Soul Hackers 2 review - Devil Summoning at the precipice of the Apocalypse
Soul Hackers 2 is finally here. After spending 40-50 hours in my first playthrough, I feel like I’m pretty satisfied with what I experienced. This game genuinely delivered for me with multiple endings, New Game+, and tons of content to explore.
One of the more common themes in the MegaTen franchise is the end of the world, which also plays a big part in this game. Unlike the previous Soul Hackers game, the party comprises humans who use demons instead of having monsters in the main party.
Though Soul Hackers 2 takes place in the previous entries' Amami City, it is very much its own story. Similarly, it feels like another spinoff when the Persona games became their spinoffs. I recently wrote a preview of the game about 20 hours in.
Soul Hackers 2 tells an incredible story at the end of the world
In Soul Hackers 2, two devil summoning factions are battling for the world's fate. Yatagarasu and Phantom Society are trying to gain control of a powerful force known as “Covenants.” It is rumored that whoever gains control of all five can summon The Great One and shape the world in their image.
One faction is aiming to destroy the world and finally bring an end to all conflict, and the other is trying to stop them. So, our party sits on the edge of the world's end, and it’s up to Ringo and her devil summoners to stop it.
Ringo and Figure are from Aion and are essentially digital beings who came to Amami City to recruit a group of devil summoners to work towards this goal. I won’t spoil how they all join the team, but Arrow, Milady, and Saizo are all fully fleshed out, exceptional characters with motivations that ultimately make sense.
It’s a story well told, with some exciting twists and turns at the end. Not to spoil anything, but the longer I played, the more emotionally involved I was with the story. It’s a game that I could easily see turning into an anime or manga somewhere down the line.
Soul Hackers 2 drops the SMT/Devil Summoner name but keeps the mechanics
While “Devil Summoner” is no longer in the game, it maintains familiar mechanics. Players still recruit devils and angels to join their fight, each with their strengths, weaknesses, attacks, and requirements to summon them.
Soul Hackers 2 is a turn-based JRPG where each character can be equipped with one of these demons to aid them in battle. Unlike some Nocturne games, players can recruit demons by exploring dungeon maps and through the familiar demon fusion system.
When Ringo enters a dungeon, she sends her demons out to scout the area for her. They can gift the player items and money. Occasionally, they will say they found a recruit for the team. If a demon is already on the team, they grant you an item instead, and if your group is full, they leave immediately.
I instead wish it would offer to replace one of your current demons instead of the target of just leaving. This system had me missing out on some fantastic demons in the early game. Thankfully, you can simultaneously increase the number of demons on the squad through various passive skills.
The demon scout system is also a great way to avoid battles. Devils spawn on the map, and players can slash at them to get the jump on their foes. Conversely, if you leave these devils alone, after striking them, they despawn. There are also more powerful devils (that are black and purple) that cannot be stopped but will eventually stop chasing the player.
When it comes to dungeons, I am so glad that players can unlock a way to teleport out of them for free, and there is also a handy teleporter system. These teleporters can take players to several important spots on the map.
Occasionally, players get overrun or need to go and buy more items, get a full heal, or find themselves in need of other demons. The ability to leave a dungeon, get a free full heal at the hideout, or get a meal for a buff is incredibly useful.
It especially came in handy during the final dungeon boss gauntlet. Players can also save anywhere (outside of battle), so I used this a lot in those last battles. I do want to say they were some of the hardest RPG bosses I’ve ever fought, but they may be down to the prep I did.
I could have left and returned after grinding a little more or fusing more powerful demons, but I didn’t. This game also has multiple difficulties, and on “Easy,” players can continue right where they left off in a battle if they wipe. This is an excellent addition to the game, making it accessible for players who aren’t used to the difficulty of a MegaTen game.
This game delivers on the difficulty and challenge. Players can make battles easier with knowledge and grinding. I’m so grateful that most of the enemies in this franchise keep their elemental weaknesses compared to previous games, making it easier for me to figure my way through most battles.
The Sabbath System is an incredible combat mechanic
In Soul Hackers 2, the turn-based combat system will be familiar to many. The protagonists go first and pick from several physical and magical attacks to subdue their foes. However, anytime they hit an enemy's weakness, the Sabbath counter goes up by one and a shadowy demon hovers over the enemy party.
Passives and abilities later in the game can also significantly increase this number. There are many ways to take advantage of the Sabbath system, but this is the baseline. At the end of the round, Ringo summons these demons and angels forth to attack the whole enemy party.
There will also be passives the party can get to enhance this with more damage, MP drains, or to narrow the target down to just one enemy. It’s worth noting that the fewer targets, the greater the damage will be.
It’s an excellent system and served me well through several fights. It rewards players for focusing on enemy weaknesses; thankfully, the enemies don’t seem to be able to do it either. Combat is a blast in Soul Hackers 2, though I was frustrated that there was a bit of a restriction on changing equipped demons in combat.
This required Commander Skills, each of which has a recharge timer. Every round in a fight is one of these recharge timer turns. Changing one demon is one turn, and the full party takes four turns. It takes time to get these skills, but they’re worth investing in.
Axis and Compsmith unlock a wealth of power, but it takes time
I mentioned Axis in my preview piece, it’s a series of dungeons based on the party members in a digital world. As players unlock more areas in these, they can pick from a series of passive skills for each character.
The other place is the Compsmith. Players summon their various demons through the COMP, a mini-computer device the characters own. The Compsmith allows players to add stats and skills to their COMP, and for Ringo, she can also unlock Command Skills to activate.
It is an expensive system, but completing quests for her will unlock lower costs and skills with greater power. This is how players customize their characters and figure out what they want to focus on. I enjoyed it, even though it got incredibly grindy to unlock more and more items to use in the system.
The visual and music style of Soul Hackers 2 is a sharp one
I’m a big fan of Amami City in Soul Hackers 2. It’s a cool, modern, technologically advanced city, but I am sad that you can’t explore it usually. You can use a map to highlight the places you want to explore, and the areas are admittedly minimal.
Soul Hackers 2 uses a lot of dark colors and purples, which I honestly kind of felt was a good choice. This isn’t to say that everything is grimdark, but the color palette isn’t as wide unless you’re in battle. It fits the overall aesthetic of the franchise, so no complaints from me.
That might be a downer for some, and in a way, I agree. However, this means Soul Hackers 2 doesn’t have many empty spaces that feel bland or useless. The music is also satisfying. It’s not the greatest soundtrack I’ve ever heard, but I didn’t find myself wanting to reduce the volume of the game while grinding out exp and items.
Soul Hackers 2 is one of the only games I have played this entire month, and that’s far from a bad thing. After completing Soul Hackers 2, I learned that it has New Game+, which I love as a concept and multiple endings.
That’s great because the final area took me by surprise, and I had a feeling that other things could potentially be done. When it came to Soul Hackers 2, I loved the characters, the story, and the combat.
The difficulty didn’t especially bother me, but there were moments when I was furious. Players often fight bosses who can also summon demons, which makes sense. But some battles were infuriating because of this.
Speaking of frustration, it will be too soon if I never see another complicated teleporter/whirlpool maze ever again. It is far and away my least favorite trope in JRPGs, and Soul Hackers 2 uses them in quite a few situations.
Only a few bosses in Soul Hackers 2 felt it was unfair, but they were few and far between. I could have adjusted things on my end to make them easier. Aside from that, I loved Soul Hackers 2 as a long-time fan of the MegaTen franchise. It’s a solid entry with memorable characters and is a worthwhile sequel to Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers 1.
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5 (key provided by Atlus)
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC
Publisher: Atlus, SEGA
Release Date: August 25, 2022