SolSeraph is the latest game from developer ACE Team known for their Zeno Clash and Rock of Ages titles. In SolSeraph players take control of Helios, the Knight of Dawn as he fights to protect humanity from the threats of hellish monsters and aid them in the development of their cities. It’s clear to see that the game takes direct inspiration form the 1990 SNES game ActRaiser, but does it live up to Quintet’s classic it’s based on? Read on to find out!
Straight from the get go players will know just where the team dug to get their inspiration from. The character you’re tasked with playing as, Helios, is a benevolent deity who has taken it upon himself to protect mankind from the dangers of the younger gods. Players will be greeted with some light dialogue with the human settlers they’ll be directing but it doesn’t really enhance the experience or a crucial element. The story, outside of the opening cutscene, which includes voiced dialogue, is told through these chunks of written dialogue.
The game splits itself in to two different elements, the first is a side-scrolling platformer whilst the second is a tower defense game and I’ll be coming back to that later. When players get to control Helios directly they’ve got his double jump ability, a sword that’s able to attack in several different direction similar to ActRaiser 2 rather than the original and a shield that can be used to block projectile attacks while also acting as a barrier to certain enemies physical attacks. You also have a dodge ability that you can use to get some distance between you and your opponent. Unfortunately for the most part SolSeraph doesn’t present many opportunities where players can make use of the shield or dodging. Fighting often came down to rushing and hitting your enemy relentlessly. Still controlling Helios was tight and I didn’t have to worry about floaty jumps or delayed controls which works to establish a fast flowing momentum, making controlling him a fun experience. When the game does click, its a pretty good experience thanks to the tight controls.
Through out the game, players gain extra health & mana from completing stages or extra weather abilities (To be used in the tower defense segment) from exploring the levels. You’re unable to revisit levels so if you miss any items you won’t be able to return for them. Players will have to make sure they explore every area properly so they won’t miss any valuable items. After beating a boss, you’ll gain a new magical ability that you can use on your adventure. These can go from a simple health regeneration to causing a massive flood that fills up the screen and wipes your enemies. Sadly the mana cost, even towards the endgame with an almost a fully decked out Helios, Mana costs in this game are too high, making most of these abilities drain through your magic reserves. While some abilities have their usefulness there are others that aren’t useful at all including manipulating the attack speed/health of an enemy. Most of the other powers give you a good sense of satisfaction; pulling off an accurate arrow shot has always been a pleasure, especially the pop sound enemies make once they hit the bucket!
The level design varies from good old fashion platforming where a mistimed jump can lead to an instant death, to some extra areas you can explore for better abilities. Sadly just like the combat, most of it feels undercooked, there definitely are some cool segments in the game throughout but you’ll often find yourself going through the same generic pathways with very little to make each stage standout from one and another. There are some areas where the game definitely shines, there was one area I had to block and jump forward, quickly dispatch the enemy with my arrow then jump back before the platform below me collapsed. Moments like this is when the game design seems to shine, but it seems like too often these moments are a rare case. The enemies that populate these areas tend to be mostly unique with a few making appearances in other stages and which helps make the world feel more varied, but some are held back with generic designs and basic attack patterns that doesn’t make them interesting fodder to take down. The same could be said of a couple of the bosses and coming back to the combat, it feels like a missed opportunity not to have more bosses take advantage of Helios move set. When the game gets it right with some of the bosses, it’s an old school battle with some decent difficulty that has a good sense of rhythm making them fun encounters. But mostly it isn’t that.
The secondary portion of the game is the town building aspect that is at it’s heart a tower defense game. You start off with a camp fire that has 5HPs, losing all your health to enemies causes you to restart from the previous successful wave you’ve managed to repel. As the chief city planner, you’re tasked with expanding your city towards the 4 enemy spawn points on the map either by constructing buildings or roads to expand your town’s territory. You’re given two types of building, normal building that increase population size, productivity, resources etc and defense buildings to combat the wave of enemies as you make your way to their spawn point. Once reaching them players enter a level arena where they must clear it to weaken the final spawn point that houses of the boss of the area. Between the waves, players are entertained with dialogue between the settlers which often resorts to humor, these help to break up the action to give you a breather and pause to think what your next move is. Some are good fashioned humor, but for the most part they end up being mostly forgettable and nothing makes any character stand out, safe for the crazy shaman you encounter.
As a big fan of management titles, the town building / tower defense feels like a missed opportunity to expand this idea further and add a little bit of strategy to the underbelly of the title, the difficulty in the terrains is often resolved with one building or power and the enemies don’t require much thinking outside of making sure you’ve got plenty of units (Usually archers, as ground based units fail to hit flying enemies) covering the paths enemies take. There isn’t much need in resource management either as you’ll have an overabundance of materials to shape your town with.
Presentation wise the game features an enjoyable soundtrack with one track by legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro. The songs in SolSeraph fit the style of the title but most tracks don’t jump outand stay with you after finishing and some seem to overstay their welcome due to repeated usage. The art design for the game feels like a mixed bag, there are some enemies that stand out and the visual flair they add help to make the battles more exciting, however the level art often feels very “samey” which breaks the illusion that you are battling across the world. You’ll be left scaling countless rocky areas and nothing really pops to differentiate the levels from one part of the world and another part.
On concluding, SolSeraph had a tough act to follow based on it being inspired by ArcRaiser and while it doesn’t do anything wrong, it feels like a missed opportunity to expand more on the legacy of the titles it’s based on. While I’m sure ActRaiser fans will enjoy it, if you’re not familiar with the series, what you’ll find with SolSeraph is an enjoyable game that leaves too many ideas undercooked, a title that doesn’t do anything wrong but at the same time, leaves you wanting more than what was on offer.
- Cool Enemy Art
- Tight Controls
- Old School Difficulty
- Repetitive Level Structure
- Little Strategy in Tower Defense
- Generic Stage Art