I first saw Seraph at Rezzed, but didn’t get the chance to play it. Thankfully, the developers at Dreadbit were kind enough to send me a code for Seraph, which is on Steam on Early Access. I’ve played through the current build and here are my thoughts on this game of angelic acrobatic action.
When the game begins you’re fresh out of your prison, kept there for who knows how long. At first glance you might think your character a frail and battered woman and you’re not completely off-base, but you aren’t right either. The body is certainly battered and on the edge of collapsing, but Seraph, the angel possessing it keeps its host alive and moving. Their prison, the Corangelus, is under attack by hordes of demons from the Terminus, what I suppose is Hell in this universe, same as Origin is Heaven. Seraph just wants to return home, following the instruction of the mysterious “Guide,” another angel, but she can’t in her current state, too weak to make the journey home and keep her host alive in the process. She has no choice but to hunt the demons and claim the fragments of her essence they carry for some reason.
Seraph presents its plot in small cutscenes at the end and beginning of every level, where you speak to the Guide and other story NPCs, as well as through some journals you find in most—if not all—levels, but these offer background information on Seraph and the events leading to her imprisonment, but they don’t exactly move the plot along. Personally, I feel the game needs a bit more in the way of narrative, perhaps a few more journals and most importantly the ability to read journals at any time. In the current build you can only read them the moment you find them, afterwards they’re lost. As a player, I prefer to clear the level and then read the journals or even read them before I end my current play session.
The plot itself needs some work as it becomes entirely too predictable, and it really doesn’t lead anywhere. I got to the end, defeated the final boss and my reaction was “this is it?” As it felt inconclusive, not resolving even the tiniest of plot points. In a review, for those who know the emphasis I put on storytelling—if you have a story—I would slam this game, but as it’s on Early Access, I can hope the script can go through some rewrites to improve the plot and narrative.
Having said so, I’m still playing Seraph, because it’s amazingly fun. The platforming is engaging, mixing Seraph‘s double jumps and ‘blink’ ability—read ‘dash—as well as Mega Max X-style wall and acrobatics. The game can be very fast or very slow, depending on your own playstyle and skill level. I sometimes have awesome moments where I zip and snap to places so fast it would make Spider-man jealous.
But the combat is where the meat is. The Corangelus facility is swarming with demons of different kinds. You have your standard melee demons that launch themselves at you with sharp talons—and which have been the death of me many times—your fireball dudes, some with sniping abilities, others that teleport and because that wasn’t enough you of course have healers. Seraph does a good job in introducing the different enemies to you before it starts combining them and giving them more powers. Better yet, it waits until you have a good grasp of their basic mechanics before it starts sending out elites that you need to smite before they regenerate and come back to bite you in the butt. At first they’re manageable, even in packs but once you mix in the floor champion—a super elite you need to kill to clear the level—and the special elites with tons of abilities, and thins can get hectic. The higher the difficulty gets—and it does so with every level and kill—the more enemy abilities you’ll have to deal with. At difficulty rating 5 and above things get intense!
The developers describe Seraph as an acrobatic shooter and it’s because the only thing you need to worry about is firing the guns and moving around like crazy to avoid all the demon attacks. The eponymous angel—who needs a better name—aims on her own and you just need to pull the trigger on your infinite handguns or limited-ammo secondary guns (the railgun rocks!). You have other abilities of course, to help you deal with the onslaughts. Your smite takes care of those regenerating demons, but unless you take the skill (when you level up) to have it also deal damage to enemies, it’s fairly useless to whittle down enemy health, but that’s where the orb comes in, a ball of light that hits enemies in a straight path and then return to you, hitting them for a lot of damage. You also have a repel ability that I didn’t use very much in my first playthrough but now depend on quite heavily.
Seraph has a crafting system but for some strange reason you can’t access it while playing through the levels. You have to go into the main menu and go to upgrades from there. Makes very little sense and becomes cumbersome for players, particularly when they need to craft a new weapon or power up their Orb miracle, before he next hard level and that’s only if they manage to get the exorbitant number of components for each upgrade. They recently patched them to need fewer materials and still they’re too many, particularly for those on their first playthrough. I’m on my second and on a higher difficulty and still it feels like it’s too much, especially considering the damage boosts with each upgrade is not that high. Miracles are the worst, requiring the most components for a minimal improvement.
But as I said, I’m still playing Seraph. I honestly can’t stop myself because it’s addictive and as soon as I have proper internet, I’ll be streaming it on Twitch to make use of Seraph‘s “Twitch Mode,” where the audience can vote through the chat on what happens next level. It’s sounds amazingly fun. Also, this might be one of the very few games I’ll speedrun. Hell, it makes the choice easy by giving me a “speedrun” mode!
The game is on Early Access so that gives me a lot of hope that they smooth the roughest edges—those mentioned already and others, such as the samey environments—and deliver an amazing game on release.
I’ll be playing it until then so I might come back for an update when that happens!