Bandai Namco has two of the finest 3D fighters with SoulCalibur specializing in weapon based combat, and Tekken focusing on melee based combat. While Tekken series has witnessed its resurgence this generation with Tekken 7 — which remains an exceptional game in its own right — SoulCalibur fans had to wait for a while before they could play a new one.
There are so many great fighting games released this generation that it is tough to pick a favorite. SoulCalibur 6 nevertheless manages to gain its own place among them, thanks to its unique blend of weapon-based fighting mixed in with a ring out system that encourages focusing on offense over defense. The strong focus on story content for this new entry in the series automatically gives it an edge over its predecessors, which were disappointing in this regard.
SoulCalibur 6 is a content-rich game that offers not one but two different story modes. The first is the Libra of Soul mode that lets you take a custom created character through an exhilarating tale full of SoulCalibur lore. Here, the plot deals with the start of the SoulCalibur timeline when Soul Edge’s evil seed power gets unleashed on the world corrupting everyone who comes into contact with it. This is a longer story mode offering countless combat encounters, tutorials, and deals with the quest of preventing the damage done by Soul Edge.
Libra of Soul mode offers a limited set of customization options with the ability to change the weapons. The numerous weapons that you can unlock during the story can additionally offer stat based bonuses. Despite the lengthy content offered here, it often feels monotonous and suffers from occasional load times. The story is fascinating because it provides a choice of either good or bad that can produce alternative scenarios. It is an excellent starting point for newcomers because of the combat tutorials teaching you all the necessary moves.
Soul Chronicles is arguably the better story mode because it gives you a chance to experience the story through the point of view of the main cast of SoulCalibur. It is essentially a reboot or retelling of the grand story of SoulCalibur chronicling the events all the way from the first game. In this mode, you can also experience the character based episodes focusing on their own individual quests like Geralt and Yoshimitsu. Geralt is not just a shallow character shoehorned into the story, but Bandai Namco, in fact, sought a clever way to explain his presence in the game. I won’t completely spoil how it happens but needless to say, they did a good job handling it here.
Aside from the story mode, the game offers a treasure trove of lore for the newcomers with its museum. It is similar to Tekken 7 where almost every game in the series’ history gets represented with artwork, detailed story and event breakdown from SoulCalibur 1 to 6. Most of the content is unavailable at the start, and you will need soul points to unlock it. You can get them through various means e.g. by completing the story and other gameplay modes.
Offline content excluding the story mode is sufficient enough, even if it feels fairly intrinsic to a fighter. All the standard arcade, versus and training mode are available from the beginning. Online multiplayer offers casual and ranked matches. The netcode felt like it was similar to Tekken 7, which was pretty competent for a 3D fighter. The thing that deserves praises here is the Character Creation, which is fairly in-depth and comprehensive enough to create most of the iconic characters from other franchises. I have seen fans attempt to create the likes of Bowsette, Spider-Man, and Dante for SoulCalibur 6 and they look surprisingly good, which is an excellent demonstration for the quality of the character creator.
Since the last two releases, Namco’s weapon-based fighting game franchise began to suffer from franchise fatigue, mainly because there was no meaningful addition to the core gameplay, and what was great about the series was gradually being stripped away. With SoulCalibur 6, Namco realized its mistake and returned the series to its roots, bringing back elements from the original titles that were sorely missed in the recent releases. However, to seemingly appeal to casual audiences, SoulCalibur 6 also adds a new game-of chance-mechanic that isn’t quite as convincing as the rest of the combat system.
The basic control setup remains the same, however. There are three attack buttons i.e. horizontal, vertical, and kick, and a fourth guard button. Much like in the Tekken series, a plethora of moves and special attacks are at your disposal for each character.
Combat mechanics that make a return from earlier titles are Critical Edge, Guard Impact, and Soul Charge. Critical Edge is SoulCalibur’s term for super moves that dish out a large amount of damage to your opponent. This attack can only be performed on a filled up soul gauge meter. There’s some nice variation to these attacks for every character. Some work like throws while you can mix others with combos to trigger them.
Guard Impact works like a parry. Time it correctly during an opponent’s attack, and you will gain a frame advantage to break their momentum. Performing a Guard Impact doesn’t reduce your soul gauge, therefore it keeps your opponent on their toes when trying to put guard pressure on you. Soul Charge is a charged up state that allows you to deal chip damage with normal attacks to your opponents on guard. It’s a useful mechanic that can even the odds in a losing scenario, though it lasts for a limited period and freezes the round time while it’s active.
The new additions to combat are Reversal Edge and Lethal Hits. Lethal hits are attacks that successfully meet certain criteria. In return, you’re rewarded with a bonus advantage. The reward may come in several forms, such as extra damage, additional guard stun, or a counter hit, which can only be performed in a special window of opportunity. This mechanic is especially rewarding for advanced players who know when to take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes.
The Reversal Edge is the strangest new addition to the game’s core mechanics. It is fundamentally similar to a rock-paper-scissors-like mini-game, where one player goes into a special guard stance by holding the corresponding button (R1 on PS4/RB on Xbox One). This allows your character to automatically evade incoming attacks that aren’t unblockables or don’t cause guard breaks.
Should you let go of the button or your Reversal Edge gets fully charged, you’ll transition into the Reversal Edge Attack. If you evaded at least one incoming attack or fully charged your Reversal Edge, your attack will initiate the Reversal Edge mini-game as soon as it lands on your opponent, regardless of whether they are blocking. Else, you’ll need to deal a damaging blow to start the mini-game.
The mini-game itself, as mentioned earlier, feels like a variation to the rock-paper-scissors concept where one attack takes precedence over the other. Should both players choose the same attack, the mini-game transitions into Clash mode, which is essentially a more tactical variation of the first round.
It’s clear that round one of the mini-game tailors more towards casual players, while round two aims to appeal to hardcore enthusiasts. That said, there’s no denying that it’s still a game of chance, and something like that should certainly have no place in a fighting game of this caliber (pun not intended). On the plus side, it’s relatively easy for advanced players to punish those who exert over-reliance on the Reversal Edge.
Speaking of the technical presentation, SoulCalibur 6 suffers from load times that are most frequent during the story mode. They highly distract from the story segments where you fight various characters in between the story scenarios. Each fight ends with a loading screen that can take a few seconds. It is even more tedious in the Libra of Soul story mode where you use a custom character. This frequently disturbs the flow of the battles and both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X suffer from these load times. I noticed the load times were even a little longer depending on the internet connection, but it is not possible to prove it.
SoulCalibur 6 Review (PS4/Xbox One)
Game Reviewed on: PS4/Xbox One
Game description: Soulcalibur VI is a fighting game in the Soulcalibur series developed and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Produced by "Project Soul", an internal production studio within Bandai Namco that manages the series, the game was released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows on October 19, 2018.
Final Score - 8.5/108.5/10
SoulCalibur 6 is an outstanding fighting game that shows that content is king. It features a versatile character roster backed by a great combat system, although some of the new changes do feel like they are more suited for newcomers than long-time veterans. It suffers from some technical hurdles like the load times, but overall it is an extremely polished product.