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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

There’s almost too much to do in the graphically impressive survival game Soulmask

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We tried out Soulmask as part of the Steam Next Fest and had a lot of fun, even if the game almost overwhelmed us at times

Play it sometime, such demos often only last half an hour! I still have the words of my colleague Steffi in my ear. In fact, the free-to-play version of Soulmask is supposed to offer up to 40 hours of content, and only so “little” because our progress here is still limited. However, this surprisingly large and pretty survival game is already doing a lot of things right

What is Soulmask actually?

First of all, the title offers classic survival fare: we wake up in the jungle with nothing but a scrap of clothing. So we collect wood, stones and berries and a little later we have built our first primitive tools. Of course, we continue with a small shelter, various workbenches and the search for water.

However, the game doesn’t really get going until much later, when an element that we last saw in Steam’s top dog Palworld comes into play: putting together your own survival team. In the world of Soulmask, we repeatedly encounter enemy warriors who attack us on sight.

Once we have learned the right skill, we can weaken them in battle, knock them unconscious and then recruit them as tribe members. We then assign our new friends to work in our base – be it cultivating fields, collecting and processing resources, or whatever else is needed. Our modest shelter will then grow into a real village and later even a real fortress.

Where should I start?

In the first few hours I spent in Soulmask, I was only able to try out the classic survival part of the game. But even here there was so much to do that I almost lost track. This is mainly due to Soulmask’s numerous, and sometimes confusing, progression systems. There are:

  • The research tree: This is where I learn new technologies, such as better equipment and weapons, but also new buildings and crafting stations. To progress, I need technology points and Consciousness Strength But how exactly I get the points or increase my strength remained a mystery to me in the demo.
  • The mask menu: Here I can improve my mask with crystals I find and get passive bonuses. But I can also learn active skills, such as recruiting NPCs or a pulse that indicates nearby enemies. Other, stronger masks can apparently also be found later on.
  • The character window: I only discovered this part of the character development by chance after some time. Here it is possible to invest points in values such as strength or stamina each time I level up, which give me smaller bonuses for each level. I can also view my competence in certain activities such as woodcutting, sewing or archery. This increases as I use them and also gives me smaller advantages.

(Here you can only see a section of the entire research tree.)
(Here you can only see a section of the entire research tree.)

In addition to the progression systems, which are useful in themselves but require a lot of training, there are also extensive crafting options. Within three hours, I had built eight different workbenches, each of which unlocks numerous recipes

The first look at the map

While I could spend days just crafting new equipment, tools and workstations, there’s also the fact that Soulmask has a really big open world. So far I’ve only been able to explore a tiny part of a jungle, but there’s a huge map waiting for me.

    It’s still hard to say whether it’s worth exploring. So far, the question marks on the map only conceal smaller ruins where we can pick up some loot and recruit warriors. However, later on we will also find huge pyramids and entire villages or be able to take on boss enemies such as a sabre-toothed tiger. And then there are the secrets of the mask, which we will discover over the course of the game.

    Multiplayer and endgame

    Soulmask is definitely designed to be played for a long time. Even in the demo, the constant unlocking of new possibilities – whether better tools, fresh abilities or a larger base – is motivating. Even after hours, I haven’t even begun to see everything the survival game has to offer.

    (We can probably raid settlements like this together with our tribe.)
    (We can probably raid settlements like this together with our tribe.)

    And if I can believe the trailer, I can later build almost entire cities for my tribe and can even compete with or against other players in multiplayer. The developers even promise real tribal wars, so I can lead my subordinates into battle and attack other tribes and settlements. How well this works and, above all, how clever the AI warriors are will only be revealed in the final version. And even then probably only after dozens of hours

    Editor’s verdict

    I hadn’t really looked into Soulmask before playing it and was quite surprised by the graphics and scope of the survival game. Even though the official screenshots have been prettied up a bit, the title looks pretty slick. And I can discover so much in the demo alone – from dungeons to boss battles, recruiting tribe members and breeding animals.

    And so far, it all works pretty well. The action-heavy battles may take some getting used to at first, and the developers should urgently work on the clarity of the menus, but otherwise I have very few complaints about the demo. Technically, the game runs pretty smoothly for me too.

    I can’t yet judge how well the multiplayer works, for example, and there is still a big question mark hanging over the AI of my recruited villagers. However, with its complexity, the already impressive scope and the interesting tribe concept, Soulmask definitely has the potential to stand out from the survival crowd.


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