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Game Review: Soul Calibur V Lacking in Soul

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The fifth addition to the Soul Calibur franchise is finally here, boasting new features and more new characters than ever before. Unfortunately these additions don’t add up to much and the game struggles to feel new. Here’s why.

Release Date: 2/2/2012

Released For: PlayStation 3,  Xbox 360

System Played On:  Xbox 360

Hours Played: 5

Single Player Progress: Completed Story and all Single Player modes with one character

Single Player Thoughts: The Soul Calibur franchise is one that will always remain dear to my heart. I can remember playing the original game in the arcade back in the day and have owned all of the console versions since. Soul Calibur II will always be the pinnacle of the game as well, with interesting characters and environments, very customizable characters with stat boosts to weapons, as well as an excellent single player story mode that kept me entertained for hours.

Soul Calibur V offers none of those. I first dove into the story mode of the game hoping for something entertaining and deep like the story modes of previous games. I’ll even admit I enjoyed the “conquest mode” or “Chronicles of the Sword” from two and three. The story of Soul Calibur V falls completely flat, however.

This game’s story follows Patrokolos who starts off with what I can only guess is the motto “For every problem there’s a final solution.” He has blond hair, blue eyes, big boots, and a mean genocidal streak. Of course, this slowly changes as his world is challenged and he finds his sister, Pyrrah, who happens to be exactly what he wanted to kill.

They decided to take an incredibly cinematic approach, giving the player no choice in the characters to fight with. Instead, gamers can only play exactly the character that fits the story at the time. It was also easy to the point of being insulting. The story didn’t feel Soul Calibur as much as “Poorly written anime.” The writers tried to intill emotional ties into the characters in too short of a story and horribly written non-sequitors.

If you follow @Armed_Gamer on Twitter, you probably already know my thoughts on the story. It lacked anything fun or interesting. It also completely lacked player agency, instead taking on the form of an animated feature with easy challenges in between. It also lacks replayability found in previous story modes. It barely even served as a proper introduction for the new characters.

The arcade modes are pretty much unchanged from previous games. There are plenty of new characters, but not really. You get to play as “Not-Kilik” just as you can play as “Not-Xianghua” and “Not-Taki”. Fortunately Kilik, a personal favorite, is unlockable relatively soon.

From what I’ve experienced, Ezio is just sort of there. There’s nothing terribly special about his presence, and while it’s fun to play as him, it still didn’t feel quite as iconic as some of the past guest characters.

One interesting addition to the combat is the “Edge Meter”. It acts much like the “super meters” in Street Fighter and similar fighting games. As it fills you can use the energy to perform “Brave Edge” and “Critical Edge” attacks which are pretty fun to watch if you can connect. They were a pleasant surprise and added a little variety to what would otherwise have been a completely stale sequel.

Character creation has been improved with additional body types and much more potential for customization. While weapon and clothing effects may be gone, there are still plenty of options to choose from. It is much shallower strategy wise, but it means players are more free to choose clothing they want without fear of penalty.

Multiplayer Thoughts: I played a few rounds of Multiplayer, and once again, it’s pretty much an unchanged forumla from Soul Calibur IV. They did do a lot to improve server connectability and add more customization to who you want to battle, though. While the gameplay hasn’t changed at all, the UI and functionality has been vastly improved.

You have the option of choosing which region to play as well as the range of opponents’ skills to play against. There are also public chats available, though I would recommend having a keyboard ready.

One thing I want to touch on: Character customization has lead me to be generally unhappy with the community. I can’t tell you the number of times I played a fat, balding guy in a wifebeater with a codpiece designed to look like he has a constant erection. It feels like just about everyone decided to be “really original” but using the exact same idea.

Overall Thoughts: If you enjoyed the previous Soul Calibur titles for the single player, you might just want to stick with those. It’s not a bad game, exactly, but it just feels like they took away a lot of the features and most reasons to care about the game. Combat has been tweaked, but not vastly improved. The new characters are forgetable and at best can be described as the last generation of characters without the story or history to make them worth caring about.

If you prefer the multiplayer experience to the story, this is definitely an improvement and worth looking into. The better server functionality makes playing and setting up matches much smoother and less of a hassle.

All in all it’s not a complete flop, but so far the weakest entry into the franchise. It really felt like they gave up on the story or depth in game mechanics. They focused less on the single player experience and added a little bit more to multiplayer.

Overall I’d say give this a rent and see if the multiplayer is worth buying the game for.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.