SoulCalibur V is a strong entry into the Soul series with a best in class character creator and very strong online netcode. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of 3D fighters.
SoulCalibur V is the latest entry in the Soul series of 3D fighting games from Namco and is set 17 years after the events of SoulCalibur IV, in which Siegfried defeated Nightmare, and focuses on a new generation of fighters including Patroklos and his search for his sister Pyrrha.
I’ll get my thoughts on the story mode stuff out of the way first because like most fighting games the story usually isn’t that great and isn’t where most of the play time goes. This games story follows the pretty unlikeable Patroklos and starts off as he follows orders from a guy named Dumas who promises to help ol’ Pat with his search for his sister if he just goes around killing a bunch of ‘malfested’. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that Dumas might just be a bad guy and Patroklos finds this out after a fight with another newcomer Z.W.E.I who straight up tells him that Dumas is a bad guy. From there one thing leads to another and Pat ends up with Schwarzwind, a band of mercenaries lead by Seigfried, and goes off to restore power to SoulCalibur while looking for his sister and Tira; who kidnapped her when they were young. The story is pretty badly told, short and really makes the addition of the new characters mostly pointless as they are not fleshed out at all and just turn up because the plot calls for it and they could just as well have been the characters from the previous game whose styles they use without affecting anything.
The game tells the story mostly through static, drawn pictures with voice over and sound effects but does include some cutscenes for the more dramatic moments which are quite nice to watch to be honest. It’s a shame that the whole story wasn’t told that way as it would probably have made the whole thing more enjoyable. Through the story you fight other named characters but also some fodder foes made using bits from the Create a Soul mode, the games character creator, which I’ll get to later. It’s a pretty easy mode and probably worth playing through if you are new to the series to get used to the combat and a few fighting styles.
SoulCalibur V’s combat mixes elements from the previous game with a few new mechanics and ends up playing the best yet. The Critical Gauge can fill up to 200% as you take damage, inflict damage, guard or even by losing two rounds (you get a 100% boost for this). The gauge can be used to perform ‘Critical Edges’, which take 100% meter and are pretty much Ultra Combos from Street Fighter 4 performed by double quarter circle forward and A+B+K (default Right Trigger); ‘Brave Edge’ attacks, which take 50% meter and are basically EX moves (improved combos/attacks) and are done by hitting A+B+K right after you perform the inputs for the move or ‘Guard Impacts’, which cost 50% meter and deflect all levels of attacks and are performed with backwards and A+B+K. The addition of these mechanics really improves the combat and allows for some pretty great comebacks if used right. Apart from these inclusions the game really plays very similar to SoulCalibur IV but without the Soul Gauge and only one level of clothing destruction. The game also includes ‘Guard Bursts’ which happen if a player blocks too many attacks, the area around your health will flash yellow and then red to warn you and if you keep blocking hits your guard will eventually break and leave you open for a short time. There is also the ‘Just Guard’ system where if you tap the block button at just the right moment you will reduce block stun.
The characters of SoulCalibur V are a mix of new and old with some of the non-returning characters passing their styles onto their children or pupils. The new
characters that use similar styles to previous characters aren’t exact copies; they incorporate some classic moves with new moves making for a new combat experience that also feels familiar. Xiba takes over the Bo Staff weapon from Kilik but is based more on the classic Chinese Monkey King character, Partoklos and Pyrrha take moves from their mother Sophitia and Cassandra, Leixia uses a Chinese sword like her mother Xianghua and Natsu uses a similar ninja like style to her master Taki.
The completely new styles are very interesting and include Viola, an amnesiac fortune-teller who fights with a magic orb, Z.W.E.I who fights using a sword and a wolf familiar named E.I.N and the Create a Soul specific style based on the Devil Jin character from the Tekken series. Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed games also stars as a guest character and uses a variety of weapons from the Assassin’s Creed games including the trade mark hidden blades.
On the subject of characters, the Create a Soul mode returns and lets you do more than ever thanks to the addition of patterns, stickers and miscellaneous objects to apply to your creations meaning you can make your copyright infringing characters closer than ever to the real deal. You can use all styles for your created characters except for Ezio’s style and Algol’s style. You can also edit the look or colours of any character except Ezio. I guess Ubisoft didn’t want players able to make a naked Ezio or colour him pink. The Create a Soul mode is one of, if not the, best in a fighter game. You can customise the face, hair, eyebrows, face paint, muscle size, height, build and use many parts on male or female custom characters. There are so many parts to use that steadily unlock as you level up your player level and the addition of stickers, patterns and objects mean you can make some really ambitious characters. You can also now take a picture to use as the characters portrait and choose from a variety of poses and backgrounds to make the picture as appropriate or inappropriate as you’d like. I’ve probably spent the most time in this mode trying to recreate my favourite characters from other video games or TV shows and getting them really close to the real thing.
Outside of the story mode there is also the Arcade mode, Training, Quick battle and the unlockable Legendary Souls modes on the single player side of things. The Arcade mode contains five routes and three difficulty settings that see you fighting against six AI enemies that get a bit smarter as you go. Your time is recorded for each route so you can compare against friends or rivals. The Quick Battle mode lets you fight against various characters and earn titles when you win. This mode is pretty cool as there are more than 150 opponents of varying difficulty with a large amount of them custom creations. The training mode seems pretty standard for the SoulCalibur games and includes a setting to simulate online lag which is pretty helpful for mastering combos you want to take online. The Legendary Souls mode is a pretty damn hard mode where you fight against the hardest AI and have your time taken recorded.
There are three online modes, Ranked Match, Player Match and Global Colosseo. The ranked matches are what you expect from an online fighter, one on one ranked fights. In Player Match you can join or create rooms with a bunch of options including room size, round time and battle count. In player rooms you can chat and watch the current match while waiting for your turn. The Global Colosseo is pretty similar to the player rooms but on a grander scale. There are Colosseos for most major cities in the world and you can chat, join tournaments, enter into random matchups or challenge other
players in the colosseo. There are also leader boards that rank pretty much everything from Arcade mode times to weekly ranked mode wins and a replay mode where you can watch, download and upload replays of your fights. There is also the player license that records your stats and lets you set a picture, title, location and rivals by using previously met players online and you can use the Soul Link option to compare stats with up to three other players.
The online netcode is really good. I’ve not really encountered much lag at all even when the connection bar was in the two bar range. To reduce the risk of lag you can search for games in your region though I had a fine experience fighting against North Americans.
In the end I think SoulCalibur V is a great fighter. It’s fast and fluid with great online netcode and options and some of the Critical Edge attacks are pretty damn cool looking and helpful in fights. The Create a Soul mode is better than ever but it really is a shame it’s missing some pieces that were in SoulCalibur IV, maybe they’ll be added back in as DLC? Same with the missing characters, it’s such a shame to lose the likes of Talim and Yun-Seong but who knows what Namco will add with DLC? The character Dampierre is a pre-order bonus and will be available at some point to buy who is to say they won’t re-add older characters or styles this way?
I might not be the best at the game, or fighters in general, but I really do enjoy this one. I’ve always been a fan of the Soul games and this one doesn’t disappoint.