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SOULVARS is described by its developers, Shueisha Games, as being a turn-based RPG with deck-building mechanics. It’s a 2D pixelated adventure with a soundtrack that gave me similar vibes to Trigun: Stampede, which made for some interesting ambience.

Starting SOULVARS, you jump straight into the action. Now, I don’t mind this kind of cold open, but I tend to enjoy having some context on who the characters are. All I know is that the protagonist is called Yakuma, and he is a member of the DDO. For the first hour of the game, I was just confused about what was happening. There’s not really any kind of world-building set-up, you just get thrown into the exploration and combat.

Ice Enemies SOULVARS2

Now, while I was confused about the storyline of SOULVARS, I had no issue with the combat once I got used to it. It is generally a turn-based RPG with deck-building mechanics. You use your abilities to defeat opponents, and you can get more ability points to achieve the maximum number of moves by using combos that target your enemies’ weaknesses. Due to this, you have to think about the techniques you can use, and you can gain more techniques as you progress through the game.

I found that learning Soul Arts, new abilities that allow you to use different combos, was quite easy. You either buy them or find them as you pass. If you don’t customise your techniques, then you're screwed. While the gameplay can get a little bit repetitive, I didn’t find the battles boring as such. I enjoyed finding different combos, and I thought each enemy offered some pretty decent challenges as I progressed. However, it would have been nicer to have some understanding of who I was actually fighting.


The DDO have enemies called the Izanami. However, we don’t really learn who the Izanami are. It’s assumed that Yakuma knows them based on the other characters’ responses to him. But that doesn’t answer the question of what they want from him. While this is an interesting way to keep players interested in playing, it’s also frustrating. After all, I tend to enjoy a little bit of mystery in my narrative, but I don’t tend to enjoy being completely left in the dark.

Of course, if you have questions, you can get some minor answers from the glossary in the main menu. However, this will only give you information you discover as you progress through the game. Thankfully, the game does keep you on your toes.


You have to explore several different areas that are available on the world map. You’ll know where you can go by some exclamation marks that are over where you need to go. These can be helpful to do side quests and get a few bits of extra gear. Some side quests are only available at a specific time of day, and because there is a rest feature, it does give you a little bit of a time limit. The same can also be said for some stages, where you are only allowed half an hour of in-game time on one stage. However, you can go back immediately to continue with what you’re doing, but you will have to go back and forth a little bit to ensure that you can accomplish your missions.

They tend to be straightforward battle missions, and with these, you’ll get some new items and money to get more equipment and gear. These are essential to progress in the game, so you need to consider which gears are best for you. The good news is that you can level up pretty easily once you’ve figured out the combat system. The biggest challenge is getting through each map, but it’s a specific formula. You have arrows that will lead you to where you need to go, and you’ll find switches to get through closed doors.

SOULVARS Traveling

Truthfully, once you customise your weapons and find more Soul Bits, the battles get a lot easier. If you’re struggling at certain points and you need to use your Alternation technique to beat some tougher enemies, then you can always exit to the map and rest for a few hours. The rest system doesn’t penalise you, and it doesn’t appear to make much difference. However, certain side quests can only be done at specific times of day or night. Personally, I didn’t do many of the side quests as you need to go to the DDO Base Point to find more; they just didn’t interest me much. Returning to the DDO Base Point is fine earlier in the game, but once you’ve unlocked more shops to go to in different areas, it feels redundant to return there. In fact, I didn’t realise more side quests were there until I reached the end of Mission 6 when I could no longer return to the DDO Base Point to unlock more.

Alternation SOULVARS

Otherwise, I hadn’t really struggled with the battles, as gear isn’t impossible to find. So long as you have a range of different items, you shouldn’t have much difficulty. There is a selection of side quests that appear before the final Mission, but these seem to be better for improving your gear before you travel to the final Mission point. While I enjoyed the battle system, I can’t say that I would play SOULVARS for the plot. Earlier, I mentioned that at the beginning of the game, I didn’t quite understand what was going on, but I couldn’t even attach myself to any of the characters. Usually, I have some characters I enjoy, but most of them sounded the same. The dialogue felt stilted, despite the attempts to sound natural. The enemies pretty much had the same sprites with different colour schemes, and I had more fun just unlocking the different gear.

SOULVARS Deck Building

Overall, if you’re looking for a fun story, then you may not find it here, as I felt that by the end of the game, I was certainly just going through the motions. The battles felt more repetitive towards the end, as once you have the right gear, you basically sail through each fight as you probably have your strategy down. While the fights are enjoyable earlier on, it felt more like I was grinding to the end once I knew what I was doing.

While it’s not a bad game, I feel like there could have been more, especially for a game so inspired by RPGs. After all, I usually play those for the characters and story, and that didn’t manage to grip me here.

5.50/10 5½

SOULVARS (Reviewed on Windows)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

Overall, the gameplay mechanics of SOULVARS were enjoyable, but the story is repetitive and the characters and story felt lacking. If you enjoy deck-builders, this should be up your alley, but if you’re here for the narrative I would look elsewhere.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Bex Prouse

Bex Prouse

Staff Writer

Writing about all sorts like a liquorice allsort

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