Nine Sols review

by on June 7, 2024
Reviewed On
Also Tested On
Release Date

May 29, 2024


The Metroidvania genre has come back in a big way over the last few years (if it ever really went away), with the relentless popularity of roguelike and Soulslike mechanics adding flavour to an already well-mixed stew. Recently, titles like Blasphemous and Saviorless have added an element of horror to the pot, too, creating worlds that are not only invigorating to explore but also unsettling to even look at. Nine Sols, from developer Red Candle Games, takes this path, injecting sudden shocks of disturbing horror into its campaign.

Mixing Taoism with sci-fi thrills might not seem like an obvious choice, but the worlds Red Candle present in Nine Sols are both intriguing and compelling. You play as Yi, a stoic warrior and formerly a Sol, a collective of ten powerful entities who have used advanced technology to enslave and harvest a race of primitive beings on a peaceful world. Left for dead in the opening moments for reasons that aren’t explained until much, much later, Yi is saved and nursed back to health by an orphan, whose intended fate is yet another reason for Yi to hunt down and destroy his former comrades.

Nine Sols

If anything, Red Candle play their cards far too close to their chest where story is concerned. It’s an incredibly interesting world, combining simple thematic touchstones like revenge and defending your loved ones with deeper, more complex philosophies such as Taoism and transhumanism, envisioning a world where technology is so close to magic that preserving it has become its own kind of worship, at the cost of empathy or compassion of any kind.

But the story is drip-fed, trickled in with flavour text and discoverable nodes in the world, while characters who could say something simply don’t. There’s never enough time for Yi to explain his feelings, even when I’m off wasting hours looking for hidden collectibles. That said, I don’t mind wasting time exploring this world – it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Colours are muted, subtle, the detail understated. There’s a kind of ever-present grossness to certain areas, juxtaposed with clean, almost sterile environments for others. The developer’s Taiwanese influences are strong, but mix with grotesque enemy design and a cold, clinical high tech aesthetic, rendered with an almost oppressive pallette, cloyed by a darkness that presses in at the edges of the screen. It’s effective, atmospheric, and evocative.

Nine Sols

Which would mean little if the minute-to-minute gameplay wasn’t fantastic. Yi’s movements feel graceful and effortless, as he runs up certain walls, uses a mid-air parry-spin to bounce off glowing nodes, and slings a grappling hook around to reach higher areas. Dodging provides i-frames, while parrying enemy attacks builds up a Qi metre that allows Yi to attach explosive talismans to his enemies and detonate them with a satisfying shower of dismembered limbs.

I’ll admit, though, that I had trouble with the jumping parry, whereby strong, crimson-coloured attacks can only be parried while airborne. Facing one enemy isn’t so bad if you can get the timing right, but Nine Sols often throws multiple enemies at you in a given area, and all that evocative artwork I was praising earlier can get in the way of what you’re doing at the worst possible moments.

You can adjust the difficulty if you want to, but those who seek a challenge will certainly find it here. Enemies are aggressive and often fast, with bosses in particular doling out brutal punishment if you don’t quickly master Yi’s moveset. Skill points can be spent at special rest areas, which also allow you to swap out Yi’s “jades”, special talismans that give him various buffs. A central hub area offers respite from the horrors of Yi’s quest, too, which you might find you need now and then. It also offers a place for certain NPCs to gather, allowing you to plumb some of the deeply-buried lore.

Nine Sols

My only real issue is the map. Even after an update that made it much more user-friendly, you have to go an extra layer deep in the map-screen just to see what you need to see, and when you do it feels a bit barebones and sparse with its information. I’m also not sure it’s always completely accurate, and I found myself getting along without it for the most part.

Nine Sols opens up more and more as Yi develops new skills, such as the aforementioned parry-spin, a charged attack for his Qi blade and a Mystic Nymph drone that can hack distant terminals. It gives you a reason to keep exploring, backtracking and unlocking shortcuts and alternate routes as is par for the genre. But I never minded when enemies respawned after a death or travel, because the combat is so fun once you get the hang of it.

Despite an iffy map and the screen getting a little bit too busy with foreground assets blocking the view, Nine Sols is a superb Metroidvania with a ton of personality and a world that feels original and worthy of exploration. I’d have liked the story to be a little more front and centre, but that’s not much of a complaint. Besides a few issues, Red Candle Games has created a compelling, addictive and highly explorable world with a slick, responsive combat system. What more could you ask for?


Gorgeous aesthetic
Interesting world
Excellent combat


Map is a little off
Foreground can be a bit busy
Would have liked more storytelling

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Despite a few minor issues, Nine Sols has a compelling, addictive and highly explorable world, and a slick, responsive combat system.