Soulblight (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 23.10.2018

Review for Soulblight on Nintendo Switch

Premise alone is not enough to carry an experience, but a good premise cannot and should not be understated. On just premise alone, Soulblight makes for quite the interesting roguelike. Much of the world and story is left to the player to discover; handholding is relegated to a minimum; and each run is timed, almost creating an emphasis on speed-running. Unfortunately, premise is all Soulblight has going for it. Underneath all its intrigue is a technical mess muddied by a convoluted narrative and some of the worst combat in the genre.

Complexity is not inherently better than simplicity. Just because a story may appear complex does not mean its content has merit, nor does it mean its narrative has depth. Soulblight's plot is complex, that is undeniable, but it is not good. In attempting to push a mysterious plot with obtuse themes, it leaves nothing for even the most perceptive audience to take away. Whether it is intentional or due to a shoddy localisation, it is genuinely quite difficult to care about the Sanctuary as potential answers to questions never quite seem as deliberate as they perhaps should. Sanctuary's world is convoluted for the sake of being so. The supposed complexity adds nothing to the world and instead cripples what could be an otherwise satisfying story.

Dialogue is genuinely poorly written with characters expositing meaningless piles of prose without inferring or expanding the scope of the Sanctuary outside of a base surface level. In a sense, the story models itself around Sting Entertainment's Baroque, offering crumbs of information with each run, but where Baroque was clearly attempting to say something meaningful, Soulblight has no such content. That said, though, a good story is not necessary for a good game. What is necessary, however, is a good game, which Soulblight likewise lacks. Top-down perspectives aren't exactly uncommon when it comes to roguelikes, but very rarely are they implemented as poorly as they are here.

Rather than tilting the perspective so that the camera can better display character models and tangible objects on-screen, the top-down perspective is framed straight down as the player-character's head. As a result, movement comes off awkward with no real sense of space within the world. It is not difficult by any means to move around the world, but the perspective seems to deliberately work in detriment to potential engagement. It is particularly disappointing considering the general aesthetic of the Sanctuary is actually quite nice, with a defined rustic identity.

Screenshot for Soulblight on Nintendo Switch

Had the top-down perspective been modified, even just a bit, exploration would have ended up far more immersive and rewarding. It is important to create a cohesion with gameplay and the area in which the gameplay occurs, and no such cohesion exists in Soulblight. Exploration is bland, uneventful, and unrewarding even when it by all accounts shouldn't be. Rather than using a conventional level system for progression, character growth focuses primarily on receiving "traits," which influence the player-character's abilities and stats. In theory, this is a fine enough replacement for experience and grinding, but it is presented so poorly contextually that gaining a new trait has no real weight, either narratively or gameplay-wise.

In fact, this roguelike may have actually benefited greatly from a conventional levelling system as it would have actually given the adventure a comprehensible sense of progression. The trait mechanic, as is, conceptually rewards role-playing, but there is no incentive to actually role-play considering just how little is expressed to the player. This is not to say that information needs to be conveyed in a clinical manner, not in the slightest. Some of the greatest stories ever told are often difficult to understand, but they are complex for a reason. Their authors understood why a layer of complexity would benefit their narrative. There is no such understanding here. Surprisingly, exploration, role-playing, and the narrative aren't the worst parts of the package. That honour belongs specifically to the combat. Unintuitive in every sense, combat is made up of dodging and attacking at the right times - as perhaps should be expected - but with no mechanical depth. There is nothing to learn and nothing to master.

The combat is also home to one of the worst stamina systems in any action title. There is absolutely no reason why the combat needs a stamina meter, especially since the action is already so painfully slow. Stamina is yet another convolution in place of actual depth. Stealth does play a role to some extent, as enemies can be instantly killed via sneaking, but even the act of sneaking around is by no means engaging. It is simply a workaround to the pitiful combat. If nothing else, death comes quickly. As if combat wasn't bad enough, the Switch port is littered with technical issues. Stuttering, audio crackling, and an unstable frame-rate all plague the port. Soulblight is a flawed game by design, but the Switch port takes an already weak experience and makes it all the worse.

Screenshot for Soulblight on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 3 out of 10


Tedious, meandering, and needlessly obtuse, Soulblight is far better conceptually than it is in execution. The prospect of uncovering the mysteries of a dying world is gripping enough, but the story is told in such a convoluted manner that forming any sort of narrative attachment is virtually impossible. Not helping matters are the title's poor technical performance on Nintendo Switch and the sheer insufferable nature of its combat. Coupled with a top-down aesthetic that frankly does the gameplay no favours, Soulblight offers little of value despite a relatively interesting premise.


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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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