Title: Soul Axiom
Platform: Steam (reviewed on), Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PS4, PS3 (Wii U ports apparently to come in Q2 2016)
Price: Steam/Mac/Linux – £14.99/$19.99/€19.99
Developer: Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Release date: Out now, if you like playing on PC.
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Don’t bother.
People keep telling me “Don’t trust a trailer! Anyone can slap together something that looks good for two minutes!” and I never listen. I’m easily swayed by a cool, enigmatic story trailer, and my God did it get me this time. Soul Axiom has a really interesting concept that is hampered by poor storytelling and the most infuriating controls since time began.
That trailer promises great things; great atmosphere and an alluring story that God knows we’ve been missing from video games for a long time. But weirdly, Soul Axiom shows too much rather than trying to tell a story, with mediocre graphics and little-to-no objective directions. And I’ll be honest – I’m busy. I have a life. I don’t have the hours to spare to puzzle out every step and run in circles just because the game doesn’t include a quest marker…
So let’s break it down. Graphically, this game is unusual. Everything looks a little clay-like and dips into the Uncanny Valley quite a bit, which works well with Elysia’s unsettling atmosphere. The environments are huge, grand, and empty. It all feels isolating and genuinely threatening, with nothing in sight. I was waiting for a glimpse of the monster or something horrible, which was weird, because I didn’t initially think this was a horror game. There’s clearly something sinister going on in Elysia, but whatever it was, the first couple of hours alone were enough to keep me looking over my shoulder.
However, the plot takes far too long to kick off. I was three hours into the game before I started getting the first hint of the story, and all of that was through the incredibly creepy cymbal monkeys that were lying around. I thoroughly dislike games that rely on visuals and nothing else, and while I could appreciate the spookiness, I wanted to know why. With all its neon lighting and abandoned buildings, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first Bioshock. It’s pretty, you’re afraid and lost in the middle of the ocean, and you know what it does? It gets on with things. Three hours in, and you’ve got a main plot. Three hours into Soul Axiom, however, and all I knew was my player character (and who is this? A faceless avatar? An actual character?) was most possibly dead and roaming the digitised soul realm.
And that was it.
I’d been hoping for a grand, philosophical experience like my beloved Talos Principle, so I was a bit put out, to say the least. Pace is key to storytelling, and this one fell far too flat.
Gameplay, however, was the real gamechanger here, mostly because Soul Axiom was nigh unplayable. It wasn’t until I hooked a PS4 controller up to my PC that I finally understood how people actually play games on their computers. Without my controller, I was getting finger cramps holding down Shift to run, the camera was annoyingly out of reach since I was using a trackpad, and reaction times – like holding out the MC’s arms to use your powers – were slow, maybe even a little laggy. It was frustrating, clunky, and ultimately turned me off the entire game. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of skill when it comes to PC gaming, but Soul Axiom really didn’t feel like it was meant to be for PC. Maybe the developer can iron out the issues before it comes to consoles, but don’t try it on PC unless you like being annoyed.
The sad thing is, the game really had a lot of potential with the abilities. Being able to manipulate the environment for puzzles as opposed to just moving to a separate screen and playing a minigame is a great idea, and the powers looked fun, too. Phasing something in and out of existence, playing or pausing something, setting stuff alight or weilding electricity – all of that sounds fun. But when the controls make it so difficult, there’s no objective marker, and there isn’t any apparent way to tell what to do, the fun aspect drains very quickly.
So, in summary:
- Creepy atmosphere
- Nice visuals
- Plot had great potential to be interesting
- Plot takes too long to get going
- Lack of any sort of gameplay direction
- Nigh unplayable without a controller
Weirdly, this one still says Rating Pending, and I can’t seem to find one on Steam, but it’s fairly unsettling and deals with the theme of death. I’d say 15+, but use your own discretion.
This review is based on a review build of the game provided by the publisher.