Hack and slash to victory with SoulCraft

SoulCraft is a new hack-and-slash role-playing game for Android devices from MobileBits. The game is currently undergoing open beta testing, and is available in two different versions: a standard version and a specially-optimized version for Android devices equipped with Tegra graphics hardware. According to Google, the standard version has already been downloaded between 50,000 and 100,000 times, while the “THD” Tegra-optimized version has been downloaded over 100,000 times.

The Tegra-optimized version of this game was tested on a Motorola Xoom running Android 3.2. No major issues were encountered besides the bugs mentioned later in this review.

SoulCraft casts players in the role of an angelic warrior who is tasked with accomplishing a variety of combat-based missions. Control of the character is achieved through a dual virtual stick setup, with the left stick moving the character and the right stick controlling the direction of attacks. The type of attack may be switched by tapping on a skill icon, while healing potions may be consumed by tapping the relevant icon on the other side of the screen. As the game progresses and the player grows in strength, additional ability buttons appear on screen corresponding to unlocked special functions.

The game structure is somewhat reminiscent of Gameloft’s free-to-play Dungeon Hunter III. Players take on discrete missions in various locations (here based loosely on real-world locales such as New York and Venice, Italy) rather than exploring dungeons in a freeform manner. These missions come in several different types — for example, Arena missions simply require players to fend off wave after wave of enemies, while Run missions task players with getting to an escape portal before time expires — with enemies blocking the path at regular intervals, of course.

The game monetizes primarily through an in-game shop in which items may be purchased for either the game’s soft currency of “Souls,” which are acquired through play, or the hard currency of “Gold,” which must be acquired through in-app purchase. Purchasing any gold package upgrades the player to “Gold Member” status, which allows them exclusive access to certain parts of the game’s content.

Players may also simply sign up for an online account, which allows them additional character slots and access to online “cloud” saves. When signing up, players are forced to tick an “agree to terms” box, but there does not appear to be a facility to actually read these terms in-game, which is an oversight. While most players tend to skip over legal documents such as this, some would probably like to know exactly what they are agreeing to before handing over their email address.

Given the game’s current open beta status, there are a few issues which will doubtless be resolved in impending updates. Control is sometimes a little wobbly, with the character occasionally continuing to attack after the player has released their finger from the attack stick. Alongside this, the menu screens occasionally become unresponsive, requiring the player to exit and restart the game.

Some features are apparently not yet implemented, either; the game’s main menu promises a multiplayer mode, but this is presently dimmed out. It took quite some time for Dungeon Hunter III to implement multiplayer, which led to widespread criticism among various app store reviewers, so MobileBits should make the inclusion of this feature a priority. Alongside this, some visual customization options for the character would also be welcomed, particularly with the multiplayer mode in mind. There is not even the option to play as a female protagonist — all characters look identical, with the only differences being the weapons they carry and their names.

What is already in the game, though, is looking good. The game has impressive production values and plays well, bugs aside. And the fact that MobileBits has not implemented a “throttling” mechanic like Dungeon Hunter III’s “keys” system — in which players were limited in the amount of rewards they could gain per day without paying — will doubtless prove popular with the community at large. In-game banner advertising is unobtrusive, limiting itself to appearing on loading screens. Once the multiplayer mode and some player customization is implemented, this looks set to be a popular title for Android gamers craving something a little deeper, more action-oriented than text-based role-playing games and citybuilders.

SoulCraft’s free-to-play open beta is available now from Google Play. The standard version can be found here, while the Tegra-optimized “THD” version can be found here.