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Seraph Early Access Review

While we can spend our time skydiving, snowboarding, crossing the street without looking both ways, etc., there's a certain sense of safety that we appreciate when being badass in video games.

Some games just give you a powerful character from the get-go and you're just always wrecking havoc. Games in the Dark Souls series allow you to be looked at as some kind of wimp when you first start the game—death imminent at every corner. Each boss you kill heightens your sense of badassery and, by the end, you're the ultimate badass.

There’re two recent games that come to mind that take away one vital mechanic—commonplace in any other game—and allow your badassness to flourish in ways that feel cool.

The first game is Superhot, which takes the mechanic of time away from you. When you move, bullets move. You use the moments of slowed time to plan your attacks and dodges. At the end , when all the red guys are dead, you see everything in real time, and the feeling of absolute badassness is incredible.

The next game is Seraph from Dreadbit. Seraph takes away your ability to aim and, at first, it seems insane. We gamers are conditioned to have our fingers planted firmly on the right thumbstick, ready to aim. In Seraph, it does nothing (except change your target). Going full “100% Auto-Aim” seems like a lazy design move, but it’s not. Removing aiming allows you to jump, dash (or “Blink”), and dodge incoming enemy attacks. Mechanically, this just makes the game more intuitive, since you’re able to watch your character instead of having to stare at an aiming reticle the whole time. Watching your character flip and perform acrobatics around the carnage that is thrust upon her is something to be excited about, because the team at Dreadbit did a wonderful job animating each flip and wall grab. Even the way Seraph holds her pistols is thoughtfully designed.

Moving away from the mechanics for a bit, the story of Seraph is mostly dialogue-focused, and what the characters have to say feels a bit familiar. It is also played very straight. This is no light-hearted affair. Everyone is serious all the time and there's no comedic relief. Not that it's a bad thing, it would just be nice to have brevity in such a dark world.

Tonally, it’s almost as if they were trying to decide what kind of story they wanted to tell, and then they pointed at a copy of God of War and said “That.”

The story itself, however, is not really that integral to the momentum of the game. Each level ends with short conversations between Seraph and another character, pushing the story along, but it’s what you do in each of the levels that makes the game engaging—to an extent.

Each level is split into a few categories by what you need to do in order to make it to the exit.

There’s one where you have to kill a demon who has more health than the others, and one where you need to destroy glowy red things. There’re variations of those here and there, but that’s pretty much it. It might have something to do with the fact that each level is randomly generated to ensure replay value, which is nice, but at a certain point the seams start to show and each subsequent level feels more and more like a rehash of the last.

What adds a challenge to the whole game is the “Dynamic Difficulty Scaling”—a number at the bottom of the screen that progressively gets higher, raising the difficulty of the enemies. I remember reading this, but when I started the game I somehow completely erased this factoid from my memory, and spent my time in each level leisurely trying to find the hidden XP motes and weapon caches scattered throughout the level. At a certain point the number read “3” and the game got very difficult, very fast.

Luckily, there’s a bunch of stuff that helps out with dying too fast.

I have a habit of looking into the menus as deep as I can go before actually hopping into the campaigns of games, just to plot my course. Upon opening the upgrade system in Seraph, I was little confused. The terminology was mostly title specific, so I couldn’t do much in the way of planning that way. But as time went on things made sense, as they often do, and the systems were more in-depth than I was expecting—some of which reminds me of 2012’s Dust: An Elysian Tail. There’s plenty of different things to collect and craft in the game in order help raise the level of your abilities and weapons. Overall the upgrading feels competent and deep.

While the game itself seems like it’s going in the right direction, there’s a few questionable UI choices that I hope are changed at some point. One big one was having to back out to the menu between levels in order to upgrade or do transmutations. It seemed like a very unnecessary, extra step to get to something rather important.

Seraph is currently in Early Access, which means that the game itself might see some improvements before its final release. Adding some variants to gameplay would be at the top of the list, while streamlining some features would be welcomed as well. What they decide to add is detrimental to how big this game can get, and I think it can be pretty big.

7

The Verdict

UI and redundancy aside, Seraph still gives you a great sense of power when it comes to its gunplay. The term badass is only used for things that actually require it and Seraph is nearly on its way to badassdom. I recommend giving it a shot if you’re like me and want to feel slightly more badass than you already are.

James McKeever
Written by
May 02, 2016
Published in Action

When not playing video games, James is usually found playing video games. When he simply does not have time for video games, he goes to a thing called "Job" where he makes money to feed himself and his wife and to buy more video games. Since he was too scared to use the controller himself at the young age of 3, James started his gaming career as a "navigator" of sorts instructing his father when to jump in Super Mario Brothers. Since then, the fear of controllers has subsided and James can now jump freely, circumventing the middleman.

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