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Solo Leveling: Arise review – “Brilliant idea, the execution requires some polishing”

  • Solo Leveling: Arise is the latest action game based on the popular manga/anime Solo Leveling
  • The gameplay combines storytelling and action-packed battles with ease
  • It requires a lot more strategy than you would expect

The title that’s taken the internet by storm over the past few months is easily one that had a lot of potential to be a game. Of course, I’m talking about Solo Leveling, a manga-become-anime-become game. The setup was great.

I will not delve into the summary of the manga or anime, because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t had a chance to finish it yet, but instead, I will talk about the game. I’ve finally got my hands on it and I was oh-so-excited to try it out, ever since finishing reading the manga. 


Exciting start with an immersive storyline

Solo Leveling: Arise started great – the cutscenes and animations are great, placing me right where I needed to be to understand what I had to do, and why battles play out as they do. It follows the narrative written by Chugong. 

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The animations are extremely good, combining the manga-comic style with 3D CGI animations, which I have to admit, fit in perfectly. The one downside is that sometimes cutscene animations break off and become quite pixelated, but I truly hope that’s an easy fix somewhere down the line. 


Highly strategic combat to keep you on your toes

The moment you dive into battle, it seems like any other regular action game, but in reality, it’s much more than that. In a way, it reminds me of Punishing: Gray Raven, but it’s not nearly as forgiving. You have missions that appear mid-combat, which is a welcome addition, staying true to Sung Jinwoo’s “Player” status. 


In the game, you play as the main character, Sung Jinwoo, but you can have up to 3 teammates to help you clear the dungeons. So, picking some strong ones can make quite a difference. Whenever you fight an enemy, you can activate any of your teammates’ skills, and sometimes even use them in battle. It makes for a pretty fun and engaging battle system, even if it can sometimes be repetitive. 

One thing I’ve learned the hard way though, is that you really need to learn how to use the skills properly because if you just end up spamming the auto-attack button, chances are you won’t be acing the stages. 

Instead, it’s best if you always position your character accordingly, time your skill usage, and most importantly, attack at the right moment. For instance, a quest asks you to use Extreme Evasion X amount of times, requires you to position yourself accordingly, on the red carpets and then cast the skill when the moment is right. 


The game stays true to Solo Leveling

Everything about the manga and anime screamed that Solo Leveling was bound to be a game. A good one. For those wondering whether you can encounter Igris (my personal favourite), and some of the other Hunters, that is most certainly possible.

You even have a job function, which evolves as you get stronger and stronger. Not to mention all the other (smaller) details that make it look and feel like a true Solo Leveling extension. In fact, it feels like the missing link that would make the manga and anime a complete circle. 

There are some slight discrepancies and missing elements, but I believe that’s due to it being early on, and a live service title. No doubt future events and updates will fill in those gaps. So, I’ll cut it some slack. For now. 

I’ll just say this: as a fan of the series, I was radiating happiness playing Solo Leveling: Arise, and discovering all the features it has to offer. Even if it’s not as hardcore of a game as some other gachas, it is just challenging enough to make you want to play it over and over.

The Cartenon Temple gameplay is wild

After reading the manga and watching the anime, I was excited to think about the title turned game. The main reason behind that was this: how could you have gameplay that accurately describes the experience in the Cartenon Temple? 

Well, I did get an answer to that. and the game’s version of Cartenon Temple is not what I had in mind – at all. It’s wild, and it’s terrifying. Thankfully, it was well-thought-out, because it won’t let you die (phew!). 


Let’s talk about the gacha

The gacha system is something I am far from happy with. I’m sure I’m not the only one to think this, especially when you have the weapons and Hunters in there. To me, that screams lazy (or maybe someone played too much Genshin Impact). Regardless, it’s not something I find appealing in Solo Leveling: Arise.

I understand that both weapons and Hunters are equally important, but given that you can’t summon a million times to get the third Hunter and complete your team, what is the point of even having so many weapons when you cannot equip them? 


It tends to get repetitive in the long run…

After you’ve cleared several chapters and assembled the ultimate dungeon-hunting team, you’ll start to notice that you are basically doing the same thing, over and over again. Of course, there are plenty of side stories to keep you busy, but most of the battles seem to unfold the exact same way.

If you are someone who likes to experiment with various instances and dungeons, there don’t seem to be that many of them at this point. The main gameplay revolves around the story mode, and a couple of other, smaller features. I truly hope that is something that will change in the future because, for this title, the possibilities seem endless. 

…and the loading screens take forever

Another downer for me was the neverending loading screens. Sometimes I’d be stuck on a loading screen when simply switching between tabs in the menu, which is an absolute killer. Not to mention the fact that after some battles, the screen would be stuck, and you would have to restart the game. 

Think about it: having exclusive dungeon keys drop, much like in the manga, or even minigames or puzzles where you can mine your way to various rewards. The name alone, Solo Leveling, painted a huge canvas of possibilities for Solo Leveling: Arise to be something huge, and I hope that the future will bring that.

Solo Leveling: Arise icon

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