From my time with its early hours, Soul Hackers 2 feels like the logical accumulation of the many lessons that Atlus learned with its recent SMT-related games. The majority of the game still consists of dungeon crawling. However, having three human party members with their own goals and distinct personalities hooks players hoping for a substantial story. Meanwhile, the difficulty and general structure of the game’s progression can endear it to fans of classics SMT games.
The gist of the story is that Ringo and Figue are artificial humans that AION created. AION is essentially a super-computer that has predicted the end of the world. To stop it, it creates Ringo and Figue and sends them to the human world. Once there, Ringo uses Soul Hack to revive Arrow, Milady, and Saizo. All three of them are Devil Summoners that Ringo believes are instrumental in stopping the apocalypse.
In combat and gameplay, the three humans also help to keep players engaged. I am not a fan of aimless dungeon crawling. However, as the Soul Matrix unlocked more information on the pasts of my enigmatic allies, it became less a chore and more an extension of the main story, a new way to get to know my people. All four members often talk to each other in battle. The exchanges range in tone, from encouraging and rebuking tones. While it can get old hearing the same lines over and over, it was still an engaging form of background noise. Milady and Arrow’s occasional cat-and-dog spats over enemy weaknesses were also amusing.
As for the difficulty of the game, it is accessible enough not to be immediately overwhelming. However, it has a bit of a learning curve for those who are not used to it SMT and its iterations. Indeed, as someone who was more of a Persona fan, and whose exposure to “classic” SMT difficulty amounts to a few hours of Nocturne, my army of demons was sorely lacking. It took me a while to start to focus more on creating specialized demons rather than sweepers, as well as keeping track of what I already had in my arsenal. Granted, the game is rather forgiving. You will rarely have trouble with the random mobs, and the game’s autosave before boss fights means you probably won’t have to redo any progress even if you lose.
There was one issue worth mentioning that shouldn’t be a problem for most users. That’s because Atlus is already working on a Day One patch to solve it. The issue is that the default camera angle always presented Ringo at a slight angle rather than hovering directly behind her. It made going through the dungeons disorienting at times. As well, the mini-map super-imposed on the screen can make the screen very busy. This is especially bad in some of the larger dungeons, such as the second floors of everyone’s Soul Matrix.
Soul Hackers 2 feels like the best of both worlds so far. It has enough story content and character intrigue to keep an average JRPG fan interested, but with just the right level of challenge to potentially satisfy a veteran Shin Megami Tensei player. The majority of it is still dungeon crawling though, so players will likely find themselves needing to enjoy the combat and exploration elements of the game, as much as the actual plot and characters.
Soul Hackers 2 will come out on August 25, 2022 in Japan and August 26, 2022 for North America on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows PC. Look forward to Siliconera’s official review closer to release.