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Soundfall - Hands-On Impressions

Become one with the beat with Drastic Games' rhythm-based looter-shooter.

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For the most part, I like to think I have quite a good understanding of rhythm. I've always been drawn to musical games, despite being completely incompetent when it comes to playing any musical instrument. In fact, without tooting my own trumpet, I've often thought that I'm quite good at a lot of rhythm games thanks to hundreds of hours of jamming out to Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. At least this was the case until I gave BPM: Bullets Per Minute a go, and got absolutely destroyed by its hardcore roguelike rhythm nature. Needless to say, when I got the opportunity to dive into Drastic Games' upcoming dungeon-crawling, looter-shooter rhythm game Soundfall, I wasn't sure how I'd fare.

Fortunately, my worries were for naught, because after a couple of hours of getting to check out what this title is looking to offer, I can safely say that Soundfall is shaping up to be quite the exciting and entertaining video game, even for the rhythmically-challenged.


Set in the vibrant world of Symphonia, a land that is defined by music and rhythm, the idea behind Soundfall is to move through various levels, taking out the harmful forces of Discord that are threatening the world, all to a beat. You have to time every shot you fire, every dash move, every sword slash, and ability usage to the underlying beat of the musical track that accompanies each level. It's a game that on the surface seems like quite the challenge to master, and while it isn't inherently easy, it's far more intuitive and simplistic to pick up than BPM is, thanks to the choice of music that features a clearly distinguishable beat that you can both connect to and even jam out to.

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Likewise, while it is crucial that you time every action you make (bar simply running around) to the beat, Soundfall does allow you to play the game when you miss time an action to the rhythm, the only difference is that action will be far less effective - for example, off-beat gunshots will do half the damage of on-beat shots. With this in mind, you can get the gist of how the core rhythm mechanics are implemented and used in-game.

As for how Soundfall actually plays, this is an isometric title that sees you basically looking down on your character. The idea is to progress through linear levels, clearing rooms/or sections of enemies all with the intention to reach the end of the level as fast as possible. You'll be rewarded with extra experience for your account based on how quickly you complete a level, your percentage of on-time actions, and even how little damage you take, with various medals also being dished out depending on these respective factors. There will also be new weapons and armour rewarded in a chest at the end of a level, alongside the occasional drop from defeated foes, in a typical looter-shooter manner, all so that you can improve how lethal and effective you are in battle, with better damage and resistance statistics.

In this aspect, Soundfall feels very looter-shootery, albeit without the nature of the sub-genre being rammed down your throat, as new loot is common but not overwhelmingly frequent. Similarly, the gear customisation system has levels of complexity, but also never feels like you need a statistics degree to really understand and create a character that is powerful and fun to play as. It's a very streamlined and easy to grasp set of systems that work to elevate and accommodate the core gameplay, which is, from my experience, quite polished and entertaining to learn and master.

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This opinion of mine is taken from simply being able to explore the first world of Soundfall, a world where I got to play as one of the five characters (also known as Guardians of Harmony), and have the chance to use a few different weapon archetypes, and face a few unique enemy types. Despite this limited look, Soundfall still comes off as quite the impressive game, one that even holds a lot of additional promise, thanks to the various other features I was told about in a preview session with the developers.

It's noted that each of Soundfall's five characters will have their own play style, weapon, and special abilities, with each character unlocked when you reach each of the five in-game worlds. Similarly, the gameplay will boast boss fights with leading members of the Discord army, with these encounters featuring unique mechanics to have to overcome. There will also be more Horde missions (I got to play one), meaning if you like being thoroughly overwhelmed by enemies and projectiles on-screen, then Soundfall will hit all the right marks there.

Otherwise, Drastic Games announced that Soundfall will be supported post-launch with free updates, feature 2-4 online and local cooperative play that scales the difficulty and number of enemies you face depending on how many people are in your party, and will even see more musical tracks added down the line thanks to the ingenious importation system that allows players to bring music from their own music libraries into Soundfall, with the game analysing the track and creating a level filled with foes that reflects it - and this is on top of the fact that there will be over 100 songs in-game at launch.


All in all, as far as a video game package goes, it's difficult to look at Soundfall as anything less than impressive. The gameplay seemed to be incredibly polished and fluid, the art style and visuals vibrant and top-notch, and the soundtrack is genuinely entertaining to listen to, which as you'd hope, simply betters the gameplay of Soundfall as well. It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the game unravels come launch, and to see how the other characters and the customisation suite pans out, but from what I've seen so far, Drastic Games is set to serve up a hit with Soundfall.

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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

We've been jamming to the beat and slaying forces of Discord in Drastic Games' rhythm-based dungeon crawler.

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