promotional material was how the current release wasn’t a hasty port for PC and other gaming consoles. To ensure the best gaming experience, Soulvars has been optimized and enhanced for gaming systems, featuring horizontal UI and intuitive controller support.

I only played it on PC. So, I’m not sure how it fared on other consoles. However, as far as my experience goes, Soulvars didn’t give me any trouble as far as the visual presentation and bugs are concerned.

Talking about the story (without diving into spoilers), you will be taken to a futuristic punk world where technology has led to a bunch of trouble for humanity. In the fictional world of Soulvars, there are creatures called Dominators that have found a way to enter the human world and wreak havoc. Think evil Digimon. To protect the world, humans with special abilities are recruited. These special humans, called Soulbearers, have alternate Souls.

You play as a freelance Soulbearer named Yakumo. Your task is to defeat the Dominators and navigate a web of lies and conspiracies involving rival Soulbearers and more.

While I liked the premise, I have to say that the actual character development and narrative fell short for me. The story didn’t spend enough time with each character to make you feel concerned enough to root for them. Even the main lead Yakumo lacked in that department. Also, certain moments between characters felt odd. The game treated me as if I somehow knew a large amount of backstory.

So, if you are looking for in-depth storytelling in an RPG, Soulvars can’t give you that. But what Soulvars can give you is a very enjoyable battle mechanic!

This game uses a card-based battle system. This means that each turn your character will draw a certain number of cards and you have to use them in the best way possible to defeat the various types of enemies you are facing. Don’t let in-game terms like Soulbits and Souldrivers worry you. It all boils down to using a card-based battle mechanic with some fancy names.

Depending on the type of cards drawn you can make your character attack, defend, or gain some kind of power or speed boost. Emphasis is put on executing combos during battle by playing specific types of cards.

I liked how more cards can be drawn by using up HP. I also liked how basically every move you made during a turn (even if it’s a stat boost) allows you to use even more cards in an upcoming turn. This means that, depending on the moves you have, you can select cards that make your character attack an enemy and then go into a defensive stance during a single turn.

Characters have their own unique abilities. So, it’s fun to figure out how to unlock their special combos. The Souldrivers given to the characters can be leveled up and helps determine what kind of abilities you want them to use during combat. With different enemies being weak against different types of attacks, it’s best to have a team with a variety of abilities at their disposal to make quick work of foes.

Even more abilities and stat boots are unlocked when you make your character shift into their alternate form. This allows you to basically make your character turn into a good Digimon-like being. It’s cool to watch and play as!

Take a look at some of my gameplay footage to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

The only gripe I have with the battle system is the amount of reading you have to do. I experienced a steep learning curve at the very beginning. I don’t know about you, but I like games that help me learn stuff as I progress through the game instead of making me read a lot of text to understand what I should and shouldn’t be doing.

During my initial battle sessions, I found myself ignoring the text and learning stuff through trial and error. I get that information was present to make things easier. I just didn’t want to go through all of it. I wanted to experience the action!

Once you get the battle mechanic down, it’s so much fun to go through the enemy encounters. The upbeat music adds to the already fast-paced fights. This is a high-energy game and I’m here for it!

As far as the deckbuilding and customization options go- while this game has been promoted as a deckbuilding RPG, I think the term is being used quite loosely. Yes, numerous cards are being used, but it doesn’t have an in-depth deckbuilding mechanic to go with it. Or perhaps I couldn’t fully figure it out?

Anyway, my experience with this game was disappointing in that aspect because I enjoy playing deckbuilding RPG titles. But I was still able to enjoy the battle system in Soulvars once I realized and accepted the limitations of the deckbuilding feature.

Navigating through the world map is easy enough. I would recommend having the map continuously displayed onscreen to make things convenient. The enemy encounters are random as you make your way into new areas or while backtracking. But the good news is that they don’t become jarring because you can get through enemy encounters fast enough. Also, I recommend facing as many enemies as possible to level up your characters via their Souldrivers. You are going to need it.

There are some side missions you can complete. However, they don’t add much to the overall story. A couple of puzzles are also sprinkled in depending on the area you enter.

You can make your character rest before moving to another area to ensure they are ready for the next fight. You can also buy items to recover HP.

It’s all just the usual stuff one would expect from such games.

In the end, I would say that despite the steep learning curve and tons of information to read through, Soulvars manages to be an enjoyable turn-based game if you are into a futuristic setting and fast-based battles.

Soulvars is currently available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

You can learn more about the game by following it on Twitter (@SHUEISHA_GAMES) and Facebook (Shueisha Games) or visiting the official website.

Have you played Soulvars?

Let us know.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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