I first saw Soul Axiom two years ago at EGX in London and the game really caught the attention of not only myself, but many of the crowd there and I was excited to hear of its formal release and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. However what I discovered was a real mix of exciting creative gameplay and frustrating niggles.
Set in the cyberspace world of Elysia, Soul Axiom developed by Wales Interactive is a first-person story driven adventure, based in what can simply be described as a digital afterlife. Elysia is a state of the art Digital Soul Provider which allows you to upload your soul, making your dreams and memories into a reality. Now this idea of a digital afterlife has been touched before in games like ‘SOMA’, so again I was keen to see how Soul Axiom, who has made this the main focus for the game, delivered it.
The game opens up with you free-falling though an electrical storm, with visions passing you by. Are you dead? Is this a dream? What do they mean? No sooner have you started wondering what’s gone on, you find yourself landing on a boat. A quick search around reveals a galleon type sail ship and once you fire up the engines you are coasting through the air. Well that’s until some huge winged creature comes and trashes it, sending you plummeting to the ground. Waking on a strange neon Tron-like world you start to discover the true concept of the game, exploring, solving puzzles and environment interaction. A great start to the game and this had me really excited as I believed I had only just scratched the surface.
As you walk around, what you will discover in Elysia is that you get the first of your four powers, the ability to control the environment by phasing objects in and out of existence, or as the game states, you give with one hand and take with the other. This allows you to create bridges, phase through what were solid walls and interact with various environments. However this is where the game started to come apart. The use of your abilities is very linear, there is no opportunity to go out on a limb and do something different. Nearly every puzzle was very obvious and most of the initial interaction could be solved by randomly pulling the left or right trigger until something happened. Shortly after this, a Rewind and Pause ability becomes available to you, followed finally by a Fireball option. Colour coded accordingly, you can switch between the various abilities to interact and transform your surroundings and solve puzzles. This again seems very controlled and linear as the colour of the puzzle matches the colour of the skill you have to use against it, making most of the puzzle solving very point and click and not investigation based.
Upon arrival in Elysia, via a very nice mono rail, you are ushered to the HUB and it is from here that you gain access to the various portals to other resident’s memories. These are basically huge puzzle areas forming up the bulk of the game. The puzzle areas themselves are a little bland and dark in comparison to the Tron style HUB but they do enough to keep you interested even if some of the puzzles within them don’t. As you progress further through the story though I did find one or two great places, keep an eye out for the Space Station. With over 20 hours of gameplay, 100 physical puzzles and 40 distinct locations to explore there is enough content to keep you going but at some points it does feel a little mundane. While playing I did seem to forget the underlying story line, that feels separate and even disjointed from the puzzles, but every so often I would be reminded via a memory flash, some other random persons memory or via a very strange collectible monkey with cymbals. On top of this you are constantly followed around by a large beast hell-bent on sabotaging your progress.
The soundtrack is great and really puts a cyber futuristic feel to the game but this cannot make up for the sometimes erratic visuals, painful loading times between environments, and puzzles that in the end feel like a chore and not a challenge. I had huge hopes for Soul Axiom and feel with a little more time this game could have been great but in its current state it comes across as more ok’ish. For those who love puzzles in any shape or form with a cyber futuristic feel to it then give it a go. For those of you who are looking for a real challenge and something to stimulate you for hours then personally this is not the one.
Thanks to Wales Interactive & Xbox for supporting TiX