Soul Hackers 2 Review: "Brings The Form While Lacking Substance"
After years of waiting for Shin Megami Tensei V, getting Soul Hackers 2 less than one year after the former can be seen as a blessing. The new title is also a chance for anyone that doesn’t own a Nintendo Switch to have a direct experience with the series since it is coming to many platforms. This is a great opportunity, and how the game is structured, places it as an amazing option for new players who are not familiar with or comfortable with the difficulty of the series. However, due to how the game’s story is told, it is quite clear how much more expansive it could have been.
Glimmering Sequences of Colors And Bytes
Soul Hackers 2 comes knowing it has big shoes to fill considering how well-received the previous titles of the series were. It offers everything one may be looking for from Atlus after it had conceived Persona 5 Royal and Shin Megami Tensei V. It is a visually impactful game with an aesthetic that shows a very distinct identity. The important NPCs, the songs, as well as the game’s menus, and so on all come together cohesively to showcase a consistent theme, portraying a sort of cybernetic vibe to most of the places and situations players will find themselves.
In Soul Hackers 2’s cast, there are three characters each representing a moral alignment but Ringo, the leader of the group, has enough style and charisma to grab the attention right after she appears for the first time. All of these elements are used to tell a story of how humanity, which has different perspectives about what is better for the world and what is needed to be done in order to change it. Yes, this has its flaws but also something special that makes hoping for a brighter future possible.
Finding Hope In A World Of Sorrow Is Difficult
While the game’s visuals and style make playing it a quite attractive idea, Soul Hackers 2 seems incapable of translating all its potential into its writing and pacing. The dark themes are there and the game’s main story constantly brings discussions about the current state of the world - the price one may need to pay to achieve the world they want, and how to find balance considering the amount of suffering people go through in their life.
However, Soul Hackers 2 is not able to show the suffering or any situation that might make players get invested in the questions the game comes up with. What makes the world such a horrible place for each member of the group? The game doesn’t tell players, constucting the world what the game needs it to be so it can create the gloomy atmosphere expected from a SMT game.
Another aspect is how difficult it is to engage with the characters. The three characters that group with Ringo to save the world are greatly designed, making each of them appealing because of various reasons. Even so, players rarely see significant moments of exchange among the group members, making them too superficial. All three have stories that could have been better explored so it would make more sense why they fight (or not). One needs to go quite far in the game to even get a small glimpse of how interesting each character is.
A Lighter Experience For Newcomers
Soul Hackers 2's structure may not have been helpful in creating a memorable experience, but it can be a good option for anyone that wants to dip their toes into the Shin Megami Tensei series. Some players may turn their heads away from any game that is related to the series for various reasons. This may happen not only because of how extensive the series is, but also due to how off-putting the difficulty and length of these titles are. Atlus may have found a way to almost bridge this gap with Soul Hackers 2 since it is not only much shorter than its predecessors, but it also has a less punitive combat system.
While a more patient and completionist approach to the game may increase the total play time, potentially reaching forty hours or more, players can complete the game’s main objective as well as a couple of side missions under the thirty-hour mark. Although the main story and character development could have benefited from longer gameplay, Soul Hackers 2’s length makes it more approachable to players that may be curious about the series.
In a similar vein, this game’s combat is more forgiving than other SMT games. While most games of the series focus on having different versions of a battle system based on exploiting weaknesses, this time they made it easier for players that are still learning. Although the whole weaknesses dynamics are still in the game, the players are the only ones getting an edge for doing so.
Soul Hackers 2’s combat comes with the Sabbath mechanics, which is a sort of group attack, but it hits as hard as many times players have struck the enemy’s weakness during the turn. On the other hand, regardless of how many times an enemy does the same, they can’t use a powerful group attack. Because of that, a new player won’t need to worry too much if they enter a battle with demons that are not strong against the enemy. Damaging turns and strategizing every attack is less punitive in terms of potential mistakes since your party will hardly get wiped.
Soul Hackers 2 is an approachable and fun game overall, but far from fulfilling its potential. A beautiful visual experience and well-designed characters are not enough to make the weird pacing of the main story and its shallowness go unseen. The game brings great ideas but tries to sustain its quality by showing the usual elements of the series instead of heavily focusing on the writing. On the flip side, it is a great initial experience that might introduce many players to the series and make them go after other titles, such as other Shin Megami Tensei or Persona games.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher