SOUL COVENENT is a VR Hack and Slash That Doesn't Reach the Genre's Heights - review

Key art of the various characters in SOUL COVENANT
Credit: Thirdverse

Key art of the various characters in SOUL COVENANT
Credit: Thirdverse

Hack and slash games are some of my favorite titles, with the likes of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta being my most played single-player games. So, when SOUL COVENANT first appeared on my radar as a VR action RPG with promises of stylishly knocking down hordes of enemies, I was intrigued.

However, while SOUL COVENANT does deliver a fun experience and an interesting story surrounding moral ambiguity in the face of the apocalypse, it doesn't quite reach the heights of the genre, delivering a somewhat enjoyable time with a few too many problems. While it's certainly not one of the best PCVR games, it is an interesting look at what a VR hack-and-slash could be.

In SOUL COVENANT, humanity resides in the last reamining stronghold, Tokyo Ark. Avatars, humans enhanced to protect the remaining survivors, fight off enemies that are controlled by 'Adam', an artificial intelligence that unleashes mechs called Deus Ex Machina that can easily wipe teams of Avatars.

Enemy mechs walking in a level in SOUL COVENANT
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Credit: Thirdverse

You're one of the aforementioned Avatars, a clone that uses a machine to learn the memories of fallen comrades, in an attempt to be strong enough to fight against Adam. Avatars use weapons called Scapegoats, bones of their fallen allies that are powerful (and awesome looking), which can transform upon holding it with two hands.

SOUL COVENANT takes its biblical references fairly seriously. A female android that you typically hear from during and between missions is fittingly called Eve, and the whole process of rebirth after death is a main narrative point throughout the experience. The game's religious influence of Christianity's Genesis is worn on its sleeve, but some of the moments are dark and twisted - fitting for a world on the brink of a complete collapse.

There's one Deus Ex Machina that will eat Avatars, implanting their face onto their mechanical body, speaking using your dead allies' voice. It's fairly sickening, and this is where SOUL COVENANT's narrative really sticks out. Unfortunately, the VR hack-and-slash gameplay doesn't hold up anywhere near as well.

When it comes to combat, players are thrust into set arenas, where various mechs will spawn in. There's never too many, even on the PC version, which means you'll regularly walking towards a lone or a small group of mechs during each level.

Players can use their Scapegoat with one hand, giving you the opportunity to open up a shield on the non-dominant hand. However, two-handing a Scapegoat transforms it into a more powerful variant. Scapegoats feel powerful to wield in-game, and the ability to instant transform it feels awesome. But, the overall gameplay loop feels shallow, and there's no real challenge to the experience.

Player holding a Scapegoat in SOUL COVENANT gameplay
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Credit: Thirdverse

Enemies go flying regularly as you smash them with finishing moves, turning them into missiles against unaware mechs, but the overall gameplay just feels very basic. It's really simple, and the game doesn't provide too much of a challenge. I never perished during missions (that weren't forced by the story), and it feels like a breeze to get through.

The design of the dystopian world of SOUL COVENANT looks incredible, and the voice acting does a good job at conveying how desperate the remainder of humanity is, but I wish Thirdverse went 'all in' on the hack and slash, or converted the game to a more traditional RPG-style experience.

SOUL COVENANT's graphics aren't too impressive. The more sci-fi elements feel amazing to look at, but the actual visuals within the arenas feel washed out, even on PC. I can imagine the PSVR 2 version of the game offers some incredible effects using the HDR, which should pop in front of the dark designs of the arenas. But it's not overly impressive, considering we had games like Half Life: Alyx or BONEWORKS years ago.

If you're looking for an interesting story that questions your morality in apocalyptic situations, SOUL COVENANT is a great time. However, the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, and if you're looking for a tribute worthy of the hack and slash greats while using the best VR headsets, you may be left disappointed.

SOUL COVENANT offers a tantalising narrative that prides itself on being dark and twisted in a post-apocalyptic world. However, its hack and slash gameplay feels too simple, and like a missed opportunity.
6 out of 10
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