hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: Soul Fjord

7:00 AM on 01.28.2014 // Darren Nakamura


Ouya users have not had a lot to be excited about for a while now. Excepting a few titles like Towerfall, there is not much worth owning on the microconsole, and especially few games that are not available elsewhere. As one of the more hyped titles, Airtight Games' Soul Fjord was looking like it could be a good reason to own an Ouya.

The elevator pitch is great. Soul Fjord is a rhythm-based, hack-and-slash roguelike with a truly unique setting that crosses 1970s funk and 13th Century Norse mythology. Protagonist Magnus Jones has to fight for his right to party after being denied access to Valhalla. Unfortunately, unlike Jones's expertly coiffed afro, Soul Fjord falls flat in its execution.

Soul Fjord (Ouya)
Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Airtight Games
Release: January 28, 2014
MSRP: Free, with microtransactions

To start on a positive note, the strange hybrid setting is fantastic. It seems like a completely random combination, but mixing '70s soul with Norse mythology is just silly enough to work. It helps that it is supported by some genuinely funny writing, where equippable items have Scandinavian-sounding names and descriptions, but are often just rudimentary bludgeoning tools like stop signs or keg hammers. Heck, there was a loading screen or two that made me laugh, just imagining this Shaft-like figure giving advice for surviving the trip up Yggdrasil.

For the most part, the presentation is pretty decent as well. Character art is sharp, animations are smooth, and the funk soundtrack that changes from level to level is sufficiently funky. There are effects that reproduce the visual artifacts found in 1970s films, and while they fit the theme well enough, they do start to wear thin after a few sessions.

In theory, Soul Fjord could be fun to play. Jones has two basic attacks and a block, and when he hits enemies, numbers pop out of them until they die. The unique element of combat here is that players can deal (or block) significantly more damage when attacking (or defending) to the beat of the music than if they were to mash buttons.

One problem that arises is in the choice of the funk soundtrack. Regardless of what the music is doing, attacks are augmented when performed on the downbeats. By the nature of the genre, the music is very often syncopated; it specifically emphasizes notes in between the beats during certain sections. What results in these cases is rhythm gameplay that relies more heavily on the visual cues than the audio cues. Thankfully, this is not the case for every song in the game, but it is a huge design misstep with those songs that produce this effect.

The other big issue with the combat, even when the music has a heavy beat to follow, is that it is often slow and dull. Enemies will only attack on the beat, and early in the game their attacks are so infrequent that it is better to ignore blocking entirely and always go for the kill. Each weapon has two unique combos, so carrying around one weapon for a while means pressing the same sequences of buttons, over and over.

Getting to the combat is also a pretty trite affair. Enter a room. Kill all of the enemies. Go to the next room. Repeat. There are a few points of interest that can be found randomly, like rooms filled with spike traps or altars to the gods, but the procedural generation of levels is often squandered on areas with slightly different shapes that all play identically to one another.

Soul Fjord is a free-to-play game, and it comes with all of the trappings of that model, for better or for worse. As a game with roguelike elements, players do not keep items from one play to the next, unless those items are "Soul Bound." Items that are randomly dropped or purchased with in-game gold can be manually Soul Bound by spending platinum records, Soul Fjord's premium currency. Treasure chests can also be opened for a few records, and any items found in this manner are automatically Soul Bound.

Some modicum of persistence in games that otherwise adhere to the roguelike tenet of permanent death is fine, and has even been done quite well in games like Risk of Rain or Desktop Dungeons. It just feels a little strange in Soul Fjord that the persistence is optional and tied to spending real money to maintain it. It feels especially strange in a hack-and-slash game to find a rare weapon or piece of armor but only be able to use it once without paying extra.

However, the impression one gets of the Soul Bound system is heavily dependent on perspective. Rather than thinking of Soul Fjord as a Diablo-style loot fest that is hindered by mandatory microtransactions, if it is viewed instead as a roguelike that is enhanced with persistence through optional microtransactions, then it stings a bit less. Indeed, the game can be played and theoretically completed without spending a penny on it.

That said, it would still require most players several playthroughs to gain the skill necessary to make it through to the end without starting with the most awesome weapons, and the gameplay is just not entertaining enough to support more than one or two runs. Though there are only nine levels, and each lasts between five and fifteen minutes, Soul Fjord was already repetitive and boring by the end of the second attempt.

Soul Fjord started with a good idea, and even has a few redeeming qualities, but in the end, it is just too dull to be enjoyable for longer than a few minutes. The free-to-play aspects don't ruin the experience, but they don't particularly help it either. If nothing else, Ouya owners should probably give this a try since it costs nothing upfront, but this is not the system savior that we have been hoping for.



Soul Fjord - Reviewed by Darren Nakamura
Disappointing - I feel sorry for this one. It came close to being passable, but dropped the ball too many times to prevent itself from being an embarrassment.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Darren Nakamura, Associate Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Dexter345 Tips
Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Anyone here going to NYC Comic Con? Always wanted to go and lived so close, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Anyone here going to NYC Comic Con? Always wanted to go and lived so close, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Mark Plechaty avatarMark Plechaty
Well I haven't seen any levels like this on mario maker so maybe it's unique the I'd is 55BD000000961CBA GIVE IT A GO and let me know what you think
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Hey Stranger ... wadda you buying ? Want some crack ? Here ya go... [youtube][/youtube]
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
My brother caught me this Pokémon in our room yesterday. How should I name it? [img][/img]
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Yay, I got off of work early and may have Friday off! I have a sinking feeling I'm going to work 10 hours on Saturday as a result, though :/ We ran out of stuff to make stuff with so they must ship us stuff so we can ship stuff.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Yo yo I'm Marie and I got dat gangsta flow. High scores ain't no trip, cuz I whip that shit like Sonic quick. I-I mean no! I didn't say anything! Stupidrecordbreakingcombodolt. [img][/img]
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
I'm watching you.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
Work noooooooooooooooooo D:
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
I had such a awkward time playing Catherine because it shared the same name as my mother....
JayDGee avatarJayDGee
Broforce is coming out of early access on the 15th. I had no Idea it was an early access game.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
I have now played all 3 Witcher games. My verdict: Witcher 1 - alright, aged badly, lots of sex. Witcher 2 - good, very short, not much sex at all. Witcher 3 - Excellent in every way.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I really wish MGO had been implemented with free-roam gameplay PMC (clan) setup instead of the standard matchmaking. Imagine roaming bands of PMC's opposing each other on the battlefield. How sexy would that be?
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
Playing Shantae & The Pirates Curse, must say I'm loving it for the most part, barring the odd WHERE AM I D: moment
JayDGee avatarJayDGee
Added a humble code to my steam account when I already had the game. Purely because the soundtrack was attached. Now I see it on 2 friends wishlists. They must never know.
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
Okay so what 2, 3, 4 years later I bothered to finish. Now to write up that blog on why FFXIV lost my love by never challenging me and see if it's actually interesting...
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
What's up with taking your phone or a magazine to the toilet? Y'all need more fibre in your diet, why should a toilet visit take more than 2 minutes? What are you people doing with your asses.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Finished Momohime/Jinkuro's story in Muramasa last night. I always liked that ending. I didn't know there were more endings, though. On to Kisuke's story!
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
It feels like each day I get up, do the rounds of my bookmarks, and am immediately brought down by kneejerk hate: new stuff, old stuff, last nights stuff, 2moros stuff, a game, a film, TV. Critical thinking is fine, but dang, pure cynicism's winning :(
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Soul Fjord

  Jan 14

Kim Swift's Soul Fjord out this month, still Ouya only

Unfjortunately, I don't think I can affjord an Ouya for one cool game

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -