Nine Sols Review — Silksong Sekiro

Nine Sols is something between Sekiro and Hollow Knight, with a big focus on storytelling and visual excellence.
Nine Sols Featured

Nine Sols is a 2D platformer or “Metroidvania” with phenomenal art and rich lore. Wearing its inspirations on its sleeve, Nine Sols feels like some cross between Sekiro and Hollow Knight, and while there are certain aspects of the game I feel could be improved, it would be impossible not to credit Nine Sols as the stand-out title it surely is.

As I mentioned above, Nine Sols is a so-called Metroidvania title, a genre of side-scrolling action platformers so called for its roots in the classic titles Metroid and Castlevania. In my past reviews, I’ve made no secret of my opinion of Metroidvania titles, and Nine Sols’ gameplay can feel very similar. Nine Sols also continues the genre’s tradition of great artwork and stylistic expression, which seems to be a genre staple for indie Metroidvania titles.

Nine Sols Tentacles
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

What I especially enjoy about Nine Sols’ art direction is how deceptively simple everything looks. Characters are made with simple yet easily recognizable silhouettes, bright colors with minimal shading and an overall cartoony build. These designs then instantly collide with stunning backgrounds, great details murals or incredibly smooth animations. I never got tired of looking at Nine Sols, and immersing myself in its unique style was an experience I almost enjoyed more than the game itself.

Nine Sols features a unique style that the developers call “Taopunk,” I couldn’t think of a better name for it myself. Nine Sols blends the fantastical with the futuristic, beginning in a place that feels straight out of Eastern legends and quickly transitioning into a techno-temple built for an ancient spacefaring race. It seamlessly blends (what I understand to be) Taoist spiritualism with sci-fi dystopian concepts, making for a visually interesting landscape and a very compelling story, which I’ll touch on in a bit.

I want to break up my praise of Nine Sols a bit by saying that for all the game had going for it, I wasn’t entirely impressed by the actual gameplay.

Nine Sols Elevator
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

To be more specific, the game’s combat didn’t blow me away. The combat mechanics in Nine Sols feel utterly basic, built around simple three-hit combos and a party mechanic they seem to want you to use in every encounter. Talisman spells seem to be the most unique aspect of the combat, allowing you to pull off a high-damage attack with unique effects (varying based on your build) after successfully parrying. Unique though it may be, I didn’t find them particularly exciting to pull off, and it was a little difficult on the keyboard and mouse. However, to be completely fair, the game recommends playing with a controller.

I found parrying enemies to be difficult to pull off, which seems to be completely intentional; Nine Sols clearly wants to emulate the difficulty of its biggest inspiration, Sekiro. This is seen clearly in the damage numbers and speed of attack patterns on enemies. If you aren’t careful, you will die quickly, and to be perfectly honest, I’m fine with that. It adds a little tension to the combat, which can otherwise feel a bit mundane.

In contrast, however, I found that boss fights tended to be a little unexciting. The game has a dodge mechanic, which, in fights against regular mobs, can be an okay tool to use (not a guaranteed escape with how fast enemies attack) or a death sentence if you get caught in a corner. In boss fights, though, this mechanic made clearing a little too easy,

Nine Sols Boss
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I think this probably does, in large part, due to the difference in size between Yi and the boss enemies and the speed of their attack patterns. The latter more so, if I’m being honest, I found that boss enemies, compared to the usual foes you went against, had much more telegraphed attacks and were far easier to dodge. They also didn’t turn around during an attack, which helped a lot.

Nine Sols stands out, above all else, with its story.

Nine Sols tells the tale of Yi, a vengeful hero who is off to slay the 9 Sols. It would be a complete waste for me to spoil it for you here. What I will say is that the story blends Eastern Mysticism with Sci-fi conceptualism, with themes of betrayal, planetary colonization, human cattle farming, and other unexpected and attention-grabbing concepts presented through the game’s lore.

The storytelling is well done and slow, unraveling both as you venture deeper into the game’s story and through both info packets and environmental storytelling as you explore the game’s levels.

Nine Sols Mystic
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I will say, however, that the game’s frequent use of cutscenes and voice-acting-free dialogue can sometimes grind the game’s pacing to a halt. Despite how incredible the game’s visuals can be, there were times when the long, panning shots of rooms or especially the long exchanges of dialogue had me thinking, “ok, let’s get a move on here.” It doesn’t help that these moments can pop up frequently and in the middle of gameplay. Nine Sols could have gone with less exposition and more environmental storytelling.

That being said, I enjoyed the characters, even when I wished they would talk a little less. Above all else, the relationship between Yi and a certain boy from a human village is interesting and fun to see fleshed out, as is the exploration of our protagonist’s past with the mysterious Solarians and the Nine Sols in particular.

The Final Word

Nine Sols feels like a love letter to Sekiro and the Metroidvania genre as a whole. Though slow at times, the game’s focus on storytelling pairs well with its great visuals, presenting a narrative experience paired with some challenging but fair gameplay.

8

Try Hard Guides received a PC review code for this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles on our Game Reviews page! Nine Sols is available on Steam.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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  1. Really?

    Really? you think dodge is easy in nine sols? you clearly didn’t face later bosses. they will mess you up if you rely on dodging

    1. Erik Hodges

      I supposed different players struggle with different things, but as with any review this is based on my experience.