When you pull up a list of the best games ever (as determined by critics) on MetaCritic or GameRankings, you’ll notice that Soulcalibur for the Dreamcast almost always inhabits one of the top 10 spots. Since then, the franchise has reveled in attention grabbing stunts like including a Link in the Gamecube version of the second game, or Star Wars stalwarts Yoda and Darth Vader in the fourth game. But the following games in the series has never quite captured the magic of the original. Finally, after six long years, Soulcalibur VI makes the series feel like it’s found it’s footing again.
Story is never a huge selling point for me in fighting games and I’d wager it wouldn’t matter to most players here either, but rather fittingly Soulcalibur VI takes place in the early days of the series, a reboot of sorts. A 16th century adventure, the game takes you through the battle between good and evil that was told in the original game but weaves in newer character of the franchise too. The story is interesting as a concept, but it’s never been one of the reasons why I fell in love with the series.Barring Netherrealm Studios’ output, fighting games have always struggled to maintain the interest of the solo player. Soulcalibur VI comes with three dedicated modes for solo players: Libra of Soul, Chronicle of Souls and the typical Arcade mode. Arcade is self-explanatory, but it’s the other two modes that are most interesting and easily the biggest drawcard for those wanting to get some action by themselves.
Chronicles of Souls works similarly to Street Fighter V’s single player content, offering an overarching story to play through as well as individual character vignettes too. Each of these is presented with some nicely illustrated artwork and voiced dialogue, though does come across as being ultimately rather cheap. Some characters don’t even have battles on their paths, instead just showing you a few scenes before declaring their path finished and awarding you completion rewards. Regardless, it’s a nice touch to include a “main” story path but still give attention to every character in the game, including Geralt.Libra of Soul is arguably the main attraction here. In it, you’ll create your own character who will then travel the globe competing in battles with various modifiers active, levelling up yourself and your weapons as you finish missions. You’ll defeat other character and recruit them onto your team, collect items to buff yourself in especially hard missions as well as level up to improve your stats as well as your weapons. It’s a bizarrely in-depth RPG mode that’ll keep you playing for hours upon hours, though it’s lighter on story than Chronicles of Souls is.
Weirdly, there’s no other staple modes on offer here, with the absence of a Trial or Mission Mode as well as Survival mode particularly noticeable.
When the action is happening, and you’re in a match, Soulcalibur VI is pretty damn great. No matter who you pick or your skill level, every match has a great flow to it. It’s especially worth noting how fast paced the flow of every match and how there’s just so many mechanics to draw upon to make every battle feel dynamic and ever changing. It’s also inviting to newcomers, but without sacrificing any of the technical complexity that the previous games have had. Every game has introduced new mechanics of some sort, but Soulcalibur VI effectively cherry picks the best from each to create a “greatest hits” battle system.The only new inclusion solely for VI is the Reversal Edge system, though I’m personally not entirely keen on it. Initiated with a single button press, it’s a mechanic that behaves similarly to the Clash system in Injustice albeit less cinematic. Once you’re in a Reversal Edge situation, both players must input an attack and the game decides (like rock-paper-scissors) who the winner of the clash is. It’s a system that I’m sure newcomers will adore, but I just found it interrupted the flow of the battle too much for my liking and for too little a reward.
A fighting game is only as strong as its roster and thankfully Soulcalibur VI delivers on that front. There’s a few obvious favourites missing, admittedly, but the selection on offer here is diverse. Thankfully, there’s barely any clones so every character feels unique. Further diversifying the roster is the addition of character specific skills, which are little quirks or traits that just make each character feel more individually unique. Finally, as you’d expect, Geralt appears as a guest character and has a huge breadth of moves and abilities that faithfully draw from his appearance in The Witcher series.Create-A-Soul is back too and is already wreaking havoc on the internet, though it’s just a testament to how robust this character creator is. People have already created the likes of Magikarp, Ronald McDonald and an unusually well-endowed lizard using Create-A-Soul and I imagine as more parts get added to the mode that it’ll only get crazier. It’s worth mentioning here, however, that there’s less pieces of equipment on offer to create a character than what appeared in Soulcalibur V, presumably so more parts can be sold as DLC down the track, which is a bit disappointing.
Also, a bit of a downer is the rather simplistic online offerings the game has – casual and ranked matches are the only two options for playing online. Thankfully, despite this barebones offering, the netcode holds up really well and there were not many matches where unruly lag would get the better of me.From a visual standpoint, Soulcalibur VI is easily the best looking in the series though it’s not quite the best-looking fighting game on the market right now. Still, the game flows smoothly at a very steady framerate which keeps the battles feeling fast. The character models are incredibly detailed too, though sometimes the arenas you’ll be fighting in have that weird low-resolution shimmer effect at times. Admittedly it’s rare that you’ll be standing still admiring the architecture of the arenas in a game like this, but it was just immediately noticeable to me that this game doesn’t look as good as say Tekken 7.
THE PLAYSTATION 4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON A PLAYSTATION 4 PRO FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
With robust single-player offerings, as well as a fast paced and dynamic fighting system, Soulcalibur VI represents the best the series has been for a long time. It has a great and diverse roster of characters, and Geralt fits right into the world too. It’s just a little bit of a shame that it’s missing a few things from previous games. Despite this, Soulcalibur VI is easily the best Soulcalibur game and one of the best 3D fighters you can play right now.