We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

2024’s most unique new soulslike drops fresh Steam demo before launch

Super promising soulslike Deathbound celebrates Steam Next Fest with an all-new demo, and here's why you should check it out before launch.

Deathbound preview:

Soulslike fans aren’t exactly starving for new games. Ever since FromSoftware blazed a trail for challenging, thoughtful action RPGs, myriad developers have attempted to put their own spin on an increasingly well-worn formula. From fresh hits like Lies of P to the return of OGs like Lords of the Fallen, 2023 was in many ways the year of the soulslike, and Trialforge Studio wants to keep the ball rolling in 2024 with Deathbound.

Deathbound’s biggest hook is its party-based soulslike game action. Rather than jumping between a cast of separate characters, your entire party is contained within a single avatar, letting you swap between a mage and a tank on the fly. This isn’t just a handy feature; it’s an absolute necessity when dealing with varied waves of pesky minions. Each party member has their own health bar, meaning you might also want to keep a specific class topped up to deal with an upcoming boss, but avoiding using them en route to the fight will surely present its own surprising challenges.

YouTube Thumbnail

Trialforge Studio doesn’t stop there, though. By hacking, slashing, blocking, and parrying your way through enemies, you’ll fill up a meter that lets you crack Deathbound’s combat wide open. Once the meter’s sufficiently full, swapping between party members at the right time during an attack activates a team attack; think something like a Marvel vs Capcom-style assist but you’re both calling for aid and offering support.

It’s immensely satisfying to bob and weave through a flurry of blows before unleashing two weighty swings from your tank and paladin. Dodging and swapping has a similar mechanic attached to it, but I could only pull it off twice and can’t speak to its potency as much. The motions of swapping during an attack or a dodge are a bit unnatural at first, but you’ll soon grow comfortable with this new twist and find yourself carving up baddies in style.

However, swapping characters also comes at a price. Healing one party member takes away health from your inactive characters, forcing you to keep a closer eye on your resources. It’s a game of small tactical decisions that add up to help or hinder you over time.

Concentrating multiple party members into one character also allows Deathbound to get cerebral with its story. At one point, I met and added a paladin to my party. Approaching and interacting with his corpse revealed a glimpse into his backstory where I was transported into a spiritual world and introduced to his history and motivations. For me, this focus on more straightforward storytelling was refreshingly direct for the genre without sacrificing any intrigue. I’d love to see more story beats that play out within this alternate dimension, not only because I found the paladin’s story interesting but because it could be an opportunity for the developers to play with level design and layout in ways we don’t always see from this type of game.

Deathbound’s subtle narrative chops are boosted by its world and character design. While most of the NPCs I encountered were enemies, I also chanced upon a few of the Paladin’s soldiers. Where he was met with respect and excitement from his men, swapping to the rogue character caused them to curse my name as I walked away from them.

My one qualm with Deathbound’s labyrinthine levels is that the visuals lack much punch. Even though the game looked technically solid and ran consistently well, I often found myself getting lost. Swimming in a sea of gray concrete walls, all lit by the same greenish light, I found it difficult to stick to the path forward and ended up heading in the wrong direction on multiple occasions.

But signposting aside, I’m curious to see how soulslike fans take to its distinct spin on the genre’s combat and narrative styles. Even after my very short time with Deathbound, I could tell that the party-based character-swapping system offers a lot of room to experiment, its writing is intriguing, and it’s shaping up to be a soulslike worth playing.

You can download its latest demo now from over on Steam ahead of its full release later this year.