In a world where ‘Ultimate’, ‘Game Of The Year’ and ‘Anniversary Edition’ regularly appear on games you bought a year ago, it’s refreshing to see a developer plump for the underutilised ‘Delta’. Marvelous AQL and Japan Studio have apparently opted on testing our mathematical knowledge with Delta referring to symmetrical difference, where two points share a number of identical characteristics as well as their own unique ones. This is all very clever given the relationship between the original Soul Sacrifice and the new Delta so kudos to them, but of course, there is the other option that they just thought it sounded cool.
Soul Sacrifice Delta is essentially the definitive version of last year’s Vita exclusive third-person action game Soul Sacrifice, where, as suggested by the title, sacrificing the souls of your beaten opponents shapes your character’s development and stats. The game was intended to fill the Monster Hunter shaped hole in the handheld’s multiplayer line up and did so with relative success.
Delta features all of the original game’s content while enhancing it with new weapons, abilities, enemies, and locations as well as the new Grim faction. In addition the online servers are now global so you can play with people from all over the world and the combat has been re-worked, speeding up the whole process and allowing you to combo different abilities into one another which makes it feel a lot more fluid and less clunky than its predecessor.
To begin with, Delta is a wholly unwelcoming game. You’re thrust into combat with very little explanation beyond your own understanding that you should probably attack the hideous creature in front of you rather than frolic along beside it, and if you hadn’t played the original game, which suffered from the same problem, you may well wonder precisely why you’re bothering.
As you spend more time with it though, everything begins to click. Delta does however continue to add in further systems and options without any real explanation, leaving the player to experiment with each of them to see how it works. It’s safe to say that this approach will not be for everybody.
The story has you start the game as a captive of the sorcerer Magusar, and while imprisoned you come into possession of a belligerent talking book. This possessed tome allows you to relive Magusar’s life through missions called Phantom Quests, learning powers and abilities as you go with the ultimate aim being to reach a point where you can challenge him. The story is mostly delivered in Magusar’s voice and via text, which thankfully you’re able to manually advance such is the ridiculous treacle-like speed of delivery.
It’s an interesting plot though, and often throws unexpected twists in your path, with both unseen hideous motives sitting alongside unforeseen kindnesses. Cut-scenes are mostly limited to a talking book and the odd piece of moving artwork, but all in all it helps draw you into the world very well and sets it apart from its contemporaries’ limited storylines.
There’s a huge amount of customisation to be found from both a combat point of view and your character set-up, though the initial lack of visual customisation options is disappointing. There are a huge array of offerings which you can choose from before each quest, with six of them making up your in-game abilities.
These allow you to focus on being a close combat specialist, a ranged attacker, a healer or a combination of all three. You do have to be aware of what offerings you’re using though, as they each have limited uses and if you’re not careful constantly spamming the same one will result in it expiring. The number of uses can thankfully be upgraded, along with their relative strengths so you can focus on improving your favourite abilities.
The game’s graphics are generally excellent for the portable system, with suitably grotesque and twisted enemies and locations. There are a couple of hang-ups visually though with my biggest bugbear being the ‘melting’ effect when you defeat creatures looking particularly sub-par (and it’s an animation you’ll see a lot of).
Despite the dark fairytale setting I found far less menace than I expected, particularly in terms of the difficulty. Unlike Monster Hunter many of the ordinary enemies pose little to no threat at all, with only the hulking bosses requiring a level of respect. Even then a seasoned Monster Hunter player will likely sail through the game using tactics learned from that title. That’s not to say that battles lack drama, as enemies fling all sorts at you, from bile to gold, and some of them dispense fast attacks that you have to be on your toes to avoid.
Delta uses many of the Vita’s capabilities, sporting an AR game that uses the camera, collectables from Near (assuming anyone else near you is playing the same game, all I ever seem to get is parts for Modnation Racers), and both the ability to post to Twitter or upload your Slayer points to help your faction globally in order to receive in-game bonuses. In my opinion all of them weaken the game world, dragging you back out of its dark setting and into reality. All of them are unnecessary though, and you can play the game quite happily without ever experiencing them.
Soul Sacrifice Delta is an excellent example of how to genuinely refine a title. Rather than just bundling DLC or a few extra missions the developers have tackled the mechanics of the title, and the improvements to the combat make a huge difference to the way it plays. The extra content expands on what was already a large game, though ultimately it suffers from repetition which will only be alleviated by how intensely you enjoy the setting, combat and customisation.
Of course, a large part of the title is also about playing in groups online which greatly increases the game’s longevity. Given that Soul Sacrifice was available on Plus for free it’s questionable how many will want to invest their money when there is a lot of recycled content, but for those who loved it, or if you’ve yet to experience Soul Sacrifice, Delta is a highly enjoyable and worthwhile title for your Vita.