The title that had that captivated the internet from its initial reveal back in 2017 under a different name as it was only being worked on by a single visionary to its reveal to be under Sony’s “China Hero Project” to support Chinese game developers, Lost Soul Aside held one of its first-ever playable demos at ChinaJoy 2023, and we got our hands on playing the game and its 15-minute demo.
To say that players were excited to play Lost Soul Aside would be an understatement, players had to wait in a massive line to try out the title, while this same line was host to games like Eviledge, Evotinction, and other China Hero Project games, almost all of the fans present were waiting to try Lost Soul Aside, and despite their being two machines present, it took nearly 4 and a half hours simply to try the game.
The demo actually lets players try the section of the game previewed by Yang Bing, more than 2 years ago giving them unfettered access to two weapons, three abilities, and complete freedom over its combat encounters and skills from the protagonist Kazer. The new demo shows off the work the UltiZero has put into Lost Soul Aside from its mechanics, to how it manages to look good while running smoothly on a PS5.
▍7 Years in the making, and Still looks Modern
If there’s one thing Lost Soul Aside is known for, it’s definitely its impressive graphics at the time of its reveal one of the most talked about aspects of the game was its effects and character designs matching that of Final Fantasy XV, and even more shockingly that it was created by just 1 person, the Chinese developer Yang Bing.
Despite how long it’s been, Lost Soul Aside has continued to evolve in its visual department and does all of that without compromising on its performance, as throughout the demo’s entire run-time even during moments with tons of particle effects, the game managed to maintain a smooth 60FPS experience, something many games on the console still occasionally struggle with.
Aside from just looking fancy in its effects Lost Soul Aside’s UI also received no shortage of love, while still respecting the game space. your character’s stats, HP, and abilities are all kept neatly along the corners of the screen and are laid out in a way that makes it easy to jump in and play if somehow you skip any kind of tutorial entirely.
The game manages to seamlessly blend its in-game action with cutscene spectacles, as throughout our time with the demo there were virtually no loading screens in sight taking time away from the experience. Even certain players who struggled at bosses and died multiple times could jump back into retrying the encounter as quickly as they hit the retry button, after watching a short cutscene or skipping it which would just lead to a second of black screen.
The game also quickly transitions into mini-segments like one part where Kazer has to avoid a gunship and enemies by riding his, and then later transitioning back to regular gameplay through a cutscene. It makes for an experience akin to other first-party titles from Sony like God of War and the Last of Us, which also do great jobs at hiding load times in the background to keep the game’s pace smooth throughout.
Lost Soul Aside was already known for how impressive it was visually, but for a title that’d been worked on for so many years, it’s impressive to see its visuals not age all that much, while still being able to take full advantage of the PS5’s hardware. Sadly some aspects of Lost Soul Aside didn’t look as good as its 2021 preview, though that preview was likely ran on a higher-end PC and not on the PS5.
▼ A small comparison between the ChinaJoy build and the 2021 preview.
▍Lost Soul Aside’s DMC Inspirations Ring True
The best way to describe Lost Soul Aside’s gameplay loop would be a mix of Bayonetta / Devil May Cry and Final Fantasy XV.
This might sound weird given how “simple” FFXV’s combat is compared to Devil May Cry, but let’s dive a little deeper. Lost Soul Aside’s control scheme features a light and heavy attack that can both be charged, a jump, dodge, special abilities, a seemingly block/parry button, and the “异能爆發” mechanic. Players string attacks together performing combos by hitting a combination of light and heavy attacks, while launching enemies into the air, and taking them down as stylishly as possible.
Alternating between light and heavy attacks lets you perform different actions like launching an enemy into the air and following up with a flashy combo string, or slamming them back down to follow up again with a dash to gain distance. Unlike DMC, Launchers are done by holding the light attack in between heavy attacks as players don’t need to hold the lock-on button on an enemy and aren’t committed to following them while keeping track of them, so no shenanigans with the flicking the left stick for certain commands.
This is where Lost Soul Aside’s resemblance to FFXV comes into play, as that means certain situations or ranges are automatically corrected by the game. If you’re too far away from your enemy and you tap to attack, Kazer will launch himself towards the enemy closing the distance, or perform ranged attacks to dish out some damage. This might sound like the game’s basic command inputs are simplified, but there are plenty of other ways the game mixes up its combat to keep you on your feet.
One of which is the game’s “异能爆發” mechanic, or for now we’ll simply refer to it as “Outburst”. Outburst is done by holding R2, which causes Kazer’s next attack to be powered up. In the case of the Greatsword, it boosts the range, knockback, and power of the attack while also making another fiery Greatsword follow his movements, effectively making him hit twice. Your Outburst meter fills up the more combos you do to fill up a style gauge, though, in this version of the game, the combo meter was extremely generous.
You can also hold the L2 button and tap one of the three face buttons to perform a spell. These cause Kazer’s partner to transform into a flurry of attacks surrounding him to deal damage when enemies get close or blast them with a high-damaging projectile. These spells felt pretty standard in terms of control, and it was interesting that the ones used were more effective close-range, further encouraging the player to stick to their target. Spells seemed to each have their own individual energy cost, and weren’t tied to any of the other game mechanics.
Lost Soul Aside also has execution-style attacks, when an enemy has taken some damage you can tap Square + X to perform an execution, causing Kazer to attack with a flurry of combos automatically by transforming his weapon into claws, or a massive anchor. Unlike games like the Arkham series, these executions are quite long in their animations, because they don’t actually instantly kill the opponent, but rather deal a good chunk of guaranteed damage as it will often stagger foes during the move’s duration. This is particularly useful as a way to dish out guaranteed damage on bosses who would otherwise not flinch from your regular attacks.
Interestingly though you aren’t committing to an execution as you can always dash out of it, and if the enemy you were executing dies early Kazer will still continue the combo and lock on to another enemy close by if applicable. What was surprising is the decision to make evasive maneuvers like dodging consume stamina.
Whenever you dodge an attack Kazer consumes 1/4 of his stamina gauge, effectively meaning you can dodge 4 times in quick succession. The stamina gauge does fill up fairly quickly and at almost no delay so if you spaced out your dodges you can perform much more than just 4. Dodging an attack perfectly will also let you counter-attack with a flurry of lightning-fast attacks while also keeping you invincible.
This mechanic was particularly useful in one of the game’s bosses as his attacks would flood the screen with attacks with a gigantic hitbox, so it gave you time to keep up the offense while waiting out his massive attack. It was interesting to see the game have a stamina mechanic, as this means like the Souls series you have to gauge when is the best time to use your dodge, or if you can avoid an attack by just running.
You can also opt to perform a parry by hitting the circle button, which uses considerably less stamina but is less lenient, and can be done while fighting as the animation has Kazer’s partner surrounding him with a shield to deflect attacks.
The combat does sometimes suffer from the game’s ambitious visuals, as previously mentioned the first boss had some attacks that were visually impressive, but it was at times difficult to gauge when they were attacking and how to avoid it, meaning it was just best to stay far away from the boss entirely, though in most character action games it’s much more fun to toe the line between danger and reward.
A final thing to mention about its combat was that the game uses the D-pad as a dedicated item zone, with items that recover energy for Outburst, spells, and general healing. Healing had virtually no cooldown and while it only healed about 1/5 of Kazer’s health, it seems you can stack a tremendous amount of them as the demo started with 30 healing items.
Lost Soul Aside also didn’t borrow from any Souls-like bonfire checkpoints, as if you died in a fight you could simply restart from the beginning of it, though whether there are penalties or not for death could still be something added in the final release.
▍Lost Soul Aside is Just as Fun as it Looks
Lost Soul Aside is shaping up to be one of those titles that lives up to its initial promise of an incredibly beautiful, and fast-paced character action game with all of the spectacle you could ever hope for. Despite how long it’s taking the game still manages to keep up with modern visuals, and its dedication to pushing the PS5 to its limits means owners of the console will have one more high-fidelity game to look forward to. This does mean its PS4 version will likely be cancelled but if Ultizero can maintain 60FPS on the PS5, there may be hope for a playable port on the PS4 yet.
While its combat isn’t quite as complex as the DMC games, Lost Soul Aside’s simple to pick up action coupled with flashy effects and unique blend of mechanics makes this a fun title to look forward to, whenever it actually comes out.