When one thinks of Red Candle Games, the Taiwanese developers, the horror genre comes to mind, especially with the critical reception of its previous projects: Devotion and Detention. However, just like how those games burst onto the scene, the studio has been hard at work creating their next big thing in the form of Nine Sols. An action-platformer at its heart, it appears the genre switch has not dented the quality coming from the studio.
From a visual standpoint, the game is brought to life excellently, with an illustrative style full of vibrant color and character. From the various characters, conversations, to the environments that houses the platforming and combat sections, the presentation of Nine Sols is beautiful both in motion and in stillness.
There is obviously loads to unpack when it comes to the narrative of the game, and it is clear from the game’s lore that we are no longer on Earth, but an alien planet where humans are being harvested for a nefarious purpose. Our protagonist has a key role to play in all of this, and it remains to be seen just what Red Candle Games has up its sleeve when it comes to the story and their idea of Taopunk.
At the core of Nine Sols are the platforming and combat. The former throws in jumping sequences, platforms, wall-running and the like for now, and it is likely it will be expanded come the full release of the game. It is the latter that is clearly the star of the show, with swordplay that has influences from the likes of Sekiro and even Bloodborne.
Timing is vital when facing your foes, whether it be attacking or defending. Deflecting attacks will depend on catching the precise timing, and even if you falter, Nine Sols has some degrees of flexibility built in to aid the player.
A perfect deflection comes with an accompanying ring that prevents any damage, a slightly late deflection will see damage caused but with no pushback, while a botched one will see our hero get the full brunt of the attack.
Even so, getting hurt is no excuse to back off, as successful attacks will regenerate a limited amount of health, so you are always encouraged to keep up the pressure. And while katana slashes are fun and all, you can also utilize a Chi-filled talisman known as a Foo charm to deal even more explosive damage. The options are yours, and success is all driven by player agency.
While the enemies in the demo were not that dangerous, jumping into the boss challenge mode that was unlocked after completing the 30-minute demo hinted at the potential of Nine Sols’ combat. The Red Centaur boss hit hard and fast, and only by mastering the flow of combat will players stand a chance. If the rest of the game is full of obstacles like this and more, then we are in for a good time. There is also a skill system that can make you more powerful, so it is not all that unfair.
Nine Sols definitely has the art and combat down, and the jury’s still out on whether the platforming will be of similar quality. The game is still currently in its crowdfunding phase, but having surpassed its goal by more than double the amount asked, it is clear that fans are excited about what Red Candle Games is promising with Nine Sols, and so am I after this hands-on.