This week in co-op I play the Soul Sacrifice demo with random players. Here we go.
I join a multiplayer lobby. In the demo we have the choice of four different cooperative levels: a forest full of lesser goblins and orcs, a desert haunted by possessed armor that takes the shape of a walking Jack-O’-Lantern, a windy field stalked by a bloated Harpy, and a ruined town dominated by a powerful Cerberus. The levels are quite small, they’re more like battle arenas. Some can be completed in minutes, others may take a half an hour, especially if your team isn’t working together. I’m ready for anything.
The host has chosen “Pumpkin for Desert,” as our destination. Nope, that’s not a typo. We’re going to the desert. The four of us are teleported to a small area filled with shifting sands. The bright blue sky above us is scarred with the written words of the Librom. One of my fellow players instantly screams out and drops to his knees. Damn. He hasn’t recovered from a previous casting of Infernus. He will be plagued with horrible burns, halving his defense until he uses some weird book juice to reverse the cost of the spell. I’m not kidding. What’s worse, he won’t have the ability to cast the powerful spell in this battle. Someone will be sacrificing him, no doubt.
You can scope your party members' gear and level in the lobby screen.
We advance down the wide pathway, a lone goblin stands before us. It has the appearance of a giant mutated rat. As we draw near, two more claw their way out of the ground. I hear a grunt as one of my fellow wizards turns his arm into a large fist made of ice, another begins to gather energy for an attack. I slam the ground with my fist, and a tree springs forth, bearing Vimblossom Fruit. Anyone who eats it will increase their attack power. I hit a button and whistle to my companions. The ill-prepared burnt-up fellow, let’s call him Crispy, sees the tree and grabs some buffing munchies.
The other two players are engaging the goblins. The fellow with the Ice Giant’s Arm waits until the goblin leaps at him. He executes a perfect counter, one-shotting it into oblivion. I’ll call him Ice Arm. Another sorceress has powered up a Snowtree Root. When she casts it a freezing traill of ice rushes across the ground, slightly homing in on our enemies. Let’s call her Snowtree. Crispy, who showed up to fight with no Infernus spell, half his defense, and who also ate the Vinblossom Fruit, summons an Imp Pitchfork, which will be almost completely useless against the fire-based boss we’re about to face. There’s always one.
Crispy hacks away at his goblin until it finally dies, wasting precious time with his Imp Pitchfork offering. (Many of the weaponized spells only exist for a limited time, usually around 30 seconds.) He also manages to injure himself in the process. I walk up to him and cast Healing Bloom, generating a large healing aura around my character, basking him in my gentle glow of friendly cooperative healing powers. After a few seconds he throws his own Healing Seeds into the air, wasting some of his own individual healing offerings. This effing guy.
We're both using AOE heal spells. They might stack. I don't know.
Ice Arm and Snowtree are dealing with the Goblin remains. Like every enemy in Soul Sacrifice, once defeated, the goblins have reverted to their previous forms. Each goblin is nothing more than a small pile of dying rats. Ice Arm, Snowtree, and Crispy each sacrifice a pile, refilling their spell offerings.
An offering can only be used so many times per battle, and choosing when to save and sacrifice fallen enemies (and friends) is essential to victory. Saving a creature will replenish health and eventually increases your defense. Sacrificing a creature will replace some uses of your offerings and eventually increases your magic power.
We move along the path, spying a staggering figure in the distance. I offer up some more Vinblossom fruit. As Ice Arm and Snowtree approach to buff their attacks, good old Crispy initiates the boss encounter. The shambling creature morphs into a giant ball of demonic armor and starts attacking Crispy, who has decided to tickle the beast with another Imp Pitchfork. This is going to be a problem.
We begin to blast away at the demonic Jack-O’-Lantern with several Frost spells. Unfortunately, our accumulating ice is being melted by Jack himself and Crispy’s Pitchfork Heat attacks. Spells will work against each other if everyone’s not working together. We finally over power Jack, (and Crispy) freezing the monster solid in the process, putting it in a state called “Frozen Hell.” I try to position myself for a Skillful Attack (using the right element against the right ailment at the right time, but Crispy knocks me away with an Irondrake Egg mortar attack. (Friendly spells can’t hurt you, but they can knock you down or blast you out of position.) Why do you suck so much, Crispy?
The team is unloading Frost spells.
I get to my feet and deliver a Bolt Burial Clod before Jack can get free. It is glorious. A giant electric fist born from the bowels of the earth smashes up into Jack, throwing him onto his back and exposing his weak arms and head to the group’s more powerful spells. We maul him with Snowtree Roots, Swordsman Icebrands, and Ice Carving Lids until one of us can light him up again with some form of Volt, despite Crispy’s sucktitude.
Did you catch that? That was important! Volt is strong against Frost. Frost is strong against Heat. Heat is strong against.. Frost, right? WRONG! Heat is strong against Venom. Venom is strong against Stone, and Stone is strong against Volt. Memorize all that. It pops up on a load screen every now and then. Skillful attacks occur when you blast a creature with enough of one element that it becomes afflicted with a stunning status ailment, such as burning, being frozen, or shocked. Then you need to use the proper element against the ailment’s element, not the creature, to stun it. It’s really hard to freeze, shock, or burn something when someone, or all four of you, are using different elemental attacks.
It finally happens, Crispy blasts all three of us out of position with an Irondrake Egg. Jack is up, and Jack is pissed. It rolls itself into a ball and starts wrecking up the place. Ice Arm, Snowtree, and I are running around frantically trying to replenish our offerings from the few environmental sources found in the stage. Then I see it. Crispy is dying. Goddamnit Crispy.
Of course he’s laying at the feet of Jack, a monolith of fire-punching, death-rolling, AOE flame-farting madness. Sure Crispy. I’ll save you. I’ll be right there. “Save Me” appears in the corner of the screen. He’s begging for help. Now that he’s down he can either give up and die, ask for a revive, or request to be sacrificed. Ice Arm and Snowtree are still recovering, so I slap on a Lava Amulet, armoring myself against heat and simultaneously looking oh-so-badass.
I have no fear when I'm wearing armor made of magma.
I charge forward, eating several flying fists of fiery fury. I get to Crispy and I’m given the prompt. Hold L trigger to save. R trigger to sacrifice. I recall seeing his low level in the lobby. He’s still new. He needs all the essence he can get. I was new once, too. Goddamnit, Crispy. I go about saving his worthless hide, getting beat on by a pissed off suit of possessed armor in the process. I eventually save him, which costs me half my life on top of the punishment I’ve already taken. Well now, this fight has certainly gone to hell.
Ice Arm must be worse off than I thought, because I’m now getting a notification that he initiated the Black Rite. I didn’t really need the message, because everything is on fire and the sky has turned black. With a scream a giant fire demon erupts from his body. He has cast Infernus, burning every enemy in the area, including himself. His defense is halved, and will remain that way until he reverses the casting process after the battle. Once again, he’ll have to use this creepy fluid that leaks from the Librom, but I don’t want to get into that.
I use my Minds Eye and see Jack’s health is in the red. He’s almost finished. He’s actually crying for his mother. It’s eerie. I use my Sanguine Cannon, but not against Jack. I’m spraying my own blood into the air as fast as I can. This spell uses my own health as an offering. As the last of my life force leaves me I collapse and make the call: “Sacrifice me.”
The Mind's Eye at work.
Oh look. Here comes Crispy. Crispy sacrifices half his health to save me. BAD CRISPY!
I blast my blood into the air again. Again I fall. I make the polite request: “Sacrifice me.” Snowtree shows up and takes care of business. She doesn’t hesitate to cast the sacrifice spell. It’s messy, and awesome. I’ll don’t want to spoil it for you. I’m dead, but so is the Jack-O’-Lantern. It reverts to it’s original old form, a fellow sorcerer. I’m watching the game play out as a spirit. If the battle had waged on I could buff my allies and debuff my enemies by touching their auras on the screen. But the battle was won.
They sacrifice the sorcerer. If we would have saved him he would have joined us in our battles. I think his name was Malkus. As a spirit I miss out on the large amount of essence awarded from the final sacrifice, but that’s okay by me. I’m at max level for the demo. At the end of the level we are scored based on our performance. We each receive our reward offerings from Avalon. I receive a nice Martyr’s bonus offering, and I didn’t have to use up my Infernus to do it.
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For more information on the Soul Sacrifice demo check out our "Soul Sacrifice Demo Impressions."