With its most recent Persona games, Atlus has landed on a stylized presentation that elevates its beloved RPG franchise, making it as cool to look at as it is immersive to play. Twenty-five years after the release of its predecessor and a decade after it arrived in North America on 3DS, Soul Hackers 2 puts a sci-fi spin on Atlus’s sleek sensibility and offers RPG fans a glimpse different from what you already know. as about developer titles.
Soul Hackers 2 is the sequel to Demon Summoner: Soul Hackers, a sci-fi spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. GameSpot spent a few minutes playing Soul Hackers 2 at Summer Game Fest 2022, where we got a quick taste of how the game will play. According to Atlus, while the first Soul Hackers had a pretty harsh RPG curve that might have put some players off, the sequel appears to be a bit more welcoming, while also seemingly borrowing a lot of what works from recent hits like Persona 5 to introduce a new story.
While it is a sequel, Soul Hackers 2 is its own story, set in the same world as Soul Hackers but without continuing that story. It also seeks to give players a slightly more mature story than, say, the Persona games: with Soul Hackers 2, you’re dealing with a group of characters who are older, rather than those who made their way through high school. But this is also a supernatural sci-fi RPG, so expect some fantastical elements; for example, there are demons, and you summon them.
Our hands-on time didn’t provide much sense of Soul Hackers 2’s premise or its overall story. You play as Ringo, a character created by a sentient artificial intelligence and sent to prevent some coming event from ending the world. Unsurprisingly, you recruit other characters to join your team’s ranks, including rival factions of demon summoners, who wield the ability to make contracts with demons and harness their powers.
Demons are at the heart of the game, empowering you in battle like magic spells, provided you can get them to join you. For example, we entered a dungeon and sent our demons ahead to check the place out. Exploring along the way, it was possible to meet our demons, who had found items or information about the dungeon. Sometimes one of your demon allies may find a demon to meet you, giving you the opportunity to recruit them to the team as well, provided you can do as they ask. As we ventured through a dungeon, a pig-like demon was willing to join in as long as we could give him a couple of tasty items from our inventory. The demons on your team allow you to equip attack skills to your characters, so having a good variety helps you be more effective in different situations.
You also fight demons throughout the game, and we encountered a version of the demon pig in the dungeon before one decided to join us. Enemies appear as dungeon-walking characters as you explore them, and while you can hit them to knock them down or dodge them as you move through an area, tapping one sends you into a turn-based battle. Soul Hackers 2 fights are all about finding out information about your opponents and then exploiting their weaknesses with elemental attacks. A regular melee attack can deal minimal damage against one type of demon, but another type that is weak to that type of attack takes massive damage.
Every time you exploit an enemy’s weakness, you also gain an “Accumulation” point. At the end of your turn, stack points are automatically used to summon your demons, which then attack your opponents, basically giving you a powerful bonus attack. This “Sabbath” adds more demons the more stacks you manage to accumulate during your attack phase, so the smarter you fight, the more devastating your demonic attack will be at the end of the turn.
Managing your demons goes beyond simply recruiting them when you encounter them in the world. You can also use various crafting materials to “fuse” two demons, creating something new. We briefly saw the fusion system in action, selecting two of our lesser demons to make a stronger one. The system gives you the option to customize your creation based on the daemons you used to create it; each demon has a set of skills, and when you do a merge, you can choose which of those original skills to bring to your new demon to customize as needed.
As you’d expect from an Atlus RPG, while combat is an important part of Soul Hackers 2, you’ll spend a lot of time interacting with the game’s characters. Improving the relationship with your teammates is an important part of the experience, not only because it expands the game’s story, but also because it empowers you in battle. During our practice, we were able to start a Hangout session in a bar with one of our teammates, Arrow, and start a conversation to get to know him better. Your choices through dialogue during these times can allow you to deepen your relationship with the characters: make choices that lead them to trust you more and consider you a friend, and you’ll increase their soul level.
You will also increase your soul levels with your teammates as you progress through the Soul Hackers 2 story, depending on the choices you make along the way. It looks like doing so will have some combat benefits as your party becomes a stronger team. It definitely has story benefits as well; Atlus said during our hands-on time that raising your soul levels with different characters can even unlock access to new physical locations, as well as more stories for those characters. Overall, it seems like investing in increasing your soul levels is going to pay off with more time with your characters to build relationships, and potentially more story for the game in general.
Our look at Soul Hackers 2 was brief, but despite an abundance of features like fusion and demonic trading, it seems fairly accessible, even for players who aren’t too familiar with SMT, Persona, and Atlus’s brand of roles. playing a game. Battles are simple and easy to understand, while also rewarding you for playing smart and thinking tactically. But the most interesting part of Soul Hackers 2 seems to be the game’s dedication to its characters, with plenty of room to spend time getting to know your team and the world they inhabit.
Soul Hackers 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on August 26.
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a portion of the proceeds if you purchase something featured on our site.