‘Soulcalibur VI’ Review: When Sequels Play It Too Safe

Adam Rorke
Game Reviews Games
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of 5
Review Essentials
  • The classic, proven fighting system remains intact
  • Reversal Edge could add flavour for spectators
  • So much is unchanged, it feels like copy/paste
  • The story fails on almost every level
  • No tutorial to ease newer players into the game
Reviewed on PS4

There’s never been a better time if you’re a fan of fighting games. In the last four years there’s been a massive resurgence in the genre with the return of long forgotten favourites like Killer Instinct as well as the tried and tested kings like Street Fighter and Tekken. With many more on the way, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Soulcalibur VI (SCVI) is the latest to throw its hat in the ring and contend for people’s time and money.

In such a heavily contested genre, it’ll need to deliver something special or be easily forgotten in the sea of bargain bins around the world. But those happy with SCVI will fall squarely into the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” crowd.

That’s because much of Soulcalibur VI is carried over from the last game — starting with its story, which kicks off almost like a reboot. Cervantes, with the power of Soul Edge, is committing a reign of terror on the world, only to be defeated and have the cursed blade end up in the hands of dazed and confused Siegfried. Of course he is immediately overwhelmed by its power and turns into the dreaded Nightmare who proceeds to spread its dark powers across the land.

Knightmare holds the Soul Edge in Soulcalibur 6
Soul Edge returns to bring darkness to the land.

Haven’t we played this before?

While additions to the formula are few and far between, one highly talked-about new system is the Reversal Edge — an attack which, when successful, will enter you and your opponent into what’s described as a cinematic ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ scenario where you both choose an attack or evasion and see how it plays out.

We can definitely see what Project Soul was going for with this. Create a suspenseful moment that generates spectator hype and excitement. Not too dissimilar from the last hit slow down system seen in Tekken 7 that rarely fails gets the crowd cheering. But due to the attack being available at any time, it seems to be more of a reset function rather than anything drastically game changing.

So how does it play overall? Well, if you’ve played a Soulcalibur game in the last eight years, you’ve played this one. Many of the returning characters honestly don’t feel any different from previous games, sporting the same inputs, combos, and strategies.

Thankfully, like previous iterations, a skilled opponent will still beat a common button masher and in typical Soulcalibur fashion in lieu of an execution barrier with tight frame windows, the better players will have pin point timing, pixel positioning, and a solid defence. We’ll update this review later once the online ecosystem is live and can be tested.

Soulcalibur 6 Raphael sword thrust
Raphael's quick sword thrusts will keep you at his ideal range.

In the world we live in, any time a competitive game is released we’re all asking the question if it holds up as an esport title. For that scene, the reliability and unchanged nature of SCVI can be considered a positive.

Even though the scene has fizzled out over the years due a lack of releases, this series of games has always proven it has the high-level dynamics to separate the pros from the scrubs. Understanding frame advantage, setting up parries, and baiting whiff attacks are all here for the more serious players to overcome and dominate the opposition.

Enter the White Wolf, Geralt

The Soulcalibur series celebrates its guest characters, and Soulcalibur VI brings Geralt of Rivia, of The Witcher fame. He’s far from a gimmick character and brings to bear his unique fighting style learned at the School of the Wolf.

Primarily using sword attacks, Geralt has a few tricks up his sleeves utilising his magic abilities and traps. His resourcefulness makes him appear as an all-rounder, though we found him to be weak from range. Geralt needs to get in close, and fortunately he can be quite aggressive with openers and launchers.

Not to mention one particular metered attack that can be cancelled into an armoured attack that interrupts the enemy, and can be followed through with a combo. Safe to say he has the tools to overcome his weakness, and it’s easy to predict that he’ll be a fan favourite for players who pick up this game.

Raphael prepares for a super attack in Soulcalibur 6
Super attacks can be quite cinematic.

Haven’t we seen this before?

Graphically, this game isn’t going to turn any heads. We’ve seen how good games can look on the current generation of consoles with titles like Mortal Kombat X and Tekken 7 showing just how beautiful a game can look when you’re kicking an opponent in the face!

SCVI on the other hand appears to be a few steps in the other direction. To the point where you could be forgiven for thinking a PS3 / 360 could potentially run this game. It’s a bit of a shame because the Soulcalibur games have always, famously, been a front runner for beautiful visuals and this just feels like a half-hearted effort.

It’s also worth mentioning that the character designs, specifically the women, feel vastly out of date and out of touch with today’s standards and come off as tacky.

Soulcalibur 6 Tira circle hula-hoop weapon
Tira's hula-hoop of pain is back, as is that high-pitched voice.

A Story Retold

There are two story modes on offer. Missions have you create your own character who wakes up not knowing what’s happened to them, only to be notified that the dark powers have contaminated their body and death is likely. With the aid of Zasalamel, you set out to save your own life and forge your own fate.

Siegfried and Nightmare battle in Soulcalibur 6
Siegfried vs Nightmare in the classic battle of good and evil

Story mode on the other hand puts you in the shoes of Kilik, whose home is ravaged as a result of this evil, losing all those he loved and cared for. He then decides to seek out the Soul Edge and seal it away to protect the world. Each character also has a short campaign with their own story that fits into the bigger picture so you get a good idea on how everyone plays their own part.

It was at this point though that alarm bells started to ring. Failed suspense, thin characterisation, hamfisted attempts at emotion, and a clichéd narrative… you’d be forgiven for thinking that George Lucas himself penned this one.

Soulcalibur 6 story images
Much of the story is told in oft-repeated still images.

SCVI reminds you of the ‘dark shadow’ hanging over Kilik‘s head at every given opportunity. It’s as if he game thinks you have short term memory loss.

This story mode is presented with still images, voice overs, and a script that sounds like it was a first draft. The images themselves are reused constantly throughout the entire campaign and often the voice acting, whilst not terrible, isn’t up to scratch with what we’ve come to expect — even from fighting games, long ridiculed for their story modes until Mortal Kombat raised the bar.

The only saving grace is you’re allowed to skip these scenes so you don’t have to endure hearing Kilik say “yes master” for the fiftieth time.

Soulcalibur 6 character creator
Moves as well as cosmetics are included in the character creator.

Is Soulcalibur VI Good?

The general feeling with Soulcalibur VI is disappointment. We simply expected more from a game we waited six years for. The story is lacking, it’s graphically unappealing, and it doesn’t even have a decent tutorial to explain how the game works or how to fundamentally play each character.

On paper, it seemed great. A new Soulcalibur game with 20 characters launching on the current generation of consoles! But what we got looks like a copy and paste from something we’ve played before. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — but the fighting genre is blessed with options, and Soulcalibur VI‘s competitors are making bolder, more interesting moves.

Adam Rorke
Freelance Writer, lover of all things esports and proud member of the Australian FGC. Games critic of the days when you could remember every sound your modem made when it made its connection to the internet.