What are you prepared to sacrifice?
As you awaken, held captive in a nightmare prison of bones and with no memory of who you are and how you came to be there, all hope seems lost. Held prisoner by the evil sorcerer Magusar, you are little more than livestock – a human offering, kept alive only to be sacrificed to the dark arts that your captor practises. Just as all chances of escape seem to have been crushed – along with your fellow prisoners at the hands of Magusar – a potential saviour appears...
Librom, an enchanted talking book, begins calling to you from beneath a gruesome pile of bones, beckoning you closer to open his pages and begin reading the journal contained within. As you read, you are transported from your prison into a shadowy realm where you meet a young – and strangely familiar – sorcerer. Guided by Librom, you begin to relive the dark tale of the young mage's training titled "The Sorcerer's Ordeal" and learn the secrets of forgotten magic just as he did. To gain new spells and abilities, you must face a series of gruesome creatures that will put your skills to the test – from grotesque Goblins to huge, terrifying mythical creatures like the Harpy, Cerberus and the brutal Minotaur.
But with great power comes great sacrifice. To master the magic in Librom's pages and become powerful enough to face Magusar and win your freedom, you must decide what you're willing to sacrifice; your allies, your body... or your humanity.
A dark fantasy realm
Each of the Phantom Quests transports you into a stunningly detailed fantasy landscape inhabited by the terrifying monsters that you'll face. Icy wastelands, ruined temples and immense, ancient statues fill the various realms of Librom's story, providing a unique backdrop to the intense battle sequences. As you take on the chilling creatures of each quest, it's hard not to simply stare in awe at the size and detail of your adversaries; your initial battle goes some way to preparing you for this as you take on an enormous serpent with a ghostly human face, towering hundreds of metres into the air.
Many of the monsters will be familiar from famous myths and legends, brought to life on your PS Vita screen. Complementing the visual feast is an epic soundtrack featuring a full orchestra and choir that provides a spine-tingling accompaniment to the action.
As you advance through the game, more of Librom's pages will reveal themselves to you, adding greater depth to the story, characters and monsters. The Portraiture chapter allows you to personalise every element of your character and choose up to six abilities to take in to battle, while the History and Myth section contains insight into the legends of sorcery.
Magic that comes with a price
You're able to take six powers into each battle, which you can quickly switch between when facing a monster. The creatures you fight will react in different ways to your attacks; some may be vulnerable to fire spells, while freezing others in a block of ice will prove more effective. You'll also have long range attacks, or melee abilities that can either be used to hit adversaries quickly – or charged to perform a mighty super-strike. It's also a good idea to take a defensive power into a fight, as well as a spell to regenerate health.
As you add more spells to your inventory, you can begin to combine them in virtually unlimited ways to produce even more devastating attacks; for example, combine a melee attack with a fire spell to turn your enemy into a blazing inferno.
Throughout the Phantom Quests, you'll face the moral dilemmas which underpin Soul Sacrifice – whether to save or sacrifice your defeated enemies. By saving them, you can free their souls from the evil that consumed them, earning yourself a defensive boost and increasing your health. Choose to sacrifice them, and you'll mercilessly destroy the creature, harvesting their soul to make your attacks even more powerful.
The ultimate test comes in the form of the Black Rites – destructive powers that come with a terrible price. For example, transforming yourself into a flaming giant will deal a crushing blow to any monster, but will sacrifice your skin, burning it away and reducing your defensive abilities. Timing is crucial and Black Rites should be used sparingly – as the effects can be long lasting if you're short on the healing potion that Librom sometimes gives you.
The ultimate moral test
Good things come to those who wait and, in Soul Sacrifice, you'll need to prove your worth as a sorcerer before the game's online or Ad Hoc multiplayer modes are revealed to you. Alongside up to three fellow sorcerers, you can relive the Phantom Quests together, taking on the foul beasts and immense monsters as a team and fighting to win more spells and abilities.
Teamwork is essential here, particularly when tackling the larger creatures. If your enemy is airborne, success could depend on having the right combination of powers within your group; while one player focuses on long range attacks to bring the beast down, teammates would be wise to have a strong ground-based power at the ready to deal extra damage when they crash land. Healing powers will also come in very handy, as certain spells can recharge the life force of any injured comrades.
As well as choosing to save or sacrifice the creatures that you'll face together, multiplayer games pose the greatest moral test of all. When one of your comrades falls in battle and cries out for help, you have to decide whether they're of more use to you dead or alive; saving them will bring them back into the fight – while sacrificing your ally will make the remaining members of the group even more powerful.