Soulcalibur VI review: A grueling fighter that tests your wits

It's been a long time since we last got the chance to play a new Soulcalibur game.

The fifth installment in Bandai Namco's long-running franchise was released in 2012 for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Since then, fans have had to patiently wait for another title in the series. 

Thankfully, after six long years, Soulcalibur VI is finally here—and the wait has definitely been worth it.

Soulcalibur VI review: A grueling fighter

Time to enter the fray

Bandai Namco is arguably the king of the 3D fighting game genre and the developer has once again pulled out all the stops to make Soulcalibur VI an experience like no other.

The team has painstakingly crafted a title that's filled with content. There are a bunch of single-player story modes, a fluid character creator, and the classic versus modes to help keep you entertained for hours on end.

Players can choose from any of the 20 different characters (21 if you include DLC character Tira) to use from all from Soulcalibur history. You then face off in one-vs-one battles either against CPUs or opposing players.

The game plays like a lot of previous Soulcalibur titles. There's a horizontal and vertical slash button, a kick button, and a guard button. And by chaining different moves together, you can create devastating combination attacks that can win you the game. 

You can also beat an opponent by throwing them off the stage for an instant round victory, regardless of the amount of health they had. This can lead to some insane comebacks when the match looks to be in another player's favor, since it opens up a window for someone to steal an unlikely win.

Unlike most fighting titles, though, Soulcalibur plays more like a tactical mind game where you're constantly trying to outwit and overcome your opponent by predicting their next move so you can counter them to deal tons of damage.

You could be in the middle of a combo and miss a hit or have your opponent dodge mid-animation. This will leave a large gap open for you to be attacked, so you have to be sure to make every hit count.

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A new mechanic is known as "Reversal Edge," however, changes up the typical Soulcalibur gameplay. After doing a slash, your character will enter a small cutscene. You'll have to quickly choose an attack and pray that it hits to set up a devastating combo.

In the hands of two pros, a Soulcalibur game can look like a work of art, since each player uses their fighter's advantages to try to take the win.

Content, and lots of it

Soulcalibur VI has a bunch of different modes and content to explore.

First, there are three main single-player modes that can eat up a lot of your free time. Of course, there's the standard arcade mode where you need to fight through waves of opponents until you face a final boss, and the story mode, which serves as a retelling of the Soulcalibur series. It's almost like a reboot of the games akin to how Mortal Kombat 9 retconned the whole story. 

The main selling point for this game, though, has to be the Libra of Souls mode. In this mode, you create a custom character that explores the world, leveling up like in an RPG, getting money, and overall deciding the fate of the world. You can choose evil or good options throughout your journey and have your custom character play like one of the 20 fighters in the game.

Libra of Souls breaks up the fighting formula, giving you the chance to find weapons with better stats, change your fighting style at any time, and it throws different challenges at you throughout the game. For example, we were put up against a foe that could only take damage through being kicked. This serves as a way to teach the player about the different ways to fight and shakes up the formula from the typical story and arcade mode.

These single-player modes, like in other Bandai Namco games, are a great way to learn the game if you're a beginner. There's also a training mode where you can learn combos at your own pace if you prefer that option. This is important because learning the combos for each character, and learning how the game works, is vital to help you get through some of the later stages in the multiple single-player modes as the difficulty spikes the further you go into it.

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Despite the game not being as beginner friendly as some other recent fighting games, Bandai Namco has still included options for those looking to just enjoy themselves. Just like Dragon Ball FighterZ, you can then chain simple combos by mashing the same button in battle—but that will only get you so far. 

Multiplayer - TBA

It's worth noting that during the review phase, we didn't have a chance to try out multiplayer functions, which are essential to fighting games nowadays—the servers weren't online.

We'll come back to this section once the game launches to give you a better idea of the multiplayer modes on offer, as well as how the game runs.

When the battle is over

Sadly, the lack of beginner-friendly options could discourage some newcomers because of the extensive combo system. For fans of the Soulcalibur series, however, this is the game that you've been waiting for.

The game is far from perfect, with single-player difficulty rising quickly. But that difficulty just serves to better prepare you for the journey ahead. Multiplayer is still a big question mark until it goes online. If it's anything like Dragon Ball FighterZ and other Bandai fighting games, though, servers shouldn't be an issue.

With a massive amount of characters and more on the way in the future as DLC, Soulcalibur VI could have a thriving community behind it for many years to come. It has a bunch of competition from other 3D fighters like Tekken, but the game has enough content to stand on its own and really push into the FGC scene.

The only thing that could top it all off now would be if we get a Nintendo Switch version of the title, alongside Link from The Legend of Zelda series being included as a playable character. That would be a treat for anyone who enjoyed playing Soulcalibur 2 on the GameCube so long ago.

Come on, Bandai Namco and Nintendo—please make it happen. We aren't asking for much.

Rating: 7/10

Disclosure: Our PS4 review copy of the game was provided courtesy of Bandai Namco.