Review: SolSeraph

Platform & Conquer...Ad Nauseum

Developer: ACE Team

Publisher: Sega

Genre: Strategy, Platformer

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC 

Price: $14.99

With SolSeraph, ACE Team and Sega have taken the DNA of a fossil, extracted it from amber, and bred new life into an extinct species. The idea of a modern reincarnation of ActRaiser is appealing. What’s not to like about genre-mixing platforming and real-time strategy? In an era where nostalgia sells games, can you model a modern game after a 30 year-old cult classic and thrive? Perhaps this one act that should’ve been left to rest.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: You play as Helios, a demigod who flies around the world, fights off evil monsters and helps villagers rebuild their lands. You answer prayers and use angelic abilities to manipulate the world and fend off monsters.

Violence: Very mild violence. Enemies vanish into a flash of light when you end them. There’s no gore or viscera.

Language/Crude Humor: None.

Sexual Themes: None.

Positive Themes: There are some parallels to be drawn between the angelic Helios and Jesus. The people all acknowledge and pray to a single deity to help their plights. He answers their prayers and helps them in their time of need. Both perform miracles, though Helios’ could perhaps be classified more as magic or skills (shooting lightning, fire, and ice, among other things).

Review

While I have only a passing familiarity with ActRaiser, the game’s concept draws my attention, playing on two of my genre sensibilities: platforming and real-time strategy. SolSeraph, the spiritual successor to the lauded SNES classic, features the same chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter crossover gameplay that should make this an irresistible must-own. Unfortunately, though SolSeraph is a fun play, it ultimately gets too repetitive and lackluster to set it amongst the greats.

The story in SolSeraph is kind of a weak contrivance to drive the gameplay. There’s a great chaos befalling the world. Helios, our hero, will have to go to each nation, answering the prayers of the local peoples and driving out lesser deities then, he’ll ultimately have to conquer the Great Chaos itself to set the world at peace. The stories for each location are actually fairly well-written, giving the human tribes a relatable, endearing quality. Everything else narratively feels throwaway.

The gameplay for SolSeraph is simple and straightforward, and that may be the most disappointing aspect of the game. You play as Helios, a demigod deity that can fly around the world, acting on the prayers of people who call out to him. With each location on the world map, you follow the same repetitive pattern: go through a themed entry platforming stage for the area, listen to the prayers of the village leaders, then start building your village out. 

While the game boasts a fusion of platforming and RTS, which is technically true, SolSeraph actually features tower defense mechanics instead of real-time strategy mechanics. You can’t generate units and send them to attack. You’re simply building defensive structures and hoping they can withstand the waves of incoming foes.

As you expand your roads, you will build up to these black veils of smoke where demons are pouring out. You’ll build a temple and assign a villager to pray there, clearing the smoke. Then, when no enemies remain on the village map, you can drop down on the location for some 2-D gameplay.  Beating them will chip away some crystal on the boss’s stronghold. There are usually about half a dozen of these smaller locations across the map and beating them all will clear the way for the boss stage in each area.

SolSeraph is formulaic. The flow from one area to another never changes. The only differences are the area themes, related monsters, and area boss. Unfortunately, it can leave players feeling a bit burned out rather quickly. There’s no real consequence for losing, either, as you simply reload the game and give things another go.

I like the look of the game. The 2.5-D platforming sections look sharp, even if the enemy models are rote fantasy tropes. Environments and lighting feel spot on. The animations can feel a bit awkward for some of the foes, having them enter from the foreground or background. Their transition to the player’s plane isn’t always clear, and that can cause you to take unwarranted hits.

The game’s isometric strategy view is fair, though there’s nothing you wouldn’t expect for a tower defense game. The structures are identical across all cultures which feels a little odd, given the otherwise varied shifts from one region to another. It gets the job done, but it does nothing special.

For the price, there’s certainly fun to be had here. I enjoyed myself across the six hours it took to complete the game and earn all the achievements. SolSeraph‘s repetitive nature can create a mental barrier that may drive players away. If you enjoy tower defense and want to mix it with platforming together, SolSeraph is an interesting game. Just don’t expect to have your world shattered.

The Bottom Line

SolSeraph takes intriguing lore and combines it with tower defense and platformer mechanics to make a game that would be engaging if it weren't so repetitive.

 

Joe Morgan

Gamer, software developer, dog lover. When he's not writing for GeeksUnderGrace or CrossConsoleGamers, you can find him streaming at Twitch.tv/JoeKnowethGames

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