The very nature of what a soul is has been debated in theological and scientific circles for millennia. Where does it reside? What is it made up of? How much of our personality relies upon it? Do souls even exist? There are no concrete answers either way, but Wales Interactive has come up with its own approach in Soul Axiom, a game where souls are saved digitally with memories accessed through a program called Elysia.
Soul Axiom is primarily a puzzle game where you visit different memory locations to piece together the story, with this being done through finding solutions and collecting PEMOs. These unlock snippets of news and character bios in an attempt to build a world for Elysia to inhabit, but if you were to ask for a general synopsis of Soul Axiom’s plot, you won’t find me able to give you a good answer.
Despite hours of playing, watching cutscenes, and reading each bit of extra content, a coherent plotline never forms. There are several storylines in play, but none of them present anything of interest, and the way these are delivered doesn’t inspire the need or desire to delve further. The cutscenes occasionally stutter, and wouldn’t look out of place in games from the last generation, while the voice actors sound bored during most of their delivery.
The majority of the puzzles in Soul Axiom are easy to work out as you make your way across the different locations, with the likes of the jungle, an ice castle, space station and a beach amongst the roster. Only a few locations really stand out as impressive or offer a genuine challenge and any kind of interesting atmosphere. The hospital and hte mansion full of werewolf statues evoke a sense of dread, while also presenting puzzles that take quite a bit of time to work out. These and a couple of other levels shine high above the rest of what is on offer.
Some levels manage to become annoying though, which was exacerbated by the music of these areas looping roughly every 20 seconds. It’d be fine if those levels took maybe a minute to do, but they were a lot longer than that, so hearing a strange child laugh or the same chant repeat over and over helped build a certain resentment towards the levels in which they were present. In these cases silence would undoubtedly have been the better option.
You solve puzzles using various powers, including being able to remove or fix parts of the world, moving objects through the Play power, which is akin to telekinesis, and the ability to destroy items too. Assets that can be manipulated with these powers glow with a corresponding colour, but actually putting it into practice can be a chore in and of itself. The distance which powers can reach appears to fluctuate, and sometimes when the aiming reticule is on an item the power simply won’t activate. Instead you need to be a bit off target before being able to do anything.
In the journey to unlock memories you’ll find corrupt cubes, with one present in each area. These cubes are gateways to other levels to add to the story, but aren’t accessible until you complete a run through all of the base stages first. It adds another act to the story, but by the time these sections are unlocked motivation feels hard to come by, even though you gain a new power. Unfortunately, the other way Soul Axiom’s time is extended is through the long loading times.
Another irksome thing is that should you decide to transport back to the hub from a level before completing all the puzzles within, the stage resets. Just a small autosave feature between each completed puzzle would be a welcome addition, instead of having to start over if you had to turn off the console midway through an area. Autosave isn’t a luxury feature anymore, it’s an expected part of gaming.
Having played a few of Wales Interactive games, Soul Axiom is a disappointing release from a studio that is capable of better. Muddled in with the disjointed story and an uninteresting cast of characters, there are a few glimpses of genius design that only serve to highlight the lacklustre moments that surround them. Soul Axiom tries to discuss the subject of the soul, but doesn’t have one itself.
Version tested: PS4