Seraph is a good game with some great ideas, but it’s let down by some really unfortunate technical issues. Read on to see why this game is both angelic and demonic.
Seraph is a skill-based, 2-D metroidvania style shooter that emphasizes risk-reward gameplay. It immediately does away with one of the most annoying parts of these types of games for me. There is no aiming. Let that sink in for a minute. There is still plenty to keep you occupied. Without aiming, the player must dodge, jump, blink to teleport to avoid damage, and use power ups while the game auto-aims your gun or guns at the enemies.
For the most part, it works well, and it can look amazing. When you hit a machine gun rhythm mowing down multiple enemies as you dodge a screen full of projectiles, it feels great. There are times when the game locks you into an area and has enemies spawn until a counter runs down to zero. With so many on the screen, the game does not always choose the right enemy. There is still an option to change your aim, but this can be a challenge with many enemies on the screen.
The second thing that separates Seraph is that the difficulty dynamically rises. If you are cutting through the enemy without breaking a sweat, the game will gradually become harder. It is represented by a number on-screen, and Seraph allows you to start at easy (1.0), medium (4.0), and hard (7.0). The rewards you receive are better at higher difficulties, but you will definitely earn them. If you take damage, the difficulty will not increase, but it will also never decrease.
The game considers your difficulty level when you restart after dying, and you might have to replay two other levels to get back to where you were if your level was not high enough. Speaking of death, you will have three lives for every level. When you inevitably die, you will restart at the beginning of the level with less health than you started, but the enemies you killed do not respawn.
There is a good variety of enemies, and some can only be killed with your angel power, smite. After wearing down a part of their health bar, they will go into a recharge state. You will need to get close to them and blast them to keep their health from regenerating. This is only for a level boss at first, but later levels add this more and more. The amount of time is short, so you have to get to them quickly. If you are too slow, you just put yourself into a really bad situation.
Miracles are stronger than your guns, and they are critical in surviving each level. They are your special attacks, and each has a cooldown before it can be used again. There are multiple miracles to choose and upgrade. I preferred the direct damage caused by shooting a boomerang orb at my enemies or being able to shoot out chains at multiple enemies. They give you a little freedom to choose your style of play and can be very powerful.
After you have shown those demons who’s boss like a deadly Tony Danza, they will explode into particles giving you experience and materials. These different items can be used for upgrading your weapons, your miracles, your protection items called wards, and to give you some perks, such as more damage with your guns or a higher starting health. These are gained by combining crystals gathered from demons. Three crystals can be combined into a more powerful crystal with a stronger benefit for one perk with the loss of three smaller perks. There are three paths, and further upgrades are unlocked as more crystals are added.
Your guns can also be upgraded. You are given a standard set of pistols, and Seraph is able to shoot in different directions with each like a grizzled John Woo character after drinking 20 pots of coffee. There are also weapon lockers throughout the level that will have extra ammo or a different gun. Although they have limited ammo, they will pack a much stronger punch than the infinite ammo pistols. The shotgun also requires a different strategy, with different accuracy, than the machine gun. As you upgrade these, you can unlock new guns, such as the rail gun, or just make your existing choices stronger.
The story is not bad, but it is very basic. It is really only there as a backdrop to string the levels together. You are an angel inhabiting the body of a mortal. You were locked away in a prison, and, in order to be free, you made a deal that has allowed demons to be set free and kill anyone in their way. Somehow, you have forgotten any part of how that came to be. The story is told in text boxes at the beginning and sometimes end of a level, but it can be skipped.
Seraph is made for replayability, and every part of this game reflects that intent. There are weekly and daily challenges with better rewards for finishing at the top. The levels are made to be explored with chests and lockers to loot. The levels are procedurally generated, so you will have a fresh experience on subsequent playthroughs, although they do not change if you died and replayed them. The upgrades are deep and meaningful. Even though they are small at first, they can really make the difference at harder difficulties. Everything is designed to get you back to shooting and looking awesome while doing it.
There is even built-in Twitch functionality, so you can broadcast your game easily and have people vote on levels. I did not try out this feature, but I thought it was a great addition for anyone. I could see watching this game on Twitch. It looks great, and the lighting effects when a monster dies are good. The music is a driving electronic beat that matches the high intensity gameplay.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there were some technical problems in the game that really hurt my enjoyment. The load times were horrible. For a game that clearly expects to be replayed and has a punishing difficulty system to reward skillful players, I dreaded the load screen more than replaying the level. I hit around 40 seconds to reload, and this was an eternity for a game this small. I also experienced multiple crashes and freezing. In combination with the long load times, there were a few times I was not sure if I was still loading or experiencing another problem.
The height of the technical issues was when my entire progress was reset. After trying out the weekly and daily challenges, I popped back into the main menu to take up the fight again. However, the game restarted me back to the beginning with a reset difficulty. There is an option to reset your game in the menu like a prestige in Call of Duty, but I did not accidentally hit it. This reset happened during the same play session where I had already had a crash and a freeze, so my frustration was compounded.
Playing Seraph is as much risk and reward as the game itself. There is so much here for fans of the genre, and the ideas are sound. It offers the player tons of upgrades and the gameplay can be intense as you try to finish a level before the last of your health is ripped away by multiple demon attacks. I can only hope that the technical issues I encountered were not normal, or that a patch can fix them. Look beyond them if you can, but they marred an otherwise decent game.
Review Disclaimer: This review was conducted using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. This has no effect on the content of the review or the score. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
*This game was reviewed using a standard PS4, not a PS4 Pro.