Soulblight is a top-down action game that tries to slot itself into the roguelike genre with a twist. begging life as a Kickstarter project by indie developer My Next Games, the game was first released on Steam in March of this year and then ported to the Nintendo Switch.
The opening sequences are fairly straightforward with the game holding the player’s hand for the first few segments. A to attack, B to block and Y to push an enemy back, to name a few of the basic controls. The player is also introduced to The Sanctuary – a place you can purchase ware and choose your path moving forward and one of the most visually appealing areas of the game. A lot of the rooms moving through the dungeon felt repetitive and offer little in the way of variation.
The visuals of Soulbright are a bit of a mixed bag. The backdrops are bright and vibrant and look great, while, on the other hand, characters and enemies feel a little flat. It’s tricky to tell which way is forward in the more frantic of moments and as a result can cause confusion while playing the game. a number of times I missed chests and points of interest owing to the fact they’re not clearly labelled; or at least not enough for my liking.
Naturally leading on from this point I feel it is important to mention the performance of Soulblight on the Nintendo Switch. In both handheld and docked mode I would often encounter massive framerate drops. While not as extreme as RiME when that first debut on Nintendo’s hybrid handheld, but still enough to cause significant gameplay issues. Especially during combat.
The main problem I faced with Soulblight after the poor performance was the combat system. While I’m all for a good challenge I can’t help but feel the combat system is unrefined and wooden. Timing is everything and missing a single beat can be the life or death of your character with little to no remorse for any errors you make. And when a game is so heavily based around a single mechanic, you’d be sure that there would be a level of polish, sadly, with Soulblight it only adds to the frustration. While I in no way expected it to be as polished as say, Diablo 3, I did go into Soulblight hoping for something more, especially after viewing some of the more promising trailers to the game.
Combat in Soulblight is rather simple and unrefined. Players are – in a nutshell – able to attack, grab, and push back assailant. It sounds easy enough but in practice, it just doesn’t work. The grab mechanic is more of a hindrance than anything else as the AI seem to be able to pull this off with few issues while I couldn’t see the need to grab hold of something that was trying to kill me. Being swamped by two or more enemies would often mean an early demise with little int he way of escaping their grasp.
And while the combat system is simple, I often found myself fighting against the game itself. The scrolling camera wouldn’t always keep up with my character which would more often than not result in an untimely death.
With this in mind, however, Soulblight isn’t all bad. The game floats some interesting ideas and does try to change up the dungeon crawler and grind to an extent. The main mechanic is the use of Taints. Before a player enters the Sanctuary the game offers a bonus in exchange for adjusting the difficulty; adapting to how the player wants to tackle the rooms ahead. For example, choosing the Hoarder Taint may reward the player with a bonus for the more items they gather, while losing any will negatively impact their stat bonuses. It’s a pretty good system and helps make the whole endeavour a bit more enjoyable.
I really wanted to enjoy my time with Soulblight, but constantly fighting the game’s mechanics as well as the enemies just removed any enjoyment for me. With unintuitive combat and performance issues throughout I found it to be largely disappointing.