I’ve been excited to play Souldiers since I first saw the trailer and art released several months ago. I am a big fan of pixel art games, and the art style of this game is absolutely incredible. When I had an opportunity to try this new platformer out, I jumped at the chance, as I knew that this game was going to be a fantastic entry to this year’s slate of indie games. A new Metroidvania, soulslike 2D precision platformer from Retro Forge and Dear Villagers, Souldiers finds you exploring Terragaya, the land between life and death, in an attempt to get back to the land of the living as you fight a range of monsters and enemies that stand in your way.
In Souldiers, you can play as a scout, a caster, or an archer, each with their own play style and skills, allowing for multiple playthroughs of this game with new challenges that don’t feel boring on replay. This is definitely a game for video game art aficionados, with sweeping, impressive visuals; however, while the gameplay is engaging, as an entry to the soulslike genre, your playthrough can be difficult and frustrating at times.
The world of Terragaya is a beautiful, pixelated world full of a vibrant cast of characters. I went into this game excited to delve into the art, and Souldiers does not disappoint! Exploring this detailed world, you will run across immaculately designed enemies, allies, and even environmental characters such as armadillos, lizards, and scorpions while you work to free yourself from this new realm. This fantastical world, the limbo for your character, is also full of traps, challenging terrain, and magical effects. The absolutely gorgeous pixel art that the world is constructed from is a highlight in the medium, with some of the most impressive environments and character designs found among pixel art games. This immersive world feels alive, as the pixels constantly move due to wind, magic, and other effects.
Meanwhile, the animation of the characters and effects is smooth and impressive, creating a seamless experience often lacking in some pixel art-based games. I often found myself blown away by the visuals in this game, and it is really incredible what the artists and designers at Dear Villagers were able to create. The first time I entered the city of Hafin, I was in awe of the incredible scene set by the artistry of this game. Very rarely do cities in video games feel populated and complete, yet the design of the background and scenery of Hafin created a settlement that felt full and vibrant.
Being a soulslike game, Souldiers is inherently difficult and full of challenges. As expected in this genre, especially due to its Metroidvania characteristics, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome and impediments to your progress throughout the game. The combat is particularly notable in this regard, as the characters hit hard, with impressive accuracy and range in many battles. This means that it is likely that you will die a lot, just like most other soulslike games, and is an expected facet of the gameplay for a title like this.
However, in Souldiers, when you die, you reload at your most recent save point, tied to fast-travel statues that are distributed throughout the world; unfortunately, these statues are few and far between, meaning that you often respawn far away from where you died, especially when fighting difficult enemies or attempting to overcome complicated puzzles. While some checkpoints exist, such as at the start of a boss battle, the infrequency of save points and the increased likelihood of dying in this game could lead to repetitive periods of time, where you have to fight your way back up to the point where you were defeated.
In addition, when you die, you lose any experience points, new items, and story progression since your last save, as the map is fully reset to the point in time when you saved the game. This can become increasingly frustrating when there is an enemy or challenge that you are having particular difficulty overcoming. I often found myself rather annoyed as I could not pass a specific point, spending a good deal of time trying to make my way back to a difficult obstacle.
Despite the challenges in the respawn system, Souldiers has proven to be a great game. The gameplay and art create a beautiful, challenging world, while the class system allows for a great amount of replayability. The glimpses that we got of the world when the promotional material was released was just a teaser of the absolutely engaging environment that oozes in artistry. Fighting your way back to the world of the living has never looked so good!