Souldiers – Review
Follow Genre: Roguelike platformer, Metroidvania
Developer: Retro Forge
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Tested on: Switch

Souldiers – Review

Site Score
Good: Gorgeous art direction
Bad: Performance issues
User Score
(2 votes)
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Rating: 5.5/10 (2 votes cast)

After having its release date pushed back due to technical issues, Retro Forge’s highly anticipated game Souldiers has finally arrived on a slew of platforms. The Metroidvania-esque platformer is the studio’s debut title, and it looks suitably impressive, so we were more than eager to sink our teeth into its gameplay. Was the game’s delayed arrival enough to iron out the kinks?


While Souldiers isn’t the most narrative-heavy game out there, Retro Forge still put some effort into at least setting up an interesting premise. After the anime-style opening cutscene, players are greeted with a more traditional way of setting up the story, through text blurbs and still images. When Souldiers starts, the kingdom of Zarga is at war with the country of Dadelm. At the advice of Zarga’s court wizard Arkzel, general Brigard and his men lay in ambush, ready to take on the invading troops. As it turns out, however, Brigard has been led into a trap, and he and his soldiers find themselves dead after an earthquake traps the battalion. Now stuck in the afterlife, Brigard is approached by a mysterious valkyrie who offers him another chance at life. This is easier said than done of course, and returning to Zarga involves traversing the purgatory realm of Terragaya. Determined to save their kingdom from the invaders from Dadelm, the brave soldiers of Zarga join their general in this endeavor.


A gorgeous opening cutscene sets the tone, showcasing both general Brigard and the three playable character classes as they face off against a variety of enemies. While this opening is animated in a traditional, hand-drawn style, the game itself is lovingly rendered in 16-bit graphics. Graphics like these typically feel overdone because of the sheer amount of games that rely on a retro aesthetic. We were expecting to grow tired of Souldiers’ visuals quickly because of this, but we can’t deny that Souldiers manages to pull it off. Even the generic character designs ooze personality, the world of Terragaya is a joy to explore, and to top it all off, the lighting effects are top-notch.


Contrasting with the gorgeous art direction, Souldiers’ soundscape felt like a bit of a letdown. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with it, but it’s not very memorable either. There is no voice acting present, and both the music and the sound effects deliberately mimic what you’d hear in a “true” 16 bit game. The OST is utterly forgettable, unfortunately. There are plenty of games that have catchy music that gets stuck in your head -even if it’s in a bad way, like with Crowdy Farm Rush– but we can’t recall any of the music that we heard during our time with the game.


It’s difficult to fully explain how Souldiers plays without experiencing it for yourself as it doesn’t quite fit into a single box. It’s a platformer, of course, but anyone that has any knowledge about video games knows that there can be huge differences even within the platforming genre -just compare Mario with Metroid, for example. Souldiers blends elements often seen in roguelike platformers, such as leveling up your character, with the massive explorable areas that we’ve come to associate with the Metroidvania genre. Souldiers isn’t dedicated enough to either of these platforming subgenres to truly be considered one of them, but the hybrid end result is impressive enough to warrant a look. Granted, it’s not without its faults, though any issues we had with the game were related to performance rather than game design -more on that later.

Rather than playing as Brigard himself, you take on the role of one of his soldiers. The first thing you need to do when you set out on your quest is to choose which of the three character classes you want to play as. The available classes are Scout, Caster, and Archer. Each class comes with its own characteristics: the Scout is great at blocking enemy damage, for example, but has very limited attack range. Likewise, the Caster can hurl magical spells at enemies but lacks defence. The subtle differences between each class add a little replay value, but they are similar enough in terms of playstyle to instantly feel familiar. There are no dramatic shifts in how each character functions like there were in Cotton Fantasy. That said, each of the three classes offers a similar difficulty level, so there isn’t really a right or wrong character to pick here.

No matter which class you pick, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Souldiers boasts an impressive amount of content, with a massive world to explore. A playthrough can easily take 20+ hours, and you can at least triple that if you’re a completionist that wants to play through the game with each class at least once. There are puzzles to solve, secrets to discover, and bosses to defeat, of course. As is typical in a Metroidvania title, you won’t be able to fully explore an area from the get-go. Instead, you’ll need to return to previously visited areas with new abilities in order to chip away at areas you couldn’t reach before. Of note here is that the world in Souldiers didn’t quite feel like a massive interconnected world, but instead like a series of large dungeons. This approach did feel a bit odd, as it broke our suspension of disbelief but that was a minor gripe all things considered.

What wasn’t a minor gripe were the performance issues, in the Switch version of the game at least. Souldiers can be a brutal game at times, and while we definitely don’t mind a challenge, when the game’s abysmal performance makes it so that your character simply doesn’t respond in time with your button presses, then it feels unfair, to say the least. This happened whenever there was a significant amount of enemies on screen at the same time, which tanked the frame rate. Hopefully, a performance update down the line takes care of this as the poor performance ruined our time with the game more than once. Add to this that the loading times can feel ridiculously long and you’ve got a game that can feel really punishing if you’re stuck at a particularly tough fight.

It’s a shame because when Souldiers performs as it should, it really is one of the best platformers out there. Combat is rather fun as it requires some strategic thinking -especially against the bosses, the level designs are amazing, and the sense of character growth is satisfying. While we wouldn’t go as far as to say that the Switch version of the game is unplayable, we suggest either waiting for some updates down the line or simply looking into the game on another platform.


Although the Switch version of Souldiers is being held back by technical issues, we still enjoyed our time with the game during the parts where the game’s performance was adequate. The gorgeous art direction, lengthy campaign, and high degree of replayability, combined with combat that required strategic thinking made for one of the better Metroidvania titles in recent memory. If the game’s technical performance can be improved with a patch or two down the line, then Souldiers on the Switch is going to be a must-have title. We can’t vouch for the game on other platforms, but if the aforementioned performance issues aren’t present there, you can easily bump up our final score with a point or two, as it reflects the technical issues present in the game at the time of review.

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Rating: 5.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Souldiers - Review, 5.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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