Guest Author - James Shea
While Soul Calibur V offers impressive new character customization, in terms of gameplay it has regressed incredibly.
Soul Calibur V is a fighting game based around the use of weapons like swords, spears, staves, and so on. It continues the tradition of previous games focusing more on character customization and multiplayer and less on core gameplay. In fact, it's easy to see that SCV has the best character customization and the worst regular gameplay of the entire series.
SCV replaces many of its classic characters with "new generation" equivalents, and adds only a few "real" new characters to make up for it. The ninja Taki is replaced by her apprentice Natsu, the fighting styles of Xianghua and Yun-Seong have been mashed together to make Leixia, the sword-and-shield style of Sophitia and Cassandra went to their heirs Patroklos and Pyrrha, and so on. The truly "new" characters are Viola (who fights using a mystical orb), Z.W.E.I. (who summons a magical spirit to aid him), and Assassin Creed's Ezio, who serves as a guest character. What's most annoying about the character system is that most of the characters have been "revamped" for easier online play, so many moves and styles have been taken out for balance purposes. There's absolutely no stat customization in SC5, as opposed to SC4 which had an entire system for building and assigning skills and stats.
There are only three single-player game modes: "story", "arcade", and "quick battle". The game's story mode is a linear set of battles connected by sketch-based cutscenes; the story itself isn't great, and the mode is over really quickly without touching on many of the changes that have happened in the game's universe. Arcade is simply regular combat against six enemies in a row, while Quick Battle is a mode where you fight against custom-designed characters in order to win titles. The problem here is that the game also introduces a level-based unlock system that requires you to fight in order to unlock more items. Hence, the only way to get more things is to grind for hundreds of battles either in one of those three modes or in online matches. Previous games had more developed modes, including tag-team battles, challenges, and SC3's semi-tactical mode. It doesn't make sense that SC5 should be so sparse.
The game's character customization is pretty incredible, make no mistake. SCV builds on the character customization established in 3 & 4 and adds new aspects to it. It's possible to control almost every part of a character's design, from their physique to their clothing. In terms of physique, it's possible to change musculature, proportions, hair style, and face (though "face" just means choosing a premade face). In terms of clothing, the system has been expanded to allow more choices by layering clothing (so you can have underwear, a "shirt", and a "coat"). In addition, the new system of patterning allows even more diversity for clothing by presenting pre-made patterns that can be given different color options. It's possible to make everything from grounded and realistic characters to outrageous and ridiculously unrealistic characters using SCV's toolset, and it is without a doubt the best part of the game. The only real downside about it is the limited number of weapons and character styles; a game that focuses so heavily on character customization ought to have a few unique styles like SC3 did.
Overall, SC5 makes some solid improvements in terms of character customization, but overall has regressed terribly. It is an absolute chore to play the game, and it'll take numerous hours to unlock all of the character-design content. Multiplayer is kind of fun if only to see other people's designs, but the limited number of game types makes the game feel like it's barely finished. In short, SC5 is a game that's only worth getting if you're REALLY into character creation; everything else about it has been done better by a previous game.
We purchased this game with our own funds in order to do this review.
Buy Soul Calibur V from Amazon.com