I like Warframe, Digital Extremes’ shockingly enduring free-to-play motion RPG, however I do discover its sci-fantasy route a bit a lot. The mashing collectively of tinted alloys and astral flame, the mix of over-the-shoulder capturing and swordplay, the environments that sometimes seem like GPU boxart on steroids – it’s spectacular, however loads to digest.
The Canadian developer’s new mission Soulframe has the identical sense of swagger, with menus consisting of gorgeous, quasi-medieval illustrations embellished with scrolls and dancing figures. But it surely’s a quieter thrill, a stately and absorbing world of hazy forests and sun-pierced catacombs, which calls to thoughts each Dragon’s Dogma and the neglected tiny MMO Book of Travels. After catching a hands-off presentation upfront of this 12 months’s Tennocon, I’m fairly eager to play.
Soulframe’s world is split between the forces of nature and the troopers and magical automatons of an organisation referred to as the Ode. You play a disgraced Ode soldier, stripped of your reminiscences and thrown into the wilds. The story consists of preventing the Ode’s minions whereas rediscovering the talkative spirits of your ancestors, with whom you’ll be able to kind Pacts that bestow talents – the sport’s equal of Warframe’s courses. In the midst of reclaiming your previous, you progress between a country open world of recurring enemies and procedural dungeons which are continuously altering, as indicated by floor earthquakes. Throughout exploration, you may as well warp to your tent within the Nightfold, an inter-dimensional customisation hub that can develop from a single tent to a village of ancestral spirits who present entry to crafting and development methods, like smithing.
“It shares loads of the construction, the procedural ranges and dungeons, and the MMO-lite points of Warframe, however it’s a kind of simplified, bespoke role-playing recreation,” noticed Steve Sinclair, who stepped down from his function as Warframe’s artistic director to guide Soulframe.
Elsewhere within the presentation, he added: “It’s a long-running recreation, it’s going to be free-to-play and all of these issues you’ll be able to count on from a Digital Extremes recreation, however the pacing is sort of inverted. The place Warframe is quick and frenetic, Soulframe goes to be gradual and pensive.” Sounds fairly appetising to me.
Your Soulframe character and playstyle are outlined by the virtues of braveness, spirit and style, which function core stats. Braveness is for fighter archetypes, Spirit is for magic, and Grace is for assassins, amongst different issues. There wasn’t time for questions throughout our presentation, however from what I can inform, every advantage has its personal mana pool, and the sum of these swimming pools is your life bar. Expertise embrace archery, blades, arcanic and athletic. After which there are the Pacts you signal with Ancestors, which sample your proper arm with eldritch designs. We obtained to see the beginning Pact, Fey, a “Voltaic” tech-magic skillset your character used throughout their time as an Ode trooper.
The sport’s fight is easy in idea however appears well-executed, with delicately paced and readable animations, and a few light thrives. You’ll dodge and parry, carry out combos and hearth off magic spells akin to fireballs and bolts of inexperienced power that petrify attackers. You may also throw and recall your magic sword, a contact of nu-God of War, and crouch to sneak and carry out backstabs. The layouts comprise a number of environmental traps akin to dangling picket frames, and there are wandering souls you’ll be able to channel on the outset who function dungeon modifiers.
I get the impression Soulframe is extra for solo adventurers than Warframe (our presentation didn’t cowl the multiplayer components, or for that matter, monetisation methods). The open world areas remind me of Shadow of the Colossus of their faerie hush and obscurity, with trunks rising from vivid mist and paths winding by way of carpets of flowers. The vibe is captured by the act of returning to the sport. Your character slumbers in your absence, and also you would possibly sit again down to search out them surrounded by resting animals. It in all probability appears like a ‘Cosy Second’, however it feels serene and a bit funereal, slightly than saccharine.
Soulframe doesn’t abandon you to your ideas totally, nevertheless. The ancestors apparate regularly as you hike in regards to the world, and have loads of folksy titbits to share. At one stage, some vintage wizard spectre urged me to “write that down”, which I discovered amusing within the context of a press occasion. Sorry mate – I used to be too busy taking screengrabs. There are additionally pleasant NPCs, akin to sneezy woodland sprites in cages, who you’ll be able to ask for tips on quests and suchlike.
The massive query I’ve, as a lapsed Warframe participant, is how the sport’s free-to-play MMO buildings will mood its ambiance. I am not resistant to the lure of Fashionframing, however I do not need my expertise of this pretty, verdant realm to develop into a strategy of choosing by way of merchandise catalogues – I would slightly pay an upfront charge. Nonetheless, that is attempting to close the secure door after the horse armour has bolted, and given their appreciable expertise, I am pretty assured Digital Extremes will stroll the road between letting you savour the fantasy and flogging you cosmetics.
Over the previous ten years, the studio’s had a number of cracks at diversifying its output past Warframe – the cancelled staff shooter Wonderful Legends, the so-so D&D adaptation Sword Coast Legends… Soulframe seems like essentially the most convincing effort but. It is steeped within the knowledge of Warframe, however it’s additionally a courageous new world with a spirit all its personal.