Early Access can be summed up as a great idea gone horribly wrong. While good in theory, years of abuse, inaction and a complete lack of moderation on Valve’s part have turned it into a byword for poor quality. However, amid the sea of asset flipped clones and unfinished open world RPGs, you occasionally find the rare gem. One such gem is today’s example – Seraph.
This is what you would end up with by mashing together Castlevania with (a somewhat more lucid) E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy, with a running Metroidvania platforming elements focusing upon a gun-toting woman fighting demons. While the lore itself is remarkably well detailed, it’s limited to a background codex – The best kind of balance for these games.
One of the main gimmicks this time is that you auto-aim your attacks. While this initially sounds like it’s taking half the fun away from the experience, Seraph uses the idea surprisingly well. It removes some of the inherent clunkiness of precision aiming in platforming and greatly speeds up the gameplay. The fact you can take so few hits means it doesn’t make the experience any easier, but leaves you ready to focus more upon darting about the level, wall jumping and flipping over foes. Many of the bigger enemies require you to get up close and personal to finish them off, so there’s still a major risk factor, and you can’t rely on superior firepower as bigger guns have a very limited ammo supply. The closest thing here is to a crutch is your abilities, which offer a fun range of effects from phasing through attacks to nuking the area, but are kept in check by a lengthy cooldown timer. As such, it’s one of those “easy to use, hard to master” titles which serves the genre so well.
However, there are some definite flaws, and it is still an Early Access release for a good reason. The enemy AI can be easily exploited, becoming caught on pieces of terrain on odd occasions. The enemy scaling is a promising system but apparently lacks any way to lower the difficulty, and even accepting that this was made with a controller in mind, the UI interface is more than a little clunky. Plus, after just the first few hours, the industrial grey backdrops start to get very old.
Let’s be clear here: This is a Unity Engine game done right, and a perfect example of just what Early Access was intended for. Bloody, difficult but utterly enthralling, even in its unfinished state Seraph is simply incredible from start to finish. Definitely take the time to look into this one as soon as you have a tenner to spare.
SERAPH (EARLY ACCESS) / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: DREADBIT / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW