There has been no lack of rhythm games or loot grind dungeon crawlers over the years, exploring all sorts of themes and different gameplay mechanics. However, it’s not often we get these two genres together in one place. That’s what Soundfall aims to do. It’s meant to offer all the riggings of a dungeon-crawling looter shooter action-RPG, but with the addition of a rhythm game element where you must fight and dodge to the beat of various music. Soundfall has some interesting things going on and a solid and varied soundtrack, but it doesn’t seem to bring that same level variety to the gameplay, making for a slightly repetitive beat.
Discord in Symphonia
Soundfall’s story initially puts players in the role of Melody, as well as further characters as the story goes on. Each of the characters is a musician in the real world, but some mysterious force warps them to the world of Symphonia and traps them there. Symphonia is a world where music permeates the land. Songs are born out of it and when a song is complete, it escapes to the real world. Unfortunately not all is well in Symphonia. Creatures known as Discordians are breaking the rhythmic flow of Symphonia and threatening to bring off-beat chaos to its music. To stop the Discordians, Melody and her companions take up instrumental weapons to battle them to the beat of various songs if they hope to make their way home.
Soundfall plays kind of like a twin-stick shooter combined with a rhythm game. The game is broken up into levels each set to a unique song. During a level, players need to make their way through, battle Discordians, and reach an end goal, whether solo or in local or online multiplayer. To that end, players can equip up to two ranged musical weapons, as well as using their character’s musical melee weapon and a dash to fight and avoid enemy attacks. The catch? You have to do it on beat to the music by timing your attacks to a metronome at the bottom of the screen. Each time you fire a weapon, swing a melee attack, or dodge to the beat, your actions are powered up. Miss the beat and your abilities are weakened or don’t work at all. The more you can keep up with the beat, the more damage you can do in short, rhythmic order.
This is a fun aspect of Soundfall, and the ranged weapons are pretty decent at first. There are things like a boombox bazooka that fires a shot that bursts on contact or max range, as well as a keyboard that fires a short-range spread shot, and a repeater that can fire off long range shots with laser precision. Additionally, you’ll sometimes collect weapons and gear with different musical elements. For instance, Bolero is a fire element that burns enemies hit by a weapon with that attribute whereas Minuet is a life-stealing element that will heal you as you damage enemies. Soundfall will pelt you with gear left and right, so it’s actually not really worth getting attached to any one weapon as you find better gear.
That said, I also felt like it didn’t take long for Soundfall’s loot to get a bit repetitive, especially with how the game rewards it. In any given level, you can achieve various awards for completing it alongside some optional challenges. Just getting to the end of the level will get you a bronze award, beating the level before the song ends nets you silver, keeping a combo chain going in which you keep destroying enemies on beat without getting hit gets you gold, and completing the level without a single off-beat action gets you platinum. The higher the challenge, the higher chance of better loot dropping, or so it says.
I felt like Soundfall was kind of stingy with its odds of giving me something worthwhile whether I did well or not. You can also find treasure chests in levels if you veer off the beaten path and it felt like I had just as good of odds of chancing upon decent gear in those as getting a gold rating on a song. Moreover, it just didn’t feel long at all before I kept coming across endless repeats of slightly better gear than what I had a moment before. Some weapons really proved to be effective right away, like keyboards with a Requiem element that bounced attack damage to nearby enemies for consecutive on-beat hits. But moving to harder areas and getting better things meant shedding gear I enjoyed to get stronger, even if I didn’t particularly like the “stronger” weapon styles that much.
Enemies in Soundfall felt pretty generic too. This is an issue in a lot of dungeon crawlers, but it fast becomes apparent here. In every level, Discordians are varied between numerous easy-to-kill grunts, larger brutes, and various projectile flingers to name a few. While there is variety in the enemies and their attacks, most of the foes appear so regularly by the time you’re about 10 levels in that there’s little surprise or charm to them. On harder difficulties, you might see slightly more variants such as charging lancers and turrets or even musical element-attuned foes, but they still get thrown at you with such regularity that there’s very little interesting about them beyond the first encounter.
But boy does that beat slap
It may come as little surprise, but the real star of Soundfall is the art and music. The characters are well-drawn and modeled in the game and occasionally you’ll get an animated cutscene that’s just gorgeous, but the music is also absolutely eclectic and fun. Symphonia is separated into various biomes full of levels you must complete to move to the next area and each biome has a theme to its music. The first area starts out with a lot of techno and electronica. The second is a beach featuring all sorts of brass-heavy music. Later on, you’ll run into biomes featuring classical, hip hop, dubstep, and rock/metal themes, and the songs throughout are pretty good. I even saw some names I recognized and was happy to come across in this game like EyeQ, which was a treat.
Not only does each area have a theme it sticks to, but there are bonus songs featuring styles that would normally be found in other biomes, such as finding a bonus rap song in the string section biome. Moreover, you can even upload your own music to this game and play levels to it on PC (but not on other versions sadly), which is pretty cool. The game will take any track you upload, analyze its style, and create a level based on it. It even seems to recognize in most cases what genre of music it is, I uploaded some metal and hip hop to give it go and it designed randomized levels appropriate to the songs I chose, which is impressive. Basically, when you run out of levels to play in Soundfall’s already good soundtrack, you could always challenge yourself with some of your own music if you’d like.
Warriors of the rhythm
Soundfall does quite a few things right. Its loot and shoot design set to a lot of good music is commendable. The tracks included in the game are of a wide variety and even if you get through the entire game, the ability to play levels to your own favorite music is pretty great (on PC). The problem is… Soundfall’s gear and enemies just aren’t all that compelling. The music and rhythmic gameplay are good enough to carry a lot of this game, but I can’t help but wish it had a more rewarding variety of gear to look forward to and enemies that didn’t quickly end up feeling like repetitive drones. Even so, if you can get down with a good rhythm action game alone or with friends, Soundfall might be worth it whether you play to its soundtrack or bring your own.
This review is based on a PC digital copy supplied by the publisher. Soundfall is out now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.
- Soundtrack is excellent
- Art style is lush and vibrant
- The ability to add your music is well-implemented (on PC)
- Local and online co-op play
- A variety of biomes full of different genres of music
- Loot is underwhelming and grindy
- Enemies quickly become repetitive and boring
- Music upload feature only on PC