With the constant deluge of generic indie coin-collecting platformers the video game market in general has been drowning in for the pastWith the constant deluge of generic indie coin-collecting platformers the video game market in general has been drowning in for the past decade or so now, it was pleasant to play a fresh breath of the mostly forgotten sub-genre of the action sidescrolling platformer again with Seraph. While I enjoyed the majority of the game, I cannot recommend it because of the poor level design, an inability to backtrack or grind, and the monumental difficulty spike with the last boss.
Akin to 2D shooters of old like Abuse and the original Duke Nukem, Seraph is about shooting your way from one side of a level to another while unlocking some doors and grabbing ammo along the way. To put it simply, this is essentially a 2D "FPS" game with full auto-aim: Seraph requires you to focus on dodging attacks and performing acrobatics to transverse a level instead of gathering rings or saving animals. This auto-aim system helps create a more cinematic experience by greatly increasing the combat speed and encouraging flashy movement instead of spending time every enemy counter mouse aiming. However, this is often detrimental to long range combat and against faster enemies; you will often find yourself being required to be point-blank to get shots in despite having no melee system against mostly melee opponents. Several abilities also require you to be close-range for them to trigger or work properly which feels more like an intentional concession to the auto-aim rather than adding variety to the combat system. All problems aside, the combat is mostly good and is unique enough alone to make this worth playing.
Sadly, no amount of good combat can salvage a game with miserable level design. Being a modern indie game means Seraph has procedurally generated levels which it of course doesn't do well. If I didn't know better I'd think the devs only made 5 unique rooms, flipped them, added some connectors, and threw them into a randomizer. You can add a new coat of paint with a few different tilesets but its painfully obvious that no one cared about the level design when you see the same rooms every level (with each level taking about ~5 mins to finish!). Some of the larger maps I actually got lost in and wished there was a map function (not because of any maze-like level design but because everything looked the same!). I would've really preferred fewer hand-made maps than the mess of random junk maps this poor game received instead.
As the difficulty rose and I struggled to finish the last few maps, I really wished I had some way of backtracking to level up my "account" more. Again, being an indie game in 2016, this game has a system comparable to permadeath with no level select option. Dying in this will set you back to your most recent checkpoint which, not only can be several maps prior, but also interrupts the storyline flow by making you replay map's intro & outro dialogue. The only real way to grind up your character's permanent stats is by doing daily quests and survival missions on the leaderboards. While it's a nice attempt to create a community, a once per day challenge that only pays out once the challenge is closed isn't very conductive towards reaching goals with your character's growth.
Why would you need to grind in a sidescrolling platformer? I didn't feel the need to until I reached the last boss which was an absolute nightmare. Playing on a seemingly average difficulty of 5.5 (I got downgraded several times from dying on the last maps), it took me probably 3 of my 9 hours of game time on Seraph to beat him. A combination of fast-tracking homing shots, teleporting full body-sized AoEs, a PBAoE on the boss that is larger than his hitbox (and pops up when you get close to him), and heavy randomization on both numbers of shots and time between shots makes this a bullethell boss without access to bombs. I was ready to uninstall several times because no build or weapon type seemed to work. As far as I can tell, I just got lucky with the volleys he decided to fire the time I beat him. A truly miserable experience that is further unsatisfying by the cut-to-credits ending.
Overall, Seraph is a decent game. There are unique concepts here and a real effort at lore & world-building despite being a simple auto-aim shooter. I want to recommend this because I enjoyed most of the game but I can't because of the apparent traps of modern indie game design. Helmed by a more competent developer I imagine this could've been GOTY material; Instead, Seraph is just another indie platformer but with guns and demons instead of coins and cute animals.… Expand