Soulcalibur: Lost Swords Review: A Dull, Ugly Blade

by David Sanchez May 6, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

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Soulcalibur has always been one of Bandai Namco’s standout franchises. That series, along with Tekken, delivers a robust yet approachable arcade fighting experience that’s a sheer pleasure. It’s no wonder the company wanted to test the free-to-play waters with its weapon-based fighter seeing how Tekken Revolution was actually pretty popular. Unfortunately, while Soulcalibur: Lost Swords is an interesting idea with some solid gameplay, the overall product is sorely lacking in too many departments to be worth sinking time and money into.

The first thing you should know about Lost Swords is that it completely lacks multiplayer. You can’t play locally with your buddies or take the fight online. This is a strictly solo affair, which might be enough to put off potential players. Soulcalibur, with its lovely focus on shiny blades and spiky whips, has always been about the multiplayer. The fact that it’s missing here is a huge blow. The only interaction you’ll have with others is using their characters as allies during fights, though you never know if those players’ characters will actually be any good.

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What you get in lieu of a worthwhile competitive mode is a story-based single player campaign. Hey, don’t roll your eyes just yet … Well, okay, go ahead and roll them. It’s worth mentioning that the basic idea here is actually kind of cool. You take a fighter who’s found himself homeless and begin to battle other characters, all the while collecting loot, weapons, and gear. The collection aspect looks good on paper, but it isn’t implemented as well as it should have been.

Your character starts off wearing nothing but undergarments. You then begin your quest for blades and equipment. It’s actually fun battling increasingly tough AI opponents. That said, the story itself is presented in blocky paragraphs that not really anyone would ever want to read. This style of storytelling was okay in Soulcalibur II all those years ago, but it really has no place in a 2014 fighting game. A few cutscenes would’ve undoubtedly gone a long way to flesh out the story more and make it far less uninteresting.

Poor narrative design aside, another core feature in Lost Swords fails to reach the potential it very well could have: customization. Because your character starts out with nothing but his underwear and a single weapon, it’s up to you to suit him up with armor. You collect different types of gear throughout your battles, and it’s up to you to keep upgrading in order to improve your character. It’s an okay gameplay hook, but overall, customization isn’t all that engaging.

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That leads to yet another issue regarding one of the big selling points in Lost Swords. Simply put, the crafting mechanics in this game are terribly clunky. You collect so many items, many of which are useless, that it’s hard to figure out what works best without wasting loot along the way. It’s also not much fun having to go to a completely different screen just to craft new gear and equip it. This pulls you out of the gameplay experience in an inorganic and forced way. The issue is only exacerbated by the tediously long loading present in Lost Swords.

And of course, we are once again led into another intertwining problem. Seriously, damn those load times to hell. The game loads for everything. Go one menu back, and you’re met with a loading screen. Select a battle, and get ready for a loading screen. Open the freakin’ options menu, and hey, there’s a loading screen! And these aren’t quick loading screens, either. Nope, those bastards are really lengthy, and you’ll soon realize you’re wasting way too much time on this game — not only because it isn’t very good, but because it requires loading for every pathetic little thing.

At the very least, the series’ iconic combo-heavy fighting remains intact. Lost Swords is based on Soulcalibur V, and as such plays a lot like its predecessor. With that said, you’re probably better off playing that game instead as this one’s a bit watered down. In addition to the actual combat, which in and of itself is still largely satisfying, there’s an element-based design to the game that’s pretty cool. It’s pretty much a rock-paper-scissors deal, where certain elements (which you can assign to your character’s gear and weapons) win out over others.

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As a free-to-play title, you can expect all manner of cheap cash grabs. Lost Swords has plenty of things for you to purchase with real world money, though whether it’s worth it to actually spend money is entirely up to you. I couldn’t in my right mind drop any money into this free-to-play experiment. The fact that you can buy continue tickets, which let you restart a match where you left off should you face defeat, is just plain gross. I can only imagine that things in the game’s marketplace will continue to get uglier as the game expands.

It’s hard to tell who Lost Swords is really for. Soulcalibur aficionados will gawk at the lack of multiplayer. Meanwhile newcomers to the series will wonder what the big deal has been all these years if this is their first experience with this particular fighter. I suppose you could download Lost Swords if you’re curious about it and don’t mind wasting some time on it (curse those blasted load times!). Quite frankly, however, you’re better off playing any other entry in the series and just ignoring this free-to-play blunder.

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