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Free-to-play hack n' slasher SoulWorker enters open beta

SoulWorker

While things have slowed down a bit since the Great MMO Glut of 200X, free-to-play Korean titles are still a fairly common sight. The latest to land on Steam and open itself up to a western audience is SoulWorker, an extremely Teen Anime co-op hack n’ slasher which may scratch any Devil May Cry/Dynasty Warriors itch you’ve been feeling.

The current beta seems to be of the ‘soft launch’ variety, with no planned server wipes before launch. To all intents and purposes, SoulWorker is out on Steam now, with a variety of European servers available.

Despite the arcadey-looking gameplay in the trailer, SoulWorker is a game built around mouse and keyboard control, with most special moves being mapped to the number keys, and the basic melee combo automatically cycling if you hold the left mouse button. That’s not to say it’s devoid of skill or involvement; the very first boss hits like a truck, capable of shaving off nearly a third of your health per attack, although rank-and-file grunt enemies seem to be almost as expendable as Dynasty Warriors’ faceless soldier hordes, and nearly as numerous.

Set in an overbearingly anime magical post-apocalypse, four teens (well, three and a literal child) find themselves imbued with magical powers that allow them to wield glowing oversized weapons with which they can smite the demons that have taken over most of the world. So far, so generic, but there’s still something to be said for wiping out a dozen monsters in one combo from a magic spirit-summoning guitar. Your dodge move also has a generous amount of invincibility frames, meaning that skilled players can avoid damage entirely.

While town hubs are dense with chattering players, this isn’t an MMO. Gameplay is for small groups of players or solo, all set in instanced environments. Effectively a single-player or co-op-with-buddies game, rather than some sprawling social sandbox like Black Desert or ArcheAge, and all you really need to concern yourself is how many monsters you can splatter, with each stage being ranked and scored in classic character-action style.

From the little bit that I’ve played so far, it’s a pleasant enough bit of co-op hack n’ slashery, although the localization isn’t quite complete. I’ve spotted chunks of Korean text here and there, and there’s the occasional bit of dialogue that isn’t fully subtitled yet. It feels a bit like a throwback to a simpler time when new online co-op games were ten a penny, although this one does look and sound a little more polished than others that have come and gone.  Some are reporting a nasty bug that prevents the game window from being resized from its default, although this seems like something that should be patched soon.

SoulWorker is available now via Steam. While microtransactions are undoubtedly going to follow before long, the game is free to play.

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Dominic Tarason

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