I like the idea behind Seraph. I’m still iffy on the game itself, but I like the idea behind it. Made by Dreadbit, the developers behind the steampunk robot puzzle game Ironcast, this game is a side scrolling shooter where all the aiming is done for you. Thankfully that doesn’t make Seraph too easy, but I’m not sure if it’s difficult for the right reasons.
At the current time, Seraph is in Early Access, but there’s still quite a bit of content here. The full campaign is available, which consists of twenty-six levels that are each about five minutes long. Each level is randomly generated, so you shouldn’t see the same level more than once. While the levels are randomly generated, they all look the same, as you’ll be spending the entire campaign inside of an underwater prison. Sometimes you’ll enter new areas, but all that changes is the background, which shifts between a big window and solid steel. The level generation isn’t bad, but it does occasionally lead to weird things like props floating in the air.
Each level has one of two objectives. Most of the time you’ll have to find and kill a demon lieutenant to unlock the door to the elevator so you can leave. This is as simple as it sounds, and there’s always an arrow pointing you towards either the lieutenant or the exit. The other objective that sometimes appears is having to destroy all Fountains of Terminus in a level. The fountains will keep actively spawning demons until they’re taken down, so it’s in your interest to destroy them quickly. Despite these being two different objectives, they do feel the same: go kill thing then leave the level.
To kill things you’ll have various guns and angelic abilities at your disposal. You’ll always have unlimited ammo pistols to fall back on, and you can carry one more weapon, which you can find in weapon lockers throughout the level. All aiming is done automatically, so your job is mostly to dodge enemy attacks with your dash ability. At first, you won’t find too many different weapons but, you’ll eventually unlock more using a crafting system. After that, they are added to the pool of guns that show up in the lockers. Some of the weapons don’t seem to have a place, and I couldn’t tell you what the difference between the submachine gun and the automatic pistols are, but most of them were a pretty beneficial change from my default handguns.
You can also bring two angelic abilities with you, with a third melee ranged “smite” ability always being available. At the current time, there are four abilities to pick from, each of which seems to fit in somewhere. Included with the game so far is a ground pound, a column of light intended to be used as a trap, a ball of light that works like a boomerang, and an ability that pushes nearby enemies away. Still, a little more variety would be welcomed, and I’m sure it’s coming.
Some aspects of Seraph could use some work. There are only about five enemies in the game, and most of them follow pretty similar tactics. Jumps and dodges felt just a little bit too stiff, and I’d prefer if they were altered to make the character move a little faster. It also bothers me that you can’t pass through “thin” platforms, something that is possible to do in nearly every other 2D action game. Finding the upgrade screen is a mess, requiring you to back all the way out to the main screen to improve your weapons or change out your abilities.
The actual upgrade and crafting systems also seem a little too needlessly complex to me. Crafting relies on finding a bunch of different demonic parts from dead demons. It seems strange to me that there are ten different parts since that doesn’t add much to the system other than having me trying to remember what I want to pick up from whatever I killed. Every system like this feels convoluted in some strange way. Even just assigning abilities is off, as changing which angelic ability you want requires holding down a button, yet sometimes the button you hold down isn’t the one it’s going to be assigned to. It just seems like a strange oversight to me.
Still, Seraph has some great ideas and is rapidly being improved. I have some confidence that, at launch, Seraph could be an interesting game. Hopefully, Dreadbit will continue to deliver and bring us a great new title down the line.
Seraph was previewed on Steam with a code provided by the developer. The game will also be available on PlayStation 4 after its full launch.