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Soul Historica (Android) artwork

Soul Historica (Android) review

"A fairly decent game trapped within a story that either tried too hard or didn't try at all."

If you play enough Kemco titles, you'll likely reach the conclusion that a publisher requiring its handful of design teams to produce a stream of new games on a regular basis is NOT a good thing. Whether that demanding schedule leads to Exe-Create rehashing the same template every couple months, or to Hit-Point coming up with decent ideas but then failing to match them with polished products, the rapid-fire release policy tends to result in forgettable, disposable games.

Despite being one of the less prolific teams in Kemco's stable, even Magitec fell victim to this trap. One of its earlier efforts, Chrome Wolf, might be my favorite of the couple dozen Kemco games I've played so far. It's relatively ugly and simple, like all Magitec offerings, but it featured a mature storyline that was content to deliver a bittersweet (yet understandable) ending. It also happened to be quite a lot of fun, thanks to its ability to challenge players without straying too far in that direction and becoming cheap. There was a big tank you could use as a substitute for your standard party in many battles, and the simple class system gave players incentive to endure random encounters without complaint. Chrome Wolf was in many respects as disposable as any Kemco game, and yet I keep bringing it up when reviewing other titles from the publisher. At least it wasn't forgettable.

Magitec couldn't maintain that early momentum, unfortunately. I learned as much when I started playing through Soul Historica. Some of what the newer title offers feels like a more polished take on the promising concepts presented in Chrome Wolf, but the overall project simply doesn't work.

The story is largely to blame. In the other Magitec games I've liked, intrigue has been common. Characters change sides and often have deep-rooted motivations for their actions. In Soul Historica, there's just a mess. People act in bizarre manners for seemingly no reason, other than to facilitate a plot that wouldn't work if anyone just had a clue what anyone else was trying to accomplish around them.

As is to be expected in a game that can be sort-of-completed in fewer than 15 hours, it doesn't take long for plot twists to start smacking you in the face. You control York, a Holy Knight in the employ of a Lord Nemesis. Despite the evil-sounding name, Nemesis' main job is to eradicate monsters threatening the safety of local townspeople... such as York's girlfriend, Eris. As the game begins, York, along with his pal Ibis and his superior officer, Olber, are sent to eradicate monsters in a local forest. However, once they accomplish that task, the warriors are horrified to discover that the nearby town is now on fire.

Forced to deal with the loss of his one true love, York is in no mood to listen quietly as Nemesis explains--poorly, with unconvincing tripe about how the monsters were getting too powerful and persistent--that it was necessary to sacrifice the town. York's anger at that explanation leads to his disbarment from the order. Only his past service prevents him from outright execution as a penalty for his insubordination. He then hangs around the supposedly rebuilt town, functioning as a professional drunk. Then a mysterious man appears with a message: Eris wasn't actually killed in the fire, but instead is living as a prisoner in a nearby tower that happens to serve as the headquarters for the Holy Knights. One rescue mission later and the two lovers (as well as Ibis, who also was confused and disgusted by the order's secrecy regarding Eris) are reunited.

There's one small issue, though, which is that Eris has no memory of the two. She insists her name is in fact Fiora. York and Ibis are unconcerned and chalk it all up to amnesia. They venture out into the world as fugitives, hoping to find the key to unlocking her true memories. Of course, Nemesis and loyal subordinate Olber are hot on their heels, and that mysterious figure is the sort of shadowy guy with his own agenda who will turn on everyone a half-million times before all is said and done. So you can be sure the journey will have its share of pitfalls.

One such pitfall is that after progressing beyond the point in the narrative that I outlined above, I gradually became unable to understand just what was even happening. I can tell you that it takes a surprisingly small amount of time before you're hit with the bombshell that the world your characters occupy is an artificial construct, created when the actual one was rendered uninhabitable by pollution or whatever. And I know that a number of people inserted their consciousnesses into residents of this new world in order to continue living. I also know that--apparently--the old world has finally begun to return to its normal state. That means certain important characters are engaged in an effort to locate some sort of key that might allow them to find their way back. Monsters that stand in their way are imperfections in the program, comparable to a modern-day computer virus. And the problems they cause can only worsen.

So, anyway, there was one plot twist after another until nearly the very end, at which point the game tried to see just how anti-climactic everything could get. The penultimate dungeon ends as a couple of characters are trying to hold off extremely powerful monsters, so that the other two team members can gain control of this game's flying machine and return to the old world. The screen turns to black as those two remaining characters accept their fate… and then everyone on the team is suddenly reunited on the ship and saying stuff like, "Whoa! Good thing you guys got here in the nick of time, or we'd be goners!" That's a facepalm, but it's nothing compared to what follows: the final dungeon boasts an ending that only partially resolves the main plot's points, all so it can focus on York as he works through his angst. Double facepalm! After a certain point, you can almost feel the writers losing interest in their story and just making up some stuff so they can be released from their cages and see their families again.

Soul Historica might actually have a better ending available, mind you, but it'll take more effort than all but the most ardent Kemco fans will care to expend. Roughly halfway through the game, you must make a choice to continue as York or Fiora. After beating the game, you're expected to play through it again (while keeping some of the stuff you acquired the first time through it). This time, you have to choose the other option when presented with the familiar fork in the road. Then you can play the entire game a THIRD time, finally choosing to see events from the perspective of that shadowy, mysterious figure. I barely found the game to be worth playing through the one time, so I didn't dare start a second trip through it, let alone contemplate a third one.

That's not to say Soul Historica is a bad game, regardless of my opinions on its shoddy storytelling; it simply doesn't have the depth to warrant repeated trips through its campaign. Like Chrome Wolf, there is a class system. But the developers handled things differently, assigning to each team member specific classes only he or she may access. York tends to get classes that make him a melee-oriented powerhouse, while Fiora is a mage and Ibis--as a scout--is left with a combination of melee- and bow-oriented classes. Formation in combat is more important here than in most Kemco games, since different classes use different weapons and each type of weapon is more proficiently used if the character wielding it is positioned in the proper row. If you have a sword, you're in the front. Guys with spears should occupy the middle row, and bow wielders and such should be placed in the back.

To access different classes, you must equip your party members with various souls, which typically are obtained from slain monsters. These souls grant various passive buffs, such as improved stats or nullified status ailments, and they also determine what classes a character can access from there. Souls come in three colors, and stacking souls of a particular color gives you access to superior classes that are more useful than the basic ones available when the game begins. As you progress through the campaign, the souls you acquire become more powerful, making it easier to access better classes and enjoy superior benefits. Each character can access a decent number of classes, and each class can be leveled up as many as three times. New skills are bestowed whenever that happens. However, I found that I was able to unlock everyone's most powerful class around midway through the game. And let's face it: new skills or not, I had no desire to turn down the nice stat boosts everyone's best class gives them in order to fiddle around and see if I could find another intermediate one in order to gain a couple more skills.

The rest of the game is typical Magitec fare. For those who haven't clicked on any of my reviews for other games from the developer, this means you'll notice a number of disappointing qualities. On an aesthetic level, there's nothing to write home about, with simply drawn backgrounds and (other than your characters) next-to-no sprite animation. Dungeons employ a decent number of tricks for a short game, but they're the same tricks that are present in the company's other offerings. So if you've played a few, you'll instantly recognize the spiked floors, as well as the meandering paths leading either to insignificant treasure or to far more important switches you must interact with to open doors. I do remember encountering a maze of teleporters late in the game, though. So hey, Magitec did apparently learn one new trick!

A single new trick might have been enough to make up for a game that's much the same as the team's other output, if only the game represented the pinnacle of that output. Soul Historica, sadly, does not. The soul system was a neat take on class-based games, but it could have been implemented a bit more expertly. And the plot fizzled out early before running on auto-pilot for roughly half the campaign... which is really bad considering a person is expected to go through the motions three times just to discover the full story. When companies are forced to release games with such frequency, the quality can suffer. This game is a sterling example of a project that really needed some extra work put into it before being unleashed on the masses.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (January 03, 2018)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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