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Game Info:

SolSeraph
Developed By: ACE Team
Published By: SEGA
Release Date: July 10, 2019
Available On: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Genre: Action Platformer, Tower Defense
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
MSRP: $14.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you SEGA for sending us this game to review!

Many classic games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras have spawned spiritual sequels or even entire genres based on their gameplay, stories, and more. There are hundreds if not thousands of games that mimic critical aspects of Metroid, Mario, Final Fantasy, and more. Surprisingly enough, ActRaiser, which was even for the time an unusual combination of simulation and action platformer, has had few imitators. And while they don't come right out and say it, it's extremely clear that ActRaiser was the inspiration for SolSeraph - right down the main character being a god.

I wrote our ActRaiser review all the way back in 2007 if you are curious about this game's inspiration. (That review is not very good compared to our modern standards, but hopefully it's still helpful.) In SolSeraph, you are the god Helios, an 'older god' of the sun. The local people of each area cry out to you because of the local god's oppression. Your people are being enslaved by the 'newer gods', who are each tormenting the people of their local areas, using the unique powers they have. For example, the King of Floods floods the people whose area he controls, and it's up to you to defeat him, restoring your rightful place as their god. It's like this in each of the five regions you have to free from their oppression. When you defeat them, they also give you a power that you can use in future confrontations, somewhat like the Mega Man series does. While all of the gained abilities are useful, I found myself sticking with the starting bow and arrow, and the King of Trees' healing power most of the time.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Good graphics; nice soundtrack; decent action gameplay; good to see someone try a variation on the ActRaiser formula after all these years; plays perfectly in Steam's Proton compatibility layer for Linux
Weak Points: Good game, but could be better; some levels are poorly balanced; tower defense section isn't really my favorite, and could be better balanced
Moral Warnings: You play as a sun god, Helios, who is older and kinder than the newer gods that have invaded each region to hurt your people; people pray to you; world was created by no longer present Sky Father and Earth Mother; you fight enemies with your sword, bow and arrow, or various magical attacks; enemies include goblin-like creatures, exploding monsters, skeletons, dragons, wizards, and other mythical creatures including a multi-faced enemy that looks somewhat like a Hindu god; one character seems to have a problem with drinking too much

As mentioned, you are a god. You enter a lair and wield a large sword. As you go through the 2.5D side-scrolling levels, you defeat enemies (or not - many can be skipped over), and you reach and eventually defeat the boss. One thing that bothered me about this is that if you lose to a boss, you don't get to retry just that section - you have to play the whole level over again. A very small number of levels have a midway point marker that restarts you there, but I wish this feature was more commonly used.

Once you defeat the initial lair of a region, you then can more directly guide the people by telling them what buildings to create, and where to place them. One significant difference between SolSeraph and ActRaiser is that rather than just growing the town for the sake it (and any unlocked abilities), you have a tower defense style section where you build up your town with defensive structures that keep enemies away from the town center. Each of the enemies' spawn points is another lair (sometimes large, sometimes small) that you can eventually enter once you instruct your townspeople to build an altar there. Once you defeat this mini-lair via a side-scrolling section not unlike the main level ones, it removes the dark clouds in that area of the overhead map in the city-building view. There are typically several of these areas per map (about five to six).

Strangely, defeating just the mini-lair doesn't stop the invasion from that area - you need to defeat them all and complete the level by winning your fight with the god of the region before the tower defence attacks finally stop. They pretty much never slow down until that point, so rushing to deploy altars is not only the best way to get past this slog of a section, it's pretty much the only way, as resources like wood are far too scarce in order to be able to defeat the enemies more directly. I like how you can overhear the townspeople talk amongst themselves, and sometimes they talk about you, the other gods, or just banter about. The writing is pretty well done, but I found the actual tower defending itself somewhat hit and miss. It's not super well-balanced, and in order to deal with this, the developers make it so that each time you fail defending, it makes the next wave easier. As a result, all but the worst players will eventually make it through the waves. I personally am not a huge fan of tower-defence gameplay, but this gameplay choice is somewhat of a head-scratcher.

From what I have been able to tell, the side-scrolling action sections do not do this. If you aren't skilled in a section of the map, your best choice is paradoxically to run - if you can avoid damage, you have a better chance at the boss. But if you don't beat the boss, as mentioned before, the game forces you to start the stage from the beginning - unless you are lucky enough to be on one of the few stages with a middle continue point, which is honestly just a few areas. These are far too rare in this game. What does help, is to use that block button liberally. Is the boss changing its motion? Block. About to land after a jump? Block. And so on. If you learn when to block, the bosses are much, much, easier.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 12/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 82%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 910

SolSeraph uses Unreal Engine 4, and it looks very pretty as a result. It also scales up and down quite well, though on Intel integrated graphics you'll need to use very low settings to get decent frame rates. On my GPD Win 2, the game gets okay frame rates, but frequent stutter makes is a less than ideal way to play. On a proper gaming rig, it works without issues. The music is also very good, which really helps a lot. If you are a fan of Linux, it works flawlessly on Steam's Proton compatibility layer.

From an appropriateness standpoint, it's rated E, so while it has violence, there is no blood. There is no foul language present, nor sexual content. As mentioned already, the main character is a god, as are his primary enemies. Other monsters are mythical and mystical creatures, including goblins, exploding monsters, skeletons, dragons, giant bats, wizards, and other mythical creatures including a multi-faced enemy that looks somewhat like a Hindu god. The world seemingly was created by a Sky Father and an Earth Mother. One character in one of the towns confesses to drinking too much sometimes.

SolSeraph is an interesting game, based on an unqualified classic, that doesn't quite reach the heights of its inspiration. It's not a bad game, but it's also flawed. I feel like the level designs could be better, and the game balance has room for improvement. It also sticks almost too close to the source material in some ways, and doesn't innovate enough in others. It's neither bad nor good; neither terrible nor great. While at first I found it more frustrating than fun, it did grow on me a bit as I got used to its quirks. If you're a huge fan of ActRaiser, it might be worth a look if the price is right.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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