Preview: Serin Fate

Developer: Vethergen

Publisher: Crytivo

Genre: Adventure, RPG, Simulation

Platforms: PC

Rating: RP

Price: $14.99 (pre-order)

 

Serin Fate is a veritable chili supper of a game. It’s got a base of Final Fantasy, with some Pokemon thrown in, a sprinkling of Stardew Valley, and some Minecraft to taste. Instead of striving to be some revolution in the indie gaming sphere, Serin Fate seems to be wanting to combine the best elements from several different franchises to create its own identity. And from what I’ve played, that might actually work.

Content Guide*

Spiritual Content: The game centers around you being a witch. You cast spells, use runes, consult magical statues and runic calendars, have a familiar, and the like. The story, from what is currently available, centers around evil corrupting monsters, the Fate Stone cleansing beings of that evil, and also creating new Witches and Chimera.

Violence: Various magical violence, such as spell casting and elemental attacks like meteors, and other violence, such as physical “magic bash” attacks. No blood or gore.

Language/Crude Humor: A few uses of d***. You are able to enter pubs and bars, but no alcohol is shown.

*The main story was not available in alpha, so this guide represents the content available at the time of writing.

Preview

Serin Fate is…well, I’m not sure how to classify it. At first glance, it looks to be a fairly standard pixel-art RPG, albeit with some interesting (and fun) spellcasting mechanics. But in the pre-alpha and alpha bits that I got to play, I was able to dig up elements of Minecraft, Stardew Valley, and Pokemon.

Thankfully, Vethergen, the one-man developer of Serin Fate, has taken many of the best elements from these games, while leaving their less savory companions behind. I wasn’t able to play the story, as that wasn’t available to alpha players. But from what was available, I’m intrigued by what this game is serving up, to say the least.

Presentation

The game looks fantastic from the moment you start. It’s become a bit of an indie game trope to use pixel art, but if you’re going to go that route, at least make sure it looks good. And Vethergen has. The sprites are surprisingly large and colorful, although definitely a touch simplistic when you compare it to something like Shovel Knight. Still, the game’s very nice to look at, and for the most part I could tell where I was, which is something I can’t say for many pixel art games.

I will critique the game’s art on its consistency. The gameplay art, by and large, looks good, but some of the close up character portraits look a little…off. They’re not bad, by any means, but the contrast between them and the rest of the game just put me off a bit.

 

The music is also well-done. There’s nothing mind-blowing or even particularly noteworthy here, but I’ve played too many games where the music borders on grating and irritating that I’ve come to appreciate the simple joy of a well-done soundtrack. The tracks that play in the forest at night are particularly atmospheric, complimenting the mood of the game phenomenally.

The game supports a day/night cycle, and to achieve this, employs some color filters and lighting effects. At night, windows and torches glow with a bright light, and in the morning, the rising sun covers the world in an orange glow. This lends a dynamic quality to the world, as environments change depending on the time of day. Unfortunately, the filter used for the morning looks less like the sun is rising and more like the world is falling into a pit of lava, but I applaud the effort.

I do have to dock the game a bit for some faulty English. There were several lines with grammar that took me a second to parse. It’s still readable, but it definitely doesn’t feel natural, and I feel the text could have used a proofreader before getting this far into production.

Gameplay

Going into Serin Fate, I was expecting a pretty standard RPG experience: learn my powers, hear of the evil threatening the land, grow into my destiny as the chosen one, all that jazz. 

Right off the bat, you’re tasked with gathering your magical items from around the house. This beginning portion introduced me to a surprisingly intuitive middle-mouse menu system that brings my inventory, spell list, and world map (among other things) into quick view. 

Once you’ve done that, you meet Head Witch Coco, who invites you to choose your first Chimera.

This was my first whiff of something different. A Chimera is a familiar, an animal companion that follows you around and fights off malevolent wild creatures by performing attacks at your command. 

Just call me Witch Ketchum.

“Do you want Charmander, Ivysaur, or Squ- wait a second.”

Upon exiting the house, I found myself in a large field filled with trees and lots and lots of dirt. I had no clue what to do during my first time playing the game. But since the game was still being tweaked, upon launching the game again, I found my save had been erased; when I reached this point again, I was greeted by an NPC and a neat little tutorial section. As frustrating as it was to lose an hour of gameplay, it was nice to see some tangible additions to the game. 

The tutorial teaches you how to cast a woodcutting spell, craft items at your crafting table, and mine. Later on, I learned how to farm. That’s right, this isn’t just an RPG, it’s a life sim too. You can farm, build, and expand your little bungalow when the trials of the road get to be too much. You’ll cut down trees to collect lumber, cast mining spells on rocks to gain stone and copper, and smelt ores, all to gain resources to craft more things for your camp.

I found myself immensely enjoying the simple act of collecting. There’s something satisfying about running over to a pile of lumber and sweeping the whole mess up. Even more satisfying is the feeling of exploring your crafting options and finding you’ve collected enough resources to FINALLY craft that big chest to store even more loot. And since the items in the game don’t disappear if you leave them, you can cast your woodcutting spell, go off adventuring, and come back an hour later to collect the spoils.

The act of casting spells to help you with this collection also takes a fun twist. Instead of choosing from a preset list of spells (think a Fight menu), Serin Fate has you click on a spell bar in the lower left. On clicking this, a set of runes appears. To cast a spell, you have to click on a combination of runes, which will activate the spell. For instance, to cast the Woodcut spell, you need to click the Nature, Sun, and Moon runes in that order. Then, just left-click a tree, and your ethereal ax friend will go to work. And if you’re ever scratching your head trying to remember a spell, your Witchery Dex is just a middle click away. 

I was a bit taken aback by the system at first, but after a while, it becomes pretty intuitive, and memorizing spells is less of a chore and more of a fun exercise. I actually felt like I was learning this stuff along with my character.

“But I wanna fight monsters and stuff!”

But yeah, at first, I definitely skipped all of that boring domestic stuff and ran straight into town. There wasn’t much story to glean from the alpha stage, so after exploring the town for a bit and talking to a few NPCs, I found myself in the woods.

“And no one knoooooooows how far I’ll goooooooo…”

Finally, I was introduced to the combat system. Thankfully, this is where the game deviates from its Pokemon roots. The combat is in real-time; enemies attack you on sight, and your Chimera approaches them to engage in combat.

You perform attacks using either the number keys or by clicking on the hotbar at the bottom of the screen. Each attack has a cooldown time after it’s executed, ranging from a few seconds to upwards of 30 seconds for stronger attacks.

This keeps combat engaging, as you’re still controlling your character to avoid melee attacks and making sure your Chimera is able to attack. Some enemies have ranged attacks, and if there’s a way to dodge them, the game didn’t bother to tell me.

The problem is with the balance. Maybe it’s me, but the hit/miss ratio feels WAY off. It wasn’t uncommon for me to miss three attacks in a row, while my enemy landed hit after hit. Fighting an enemy with unavoidable ranged attacks is not fun. I died early on to enemies I should have been able to take easily, but I kept missing my attacks. Perhaps the ratio could be corrected with items, but I’d much rather start out weak while still being capable of  landing a couple hits in a row.

But combat aside, I have to give Serin Fate credit for one major win: it nails the simple fun of exploring. Like I said, I couldn’t progress in the story, but honestly, that didn’t matter. I didn’t mind that I kept getting clobbered by weak enemies that I couldn’t hit. I wanted to keep going out in the woods because I just KNEW there was something to find. There was always a rune stone waiting to teach me some new spell, or some new house with a friendly (or surly) NPC to talk to. I even stumbled upon one of the game’s dungeons all by myself! I fumbled around in the darkness before

This is fine.

finally giving up, but still, the fact that I just found it all on my own, and the game actually let me enter the dungeon, speaks to an openness that I was not expecting from this title. It reminded me of a lot of discussions comparing Breath of the Wild’s open-ended exploration to the original Legend of Zelda. This game lets you just wander and explore wherever you want. And if that leads you to getting clobbered by a troll (guilty as charged,) so be it.

Exploring doesn’t just lead you to dungeons and enemies. Throughout the world, you’ll find other Chimera wandering in the wild. Through the

Capture spell, you can spend a little Mana to gain another adventuring buddy. Once you’ve cast the spell, you’ll have to wait to see if the Chimera breaks free (again, big-time Pokemon vibes here.) Every Chimera has a different set of attacks, and some will even have more attacks than others, making every catch exciting. I even caught a chicken-like Chimera that will lay eggs for me on demand!

My major gripe about the gameplay is that it did eventually feel rather samey. Granted, I was only able to explore a few areas in the alpha build, so I can’t speak to how the entire game will play out. But I’m hopeful, given how fun it was to explore the small area I could at first, that the full game and story will keep my interest.

Conclusion

It’s a great testament to a game when someone says that it’s just fun to walk around in it. It’s why the Super Mario 64 devs took so much time at the beginning of development to make sure it was just fun to move Mario around. And I can say confidently that Serin Fate is fun to play. True, the game is bogged down by several issues, like combat balance and clunky writing, but as a whole, I had fun just walking around, leveling up, and collecting and crafting items. 

I will say that those aforementioned issues do make me wonder if the game will hold up once it’s been fully released with story and all, but if it does, it’ll be worth the $15 price tag. I wouldn’t blame you if you want to wait a bit after release to see if it’s worth your time, though.

Preview code graciously provided by Crytivo.

 

Wesley Lantz

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