Soul Sacrifice Delta can best be thought of as something between a definitive version and a sequel to 2013’s Soul Sacrifice. Meaning to say, this latest title simply takes the original game, builds upon it by adding a truckload of new content and generally refines the mechanics at play. Sometimes, though, renovations don’t equate to better end-products. So, in that regard, where does Soul Sacrifice Delta fall?
At its very core, Delta is almost the same game released just over a year ago. To that end, think of Soul Sacrifice as a game heavily influenced by Monster Hunter and various titles like it; it’s an action-RPG comprised of bite-sized missions — meant for on-the-go accessibility — a decently strong narrative component and in-depth customization options. These elements were solid enough for last year’s installment, and thus have only been honed to a sharper point this time around. Therefore, the foundational elements that made the original such a blast to play are fully intact here, having only been tweaked in ways generally for the better. Meaning to say, players will still take their sorcerer into the fray armed with an assortment of attacks that have been decided on prior to combat, trounce baddies, save/sacrifice fallen prey and increase their general aptitude to dish out overwhelming amounts of death. It’s a system that was strong in the first title and remains so here.
However, the gameplay isn’t exactly as it was last year. Delta does add some new features into the mix, merely serving to make the overall experience feel more inclusive than it did before. So what are these new changes? Well, for starters, one of the most notable is the enhanced character customization options. The features offered in the last title are all present, however, now folks have greater control over the smaller details of their avatar, such as colors and outfit design. Moreover, those very costumes can be further individualized thanks to the ability to mix and match sets, instead of having a single outfit arrangement. The choices here aren’t vast by any means, but they are welcome adjustments considering the previous customization selections were extremely limiting. Being able to make one’s character more unique, in a game that can be taken online and subsequently serve as a space to show off individuality, is never a detriment, that’s for sure.
Also new to Delta is the ability to ally oneself with one of three factions. Faction-play affects how the story unfolds and concludes, in addition to the items a player receives throughout their adventure. Up for alignment are the Avalon, Sanctuary and Grim (based off Grimm’s Fairy Tales), each coming complete with their own take on the game’s world and philosophy, which in turn impacts aspects like character interaction and dialogue. Sigils also are affected by faction choice, as they can be enhanced drastically (or not) depending on a player’s alignment. Like the aforesaid customization options, this is not a substantial change-up to the recipe, but it’s nevertheless a new addition that merely adds an extra layer of depth and immersion to the experience at large.
The partner setup has been streamlined this time around as well, making it much easier to navigate a team member’s attributes, such as their build and faction alignment. Aside from this small tweak, Delta also factors in a plethora of new weapons, Offerings, enemies, bosses, AI and dynamic stages, making for more diverse combat scenarios, instead of having to face off against the same handful of baddies, in the same handful of arenas like in the original title. In fact, these upgraded facets really make going back to Soul Sacrifice difficult, as that game is merely obsolete now because of how much Delta dwarfs it. Essentially, there was already a lot to do in SS; but now, there’s even more.
Another big alteration to the battling engine exists in the newly balanced, and somewhat re-designed, magic system. Put plainly, folks are no longer asked to renew spells with sacrifices and heals with saves. In the place of that system is a new one that lets players renew spells, heal or boost depending on the faction in which they enrolled. Best of all, things such as chaos, neutral and divine builds actually have relevance and purpose; sure, these setups were present in SS, but now they have actual gameplay pillars to support their viability. Clearly, enhancements like these show that changes to Delta have not only tackled the superficial aspects of the title, but also the meta-game — which hardcore enthusiasts will undoubtedly appreciate.
Perhaps the biggest, most sizable addition to SSD is the new story. This is the part that makes Delta feel like something of a sequel more than just a “complete” edition. While the entire original story is present and accounted for here — yet again making the purchase of the first game totally unnecessary at this stage, especially for newcomers — there are new story segments to see, too. Essentially, once players defeat Magusar, a slew of new missions unlock and the faction-play takes center-stage. In fact, the amount of new story content probably equals that which was provided in Soul Sacrifice. That being said, the new missions are interesting, but the tale weaved through these assignments is not as strong as the original. The fresh narrative portions aren’t bad, but they lack the depth and immediacy found in SS. Still, getting practically a brand new game in terms of the sheer quantity of story elements will be enough for veterans and newbies alike to justify a purchase.
Thus far, we have spoken highly of Delta — and that’s because it’s deserving of such praise. That aside, it isn’t perfect. Yes, it’s improved much of its source content, but in the process of refining, it’s also managed to retain some of its previous pitfalls. In that regard, Soul Sacrifice is one of those games that becomes repetitive after a while. Although others titles like Monster Hunter, Gods Eater and Phantasy Star Online relish in their subtle, nuanced gameplay, Soul Sacrifice (in general) is a bit more straightforward. It’s not as transparent as Toukiden, but it is devoid of gameplay depth at times and as a result feels grindy. This has been alleviated through the implementation of new enemies and dynamic stages, but the repetition really is inherent to the genre; therefore it can’t escape this trapping. Furthermore, it still suffers from slowdown, primarily when there are a lot of effects being triggered on-screen. It would seem that the developers polished the content, but not the engine.
Thankfully, Soul Sacrifice is still a stunning-looking and sounding game. While these aspects haven’t changed all that drastically, the truth is, they didn’t need to. The art direction in Sacrifice was incredibly strong and distinct to begin with — fortunately, that is still very much so untouched. So for those wanting a very pretty Vita title, then this will no doubt fit the bill.
What Soul Sacrifice always had going for it was its ability to deliver on solid gameplay mechanics and a captivating narrative. Other games of its ilk may have gotten one or the other aspect down, but very rarely have they nailed both. Soul Sacrifice Delta knocks the two out of the park by building upon the strong foundation laid by last year’s game. Designer Keiji Infune perhaps said it best when he called Delta “Soul Sacrifice 1.8″ — because it very clearly is a more refined, more complete version of the first game, polishing areas that needed addressing but also adding in a barnful of new content, all of which has made the game better. There are still some qualms here and there, such as the returning frame-rate slowdown and repetitiveness, but in general this is a solid action-RPG that should be played by anyone who adores the genre.
Platform: PS Vita