SOULCALIBUR VI Review

By Kevin Tavore, 22 days ago
Fighting games are played by two different types of players. On one hand, you have the hardcore fighting game community. These are the people that live and breathe fighters, make comments like “use a 22_88A LH in response to a SE [K].” They’re the people who travel across the country to attend EVO. They’re the people who played and actually enjoyed Street Fighter 5 at launch. On the other hand are the casual gamers. They’re the people who don’t know what “22_88A LH” means and button mash to victory. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a hardcore player so I cannot speak to that aspect of SOULCALIBUR VI, but I can say that for anyone who’s out looking for a wonderful fighting game to dip their toes into the genre and have fun without the stress that comes with some fighters, Soulcalibur VI is right up your alley.

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Here’s a picture of my skill level in this genre prior to jumping into this game. I turned combo assist on in Killer Instinct, played through the tutorial multiple times and then managed to get my ass kicked by “Noob” difficulty AI. Yeah. Soulcalibur is different. There’s a simplicity to the gameplay that makes it easy for players like me to play and feel good about it. The combos are not complex and so I was able to grasp what my button presses were actually doing. While I’ll admit I don’t always know what attack I’ll use when I press a button, I usually have a good idea what will happen and that’s a wonderful feeling. Oh, and special moves are just a right trigger press away, which means I can actually use them and feel like a badass.

There’s plenty of depth there as well. Guarding is important, but you can only do it so much or your guard will break. You can use Guard Impact to stop an enemy’s combo and start your own. You can use the new Reversal Edge abilities to play a sort of rock, paper, scissors clash with your opponent. There’s a new Soul Charge ability as well that you can use your meter on to mix things up. Finally, Lethal Hits have been added to show new players what moves can punish enemy mistakes well and allow experienced players plenty of room to pull off amazing combos.

If you’re new to the series, all these terms have probably caused your eyes to glaze over and your mind to wander. The bottom line is that you have options in combat if you’re skilled enough to use them, but that the basic combat is more than enough for new players to feel like they’re accomplishing something. I can enter a match against a real person and exercise a game plan that might not always work, but even when it doesn’t, the enemy’s counter-strategy is easy to understand so I can learn and get better. Playing Soulcalibur VI doesn’t feel like you’re staring at a sheer cliff when learning how to play the game as it might with other fighters. Instead, it's accessible and a great deal of fun.

Talim

The Soulcalibur series has always been known for its single player depth, and this title is no exception. There are three ways to play single player, with the first two being more familiar to fans of the genre. There’s arcade mode, which is pretty barebones. You’ll pick a fighter and face off against eight random AI opponents you’ll need to beat. There’s no story here of any kind — no “fated battles” against rivals nor a final boss. It’s certainly the weakest single player mode and clearly only there to check off a box of fighting game “requirements.”

The primary story mode is called Soul Chronicle. This is where you’ll play the main story of the game. This story focuses on Kilik, though many other characters will show up and you’ll play fights from a variety of perspectives. As far as the story goes, it’s self-contained and set between SC1 and SC2, so veterans will get a chance to fill in some gaps while new players won’t feel like they missed anything by jumping in now — the story itself being decent and clear, if simple, is a nice bonus you don’t often get in the genre. Once that main story is over, each character has their own Soul Chronicle story so that you can see what they’re up to during the years covered by the sixth game. These side stories are fine, though some of them feel a bit meandering and pointless, with little to no character development to speak of. This is especially true for characters in the main story, though it’s certainly applicable to some outside of it as well. Still, the stories are generally interesting enough to keep you playing so long as you don't try to grind them out all at once.

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Then there’s the mode veterans of the series and casual fans will be most excited to play through: Libra of Souls. This is where you’ll create your own fighter, adopting a unique look with a reasonable amount of customization options available. Right from the start, there are plenty of directions to take your character with dozens or even hundreds of items available. This isn’t the best character creator you’ll ever experience, but it’s fun and allows creativity and that’s more than enough to add the requisite value to the game.

Once you’ve created your hero, Libra of Souls turns into an epic RPG set on Earth in the late 16th century. You’ll meet various Soulcalibur fighters in the world and also embark upon quests to level up, earn gold and get weapons to fight with. Thanks to being entirely text-focused and the use of an overworld map to explore and track quests, it feels very much like a cross between a classic RPG and a modern fighting game. The combination works surprisingly well and I had a ton of fun running around completing quests to help townsfolk and discovering what I could. The mode also has its own story of fair length centered around your hero to add to that RPG feeling.

SOULCALIBUR VI screenshot

I’ve already mentioned multiplayer briefly and I had a lot of fun challenging other players, but the game does have balance concerns. Since release, many players have pointed out that create-a-soul fighters, which are allowed even in ranked matches, can often have weird attributes that actually change the physics of the game in some ways. This means that, for instance, an attack you expect will knock down an enemy may only stagger them back. This is a real negative in a genre that’s all about consistency. I also encountered quite a few networking errors while playing and in between matches, though luckily I never had that hit during a match.

The achievements are pretty easy. They’re primarily focused on the Libra of Souls and getting through that will earn you the bulk of the achievements with a bit of grinding thrown in for good measure. Then you’ll need to complete the Soul Chronicle entries for 20 different characters, fight a bit in arcade mode, and unlock some entries in the museum. At the time of writing, 10 people have completed it and it seems it usually takes them 25-40 hours, so I’d wager you can expect the same depending on your skill.

Check out our Best Xbox Fighting Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

During pre-release interviews, the developers of Soulcalibur VI made it clear they were focusing on making a great and, most importantly, fun game. If competitive players liked it and wanted to make it a staple in the fighting genre, they’d work with them to ensure the game achieved what it needed to, but the focus was never on competition but rather on fun. With that in mind, the game is an unqualified success. Despite having limited time to play nowadays, I log on every day for at least a few matches in a genre I thought I might never play again. It’s fun, challenging, accessible and deep enough to keep this casual player around, and the few negatives can’t stand in the way of what makes the game so excellent. I’d recommend this to anyone with even a passing interest in the fighting genre, and especially to those like me who just want a fighting game that’s fun to play.
4.5 / 5
SOULCALIBUR VI
Positives
  • Combat is fun and very accessible to players of any skill level
  • Plenty of depth to keep you growing and learning
  • Three single player modes, including an RPG mode
  • Create-a-soul has variety
Negatives
  • Arcade mode is barebones
  • Create-a-soul introduces small imbalances to multiplayer
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent ten hours fighting through the game’s content, finding a beloved character or two (Taki and Xianghua), and enjoying multiplayer. 16 of the game's 49 achievements were unlocked along the way. The game was played on an Xbox One X. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.