By: Matthew Striplen
Ah, Soulcalibur… I have so many fond memories of this series. My buddies and I used to play for hours, usually ending up screaming at each other and admiring Ivy‘s… personality. Needless to say, when Lost Swords came my way, I was excited. What could possibly go wrong? It’s Soulcalibur but free! Free? Wait a minute…
Soulcalibur‘s control scheme has always been one of my favorites in the fighting genre because it successfully breaks from the tried and true mold created by Street Fighter. Characters in Lost Swords handle nearly identically to previous Soulcalibur titles but with an extra smattering of abilities. I have no problems with the actual control scheme, but the game gives the player little opportunity to learn it.
Nearly every fighting game, including other games in this franchise, offer some form of practice mode. This is a very important feature since mastering complicated combos and special abilities takes a good deal of time, and having the added distraction of actually fighting slows the learning process. Lost Swords, however, neglects to add this standard function.
Lost Swords is a very pretty game. Bright colors paired with flashy attacks makes for a titillating experience. Epic slow-mos of heavy hits also look awesome. Graphic quality doesn’t seem to be changed much from Soul Caliber V, which is not a bad thing. Also, jiggle physics are hilarious. Gentlemen, you know what I’m talking about.
I literally laughed out loud the first time I turned on Lost Swords. The title screen soundtrack sounds like the director told the composer to write the Game of Thrones theme. The similarities are remarkable, even going as far to copy the opening solo instrumentation and phrase contours. The orchestra is a mediocre quality synth track. The voice acting is pretty good, though it lacks the ability to switch to Japanese.
Lost Swords falls into many of the pitfalls of free-to-play gaming. While still a Soulcalibur title at heart, numerous elements have been added that mar the experience. Free games hit the mainstream on iOS and similar mobile devices. In order to cash in on their wildly popular games while still providing a “free” product, developers created a series of traps.
I remember seeing my first pay-to-win offer while playing none other than Angry Birds. For the lucky few who have not been subjected to this gaming atrocity and money leach, this feature offers a shop in which real dollars can be spent to buy the best weapons or special items, thus making the game significantly easier to beat. The incarnation in Lost Swords includes items ranging from $1.99-$19.99. While the game is still possible to beat, doing so without paying any money is much, much more difficult. Kinda defeats the purpose of a free game, no?
Another gaming atrocity Lost Swords commits is “wait gaming.” This technique gives players a finite amount of energy, or in this case, AP Points, to spend on playing the game. If you run out, you can no longer play the game and must wait until it recharges. But wait! You can buy more points using real world $$$ for that too! Urgh.
This next flaw is less gaming atrocity and more of a sad fact of free-to-play games. Ever go to the free section of the iTunes App Store and see “lite” versions of famous titles? While Lost Swords does not actually label itself as such, many of its features (or lack thereof) are indicative of such a game. Most Soulcalibur installments contain many colorful characters, but Lost Swords limits the number of playable characters to single digits.
Did I mention Lost Swords was completely unplayable after its initial release due to a server error? I couldn’t even reach the main menu before being returned to the title screen. Several other errors also crash the game, but they are much less severe than the initial one. These technical issues are slowly but surely being addressed.
Also, everything, and I do mean everything, has a loading screen. I understand that the battles take some time to prepare, but loading pure text should be next to instantaneous. The game makes no attempt at concealing its load times, either. An hourglass or a blank “Loading…” screen proclaims its status. The frequency with which these screens appear makes me feel like I almost spent more time waiting to play than actually playing.
Actual gameplay comes in the form of quests, which are just a sequence of traditional battles. Not much new here, other than the player must fight a varying number of consecutive opponents without restoring health. Don’t worry, though, you can always purchase a Continue Ticket with real money in case you lose.
Lost Swords blends in an RPG element as well. Players must choose one character on which to focus, though this character can be changed at any time. Weapons and armor can then be equipped and leveled up. More weapons and items are earned by successfully completing quests. However, there is a limit to how many items can be stored in the inventory. Once you become over encumbered, the player is not permitted to quest until space has been freed up. This is a major hassle, since multiple items are earned in each quest and excessive loading times discourage altering the character’s setup.
When I first encountered free-to-play gaming ploys from mobile games, I knew it was only a matter of time before they infiltrated the console market. And now here we are. Once you’re actually in combat, Lost Swords is undeniably good, but until these tactics stop making buckets of cash, they are here to stay. I am firmly opposed to gaming trickery and believe “free” games should be just that: free. I absolutely cannot condone this greedy trend and therefore cannot give Soulcalibur: Lost Swords a positive rating.