SolSeraph is a game that wants to take you back to your childhood. That is if you were a child in 1990. Influenced by the retro game Actraiser, SolSeraph is a game that tries to blend three genres into one. It’s one part tower defense, a bit of side-scrolling 2D action, and a pinch of city building. You play as Helios, a half-man, half-god who is tasked to be the savior of mankind and rid the world of the evil young gods. For those of you not old enough to remember Actraiser, it was an action-platformer and city-building game that launched in 1990. For its time it was a weird and beloved game that didn’t really have an equal.
Helios is known as the Father of Forethought. He descends from the heavens to smite those that get in his path. During the side-scrolling parts you’ll play a pretty easy action game that is never difficult, but mildly frustrating. Enemy attack patterns are obvious and SolSeraph enjoys finding ways for you to take damage. In one area of the game you come across a stretch of land that is covered in spikes. What I did to pass this part was to just take the spike damage from walking on them. Like I said, the game isn’t very difficult so I didn’t have any problems finishing the level. What you are supposed to do is jump on the bugs that are walking on these spikes, but the game never tells you this. In fact, if you touch any other enemy in the game you take damage, so it goes against what the game teaches you.
Once god Helios is done mucking about and getting his hands dirty on the ground he takes to the skies as a bird. This is where you’ll be able to select from the multiple city-building levels. Each comes with its own flavor of challenges. In the snow area, for example, you are unable to build farms which produce food for your villagers. Instead you unlock the ability to raise livestock. It functions the same way as the farm, and you have to ask yourself, what do these livestock eat?
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Enemies in SolSeraph are possibly the nicest I have ever encountered in a game. They march down a pre-constructed road and never take a detour or try and flank you. Of course, this is the expected gameplay of a tower defense game, but the developers at Ace Team never try and innovate on this. Just a bunch of lovely enemies walking down a road to their slaughter. The young gods are evil, indeed, to force these creatures to their death.
The goal of the city building portion of the game is to construct villages to stop enemies from reaching your bonfire. This is accomplished by gathering resources to build defensive structures. Build farms to feed your people, lumber mills to chop down trees which allow you to build more structures, and then demolish said lumber mills to regain resources. Once you feel that you village is safe, you start building out towards the enemy lairs which need a shrine next to them to disperse the black fog. Doing this lets Helios attack the enemy lair and triggers the side-scrolling section of the game. I did encounter some lag issues once my village was completely built out, but it never affected gameplay and it never occurred during the side-scrolling sections.
I absolutely adore the way the villagers are drawn in this game. It definitely gives off a Banner Saga feel, but they are drawn in a way that shows off their personality. Each region’s villagers have their own distinct look based on the climate they live in. Unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn’t have the same artistic style as the characters. Helios himself isn’t that detailed or amazing to look at. There are maybe ten total enemy types in the entire game. Most noticeably goblins are recolored depending on what area you are in. Goblins in the forest area are green while moving to the snow area offers blue goblins.
It’s not just the enemy types that are repetitive, but also the plot. Each village is led by different elders who preach the same version of human resilience and belief that Helios will save them. The dialogue is never funny, entertaining, or insightful. One of the biggest issues with the game is that the checkpoints in the side-scrolling levels are atrocious. Some levels don’t even have a checkpoint which is infuriating if you die and have to start the whole level over again.
SolSeraph is a game that was made with good intentions and a lot of heart. The developers wanted to pay homage to a classic, but unfortunately missed the mark on almost all fronts. The platforming bits are frustrating with enemies coming out of no where to knock you off. The city-building parts never get deep enough to challenge you or force any decision other than stacking barracks and watchtowers along the roads. As someone who loves city-builders, I just wish it was a better game.
SolSeraph review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on a PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.