We here at GamEir were looking forward to SolSeraph. I’ll admit, the concept excited me hugely – a combination of god-game city-building with side-scrolling hack-n’-slash combat? Egads! So here I am, booting up the game, picturing something akin to Lionhead’s Black & White meets Trine.
The smooth, velvet voice of the narrator greets me. “Oh”, he begins, “So you would like to hear a story, eh?”. I sure would! “Very well. Close your eyes, and I will tell you the first of all stories…”
The First of All Stories
The story of SolSeraph is simple in the extreme. The gods, jealous of humanity’s gift of creativity, have elected to torture mankind for all time. Only the kindly Helios, “child of god and man”, can help to save them from the encroaching darkness. “How will Helios do this?”, I hear you cry. Why, through urban planning and egregious violence, of course. More on that on the gameplay section, below.
That’s it. That’s the story. If you’re here looking for the next Odyssey or the storytelling equal of The Last of Us, look elsewhere. As you progress from town to town, some of the villagers have exchanges between them, giving a semblance of character to the areas – but the dialogue is laughably hollow, and realistically only serves to break up the monotony of the lackluster gameplay, although whether the narrative interruptions should be characterised as a welcome distraction or as a new form of torture is a matter for debate.
Up until now, I was attempting to maintain a level of ambiguity; just a smidgen of ambivalence. I can’t continue this ruse any longer; SolSeraph is a woeful game, and I grieve for the hours it stole from me.
SolSeraph, A Tale of Two Genres
It’s rare that a game gets the opportunity to faff up two distinct genres at once, but SolSeraph took the opportunity with gusto.
One the one hand, there’s the Tower-Defense portion of the game. Fluttering miles above the ground, like the lovechild between a dove and Final Fantasy‘s Sephiroth, Helios uses his heavenly powers to… Encourage? Force? Suggest? Influence where the villagers below build their houses, farms, and defensive buildings, etc. In this mode, you also have access to miracles in the form of weather effects, ranging from making it rain (allowing you to build farms), to lightning bolts smiting your foes, to summoning a mini-me to fight your enemies.
In this mode, you balance your defensive buildings, which require people, with infrastructure like farms and sawmills. The variety of buildings is incredibly low, and you’ll see everything there is to see from this mode very quickly. Periodically, enemies swarm from spawn points and attempt to make it to the center of the village. I have absolutely no idea what would happen if they got there, because the Tower-Defense portion of the game is laughably, painfully easy.
SolSeraph, A Tale of… One Genre, Maybe?
On the other hand, there’s the side-scrolling action-platform portion of the game. Descending from the sky into one of the aforementioned spawn points, Helios uses his heavenly power to cleave through his earthly enemies with ease. Oh, sorry, hold on – wait, he doesn’t do any of that. Rather, Helios uses his 3-foot vertical leap, arthritic attack animations, and pathetic bow to struggle through fields of generic, infuriating enemies.
I am a calm man. A sanguine man. The levels of chill I reach on a daily basis are nirvanic. Dark Souls was an exciting challenge, Getting Over it With Bennett Foddy filled me with giddy delight.
SolSeraph made me shriek like a castrated field mouse. The combat is sluggish, the level designs are poor, and the enemies are embarrassing. Difficulty is one thing, poor design is another. I died to poor judgement or a fiendish enemy maybe four or five times. I died to insta-kill falls hidden in the level, spiders descending from the ceiling directly on to my head without warning, and getting trapped in the level topography more times than I care to enumerate.
When I finished the tower-defense portions of the game, I was relieved to break up the monotony. When I finished the platforming sections, I was relieved to get a break from the relentless salt it summoned within me.
SolSeraph is a spiritual successor to ActRaiser, but that is absolutely no excuse for delivering a game that is worse than what developers were capable of thirty years ago. ActRaiser was an exciting, innovative game that was far from perfect, but took risks that paid off. SolSeraph, unfortunately, is a boring, half-assed mess that’s not worth the 15 quid ACE Team are asking for. In fact, not even ACE Team liked SolSeraph – they don’t even list it as one of their games on their site. What does that tell you?
Save yourself the money and alternate between watching paint dry, and hitting yourself in the face with a shovel instead.