SoulCalibur VI Review

Richard Walker

For almost 25 years – at least in video game terms - the battle of swords and souls has been raging without an end in sight, and we've yet to see a winner. Assuming there's supposed to be one at all, that is. SoulCalibur VI marks an exploration of the early days in the saga, harking back to the events of the first SoulCalibur, during a specific part of the game's timeline in the 16th century. The first (and possibly final) entry in the series in six years, SoulCalibur VI goes big, just as you'd expect from what could be its last hurrah. But on the basis of this, we sincerely hope that SoulCalibur hasn't breathed its last, because it's really rather good.

Amid the epic, seemingly unending war for the eponymous sword and its evil counterpart, Soul Edge, a handful of new characters are drawn into its irresistible gravitational pull across not one, but two story modes. The best place to start is in story mode number one, Libra of Soul, Calibur VI's globetrotting RPG thread in which your created character circumnavigates a world map and inevitably runs into trouble along the way, while on a search for mysterious astral fissures brimming with malevolent energy.


You can choose your bespoke character's race, gender, voice, hairstyle, attire and more, before choosing a weapon and venturing forth, running into characters from the game's main roster who then join you on your adventure. Items gathered during your quest grant temporary buffs when used, and any gold gathered from fights you've won can be converted to Soul Points for unlockables (concept art, character creation pieces), used to hire mercenaries to aid you in battle, or traded with merchants for new weapons and further consumables to take with you. As you progress, you'll also level up, raising your health and damage-dealing in the process, and you'll need to bear your level in mind before going up against certain foes.

Once the Libra of Soul map opens up, you're free to embark upon expeditions to explore new regions and tackle side quests, be it entering an arena tournament, dealing with trifling cinnamon or garlic clove thieves, aiding travelling merchants, or some such nonsense. Essentially, Libra of Soul boils down to a series of battles, some with varying conditions and factors to take into account (like slippery floors), while in Soul Chronicle mode (the second of SC VI's story modes), you'll find a main storyline to slice and dice your way through, as well as narrative strands for each character that you can play in any order you like.

From a pure narrative perspective, the Chronicle of Souls arguably proves more interesting than Libra, though both story modes utilise vibrant, hand-painted illustrations to relay their respective tales, albeit in different ways. Each also offers more than ample opportunity to get to grips with SoulCalibur VI within an offline single-player setting, 'combat lessons' and move lists accessible at any time should you wish to consult them and hone your skills. There's quite a lot to learn in Project Soul's latest too, from the new Reversal Edge to the dual-purpose Soul Gauge.

Fill the meter, and you can unleash a spectacular and devastating Critical Edge with a press of the right trigger, or you can execute a Soul Charge to temporarily raise your damage output. The new Reversal Edge, meanwhile, presents you with an instance of rock-paper-scissors, the victor gaining the upper hand with an offensive or defensive counter. As well as adding a new wrinkle to SoulCalibur's elegant hacking and slashing, Reversal Edge also brings a little extra slow-motion drama to bouts, not that battles are ever short of it, mind you.

It's also part and parcel of SoulCalibur VI's combat intricacy, whether it's timing Guard Impacts to knock back your opponent and strike, wading in with a Break Attack at the right moment, or delivering a crushing Lethal Hit to really give your rival pause for thought. The series' core fighting mechanics remain compelling, as basic or as complex as you like, retaining the horizontal and vertical weapon swishing, kicks, grapples and such that have informed Bandai Namco's fighter since day one, back in 1995. When it was called SoulBlade/Edge.

Newcomers Grøh and Azwel reveal a previously hidden part of the original SoulCalibur story too, as Grøh and his Aval Organisation seek to stop 'Outsiders' associated with Soul Edge in their tracks. While Grøh's break-away dual blades and alternate Soul Charge form make him a swift and deadly fighter, his nemesis, the villainous Azwel, is a bizarre mage able to conjure all kinds of weaponry from out of the ether. He's a typically nutty SoulCalibur character, and slots right in to the game's expansive roster. Much like The Witcher guest star Geralt, who feels right at home, even given his own story and part to play within SoulCalibur VI's tale of transcending history.


Granted, SoulCalibur VI is missing a few modes that you'd normally take for granted in a fighting game, like Survival, Team Battle, Time Attack, and so on (although you can earn medals for racing through Arcade mode within the allotted time limit), but there's so much to love about this latest entry. Every character is the picture of sartorial elegance, the character creation is still excellent, and the story modes – that could quite easily have been dull as dishwater – are actually quite enjoyable.

At time of writing, SoulCalibur VI's online servers have yet to be switched on, so while we'd love to tell you how the game handles when competing against others around the world, we can't. Not yet anyway. Assuming that everything works like it should, taking the game online for Ranked Matches or Casual Matches ought to prove exciting. However, having only these two options is fairly limited, although you can watch replays, which is pretty standard, to be fair.

As overblown and gleefully silly as ever, SoulCalibur VI sees Project Soul's weapons-based fighter in its prime. Libra of Soul and Soul Chronicle will gobble up your time if you let them, and if you rope in a rival for some fisticuffs, there are various options you can fiddle with in Versus mode, be it adding slippery surfaces or explosive floors, or switching off the dishonour and shame that comes with ring outs. SoulCalibur VI is an impressive fighting game that celebrates the series' 20th anniversary in style, and confirms that Nightmare still loves souls just as much as I love chocolate Hob Nobs.

SoulCalibur VI

Back after a six year hiatus, SoulCalibur VI proves that the series has lost none of its sparkle. If this is the final SoulCalibur we ever see (and we sincerely hope it isn't), at least we can rest assured that the series went out with a bang rather than a clang.

Form widget
85%
Audio
80%

All of the usual pomp and circumstance communicated through a grand orchestral soundtrack, solid voice acting, and sounds of clashing steel. Exactly as it should be.

Visuals
90%

Drenched in detail, SoulCalibur VI looks stunning. From the incredible arenas to each fighter's stylish apparel, the stage of history has never looked so inviting.

Playability
90%

Every fight is a balletic flashing of weaponry, and the deceptively simple controls bely a deep and hugely satisfying array of systems. Only learning beyond the basics will you understand the intricacies, and the 8-way run movement is still great.

Delivery
80%

Two very different story modes offer up hours of play, while you can cut your teeth in training mode. Arcade mode and Versus give you more conventional local and solo battling options, but the absence of extra modes like Survival and such seems like a bit of an oversight. Not that you'll feel shortchanged, mind.

Achievements
70%

A decent enough list with objectives spread across Soul Chronicle, Libra of Soul, and Arcade mode. There are also a few modest milestones to attain by pulling off certain moves, pushing you towards some of the more complicated fighting mechanics.

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