Despite a configuration that might be considered confusing in other works, the Soul Hackers 2 Game Review is surprisingly frank and open with its narrative concept.

As an organic avatar called Ringo, your job is to save humanity at the behest of Aion, an AI. Aion has determined that it needs two key people to survive in order to prevent an imminent cataclysmic event, and that's where you come in to cheat death. The problem is that doing this too often can ruin the fabric of reality. Again, it's all easy to follow, conveyed naturally through dialog, and there's even a reminder text on the loading screens.

Soul Hackers 2 Game Review
Image: Reproduction

Soul Hackers 2 Game Review

Soul Hackers 2 takes a while to get going in earnest, but until then, you quickly join up with new summoners who become core members of the group. You slowly learn the ins and outs of Aion's goals and the real world alongside your friends; including the inconvenience of having to locate alliances (powers that, when brought together, can cause destruction). 

The vibe is still very occult (with demons galore) and cyberpunk, but there's also an air of mystery and espionage to the daily happenings of the critical trail. Helpfully in true CMS fashion, the cast don't take themselves too seriously. Although there are moments of stoic heroism, things can get weird and relaxed, all accompanied by some nice voice acting (double audio).

City

The neon-adorned city is also another character (which can be viewed in a 60 FPS or 4K performance-based visual switch). There are bars, stores, quest givers, demon-casting stops, everything you'd expect from an Atlus RPG. All of this unfolds slowly as you explore more of the city, matching the growing nature of the narrative you discover with Ringo and his team. From there, you can choose whether to start side quests - usually in areas you've already visited, with an emphasis on returning to explored dungeons - or continue with the story.

Speaking of dungeons, they are mostly isolated, and some of them blend together. It's decidedly 'corridor-based' and the player's choice usually comes down to 'enter the door you need to enter / walk to the dead end and get an item'. 

Soul Matrix Dungeons

This feeling is intensified by the 'Soul Matrix' dungeons, which allow you to delve deeper into the psyche of each member of the group and learn more about them, reaping rewards and progression in the process. It's basically the same place, but the further you progress through the story, the further you can go and the more you can do. There are teleportation waypoints in each dungeon (and an early access spell where you can instantly exit a dungeon), so it's not as if these are insurmountable challenges in themselves, but they do take a lot of time.

Soul Hackers 2 has a weakness system similar to other CMS games, but this time its bonus is linked to a 'Sabbath' super ability that is triggered by consecutive weak hits per turn. More weak hits equals more damage when Sabbath is triggered. 

In other words, if you hit an enemy with a weakness four times (for your standard group of four), you'll get a Saturday rating of four and deal more area of effect (AOE) damage once the turn is over. Finished. You can skip the sabbath animation and it's fun to try to increase the numbers, especially when you consider the strategic game of keeping an enemy down without finishing him off,

One thing you should keep in mind with Soul Hackers 2 is that it generally asks players to be careful with their loadouts. Your elemental kit is not only important (entering a fight without access to the enemy's weakness can be deadly), but your equipment should generally remain up-to-date, as should your item synergies (such as increasing the element of choice for this summoner). 

In terms of progression, it's up to you to max out a demon, get a gift once you've reached the maximum and try something new. It's a very simple and efficient loop, complete with casting and buying demons, where you can try out new mechanics and level up little by little. Even in normal mode, things can get tricky if you're underleveled and poorly equipped.

See also: The Last of Us game review; see story and gameplay