SERAPH - HANDS ON PREVIEW

WRITTEN BY JAY TEE

THE BASICS

- Side scrolling 2D shooter that doesn’t require players to aim with a traditional reticule.

- Player movement is key, with lots of acrobatics.

- Difficulty scales depending on how well the player is progressing through a particular level.

PLATFORMS

Playstation 4, PC

PLAYERS

Offline - 1, Online - 0

CO-OP / MULTIPLAYER

Twitch support allows direct interaction. This affects gameplay via positive or negative modifiers.

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT

- Nothing has been announced at this time.


TAKEAWAYS

- The controls felt good right away. Intelligent button mapping coupled with a fast response time made for a euphoric sense of comfort. Crucially, I didn’t feel like I was fighting the mechanics; rather, this is a game that offers entry level understanding, but rewards mastery.

- The art direction is pretty striking. Seemingly a blend between the hand drawn stylings of a UbiArt title (see Rayman Legends or Valiant Hearts), and more recent fare like Velocity 2X. The detail is there, supported by strong lighting and weapon effects.

- Although I was sceptical of the idea at first, the auto aim function doesn’t make this a cake walk. Enemy A.I. is aggressive and fast. This forces you to divide attention between positioning within the environment, dodging enemy fire, and continuous movement.

- There are plenty of different special attacks that can be unleashed, and boss finishers are a particular highlight. I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with them, but your character is fully upgradeable. You can nab resources from fallen foes that are used to augment your abilities.

- Enemy design looks appropriately mutated and creepy, which makes it all the more satisfying when you pull off a balletic combo takedown. They also attack from multiple directions, which addresses the “enemies always come from the right” problem I have with a lot of 2D side scrollers.

The unfortunate reality of large (and popular) gaming conventions is that, inevitably, some games will get lost in the storm. For most gamers, events like EGX Rezzed 2016 are a maelstrom of distractions and expensive merchandise. Even though it’s indie focused, the two floors presented at the Tobacco dock in London remain a daunting prospect.

So, a thought must be spared for Dreadbit Games. The developer of wacky hybrid hit Ironcast were thoroughly sandwiched into a corner of Sony’s heavily VR focused booth. However, their presence was felt. Buried in amongst Sony’s broad, shotgun approach to indie support lay Seraph; a game so deceptively simple that looks were in fact very deceiving.

I managed to grab a hands on demo alongside lead developer Daniel Leaver, whose plucky enthusiasm provided a welcome contrast to your typically jaded PR rep. After running through the basic premise (“a skill-based, acrobatic shooter... without aiming!”), he loaded up a level and let me loose. NOTE: I was playing the PS4 version of the game, which is due out a few weeks after it’s PC counterpart launches on Steam Early Access.

- This is another game that benefits massively from wearing headphones. Sound effects are punchy and leave a lasting impact. Enemies also rip apart in thundering fashion, with character models splitting into pieces accompanied by a dramatic camera shudder.

- Level design on the whole seems well thought out, and the procedural nature of the game will encourage replayability. However, an apparent lack of variation is a concern. Our time with the game (and all media released so far) suggests that dark, oppressive environments are the norm. We’ll see if the full game offers up some more variety to the locales.

- I wish Seraph supported co-op play, of any kind. It speaks to how much I enjoyed my time with it that I longed to bring a buddy along for the ride. The nature of this thing seems perfectly suited to multiplayer, so it’s an interesting omission. Perhaps a technical or budgetary constraint? Fingers crossed for DLC!

Enemies seem to attack from all angles, which allows for sweet Trinity–esque  moments like this. Halo 2 may have pioneered dual wielding, but now I don’t even need to aim anymore. I’m one of the cool kids.  Yo.

It plays every bit as energetically as it looks. Within minutes, I was zipping around the screen, bouncing off walls and pulling off acrobatic combos. Every terrible Matrix game is now weeping at what they could have been.

JTGA

TAKEAWAYS KEY

- Something marked with the JTGA
Green badge is an extremely positive
and / or unexpected response to a
particular game or moment.

- The JTGA Orange badge represents
a mixed response. It’s normally
something that works in principle,
but could have been executed better.

- When you see the JTGA Red badge,
you know this is something negative
that’s either disappointing, frustrating,
rage inducing, or all of the above.

TARP BADGE KEY

- The BEST WITH FRIENDS badge is
earned if a game is significantly
more fun playing with people you
know, either in campaign or online.

- The PICK UP AND PLAY badge is
for when a game is better suited to
brief, impromptu sessions that
give a quick blast of escapism.


- The LONE WOLF badge tells you
that a particular game can only be
played, or is more enjoyable, when
you’re flying solo.

- The DEEP DIVE badge is a heads
up that what you’re about to play
is a huge undertaking, and best
enjoyed in extended periods.

- The KITCHEN SINK badge is an
indication of a game that is
bursting at the seams with
content (either on disc or DLC).


- The BAM! DONE! badge lets you
know that within minutes of
picking up the controller, you
can play this like a pro.

- The HOT POTATO badge makes
a really clear statement: this
game is making waves, and it’s
definitely worth a look.

- The LEARNING CURVE badge
is awarded if you’ll need to
allow a fair bit of time in
order to fully grasp the controls.


- The SCEPTICAL FACE badge is for
when a game doesn’t leave a strong
impression. Perhaps more time
is needed to decide?

- The LEFT FIELD badge is awarded
when a game surprises us by being
really good and we’d never heard
of it before.


BEST WITH FRIENDS

PICK UP
& PLAY

LONE
WOLF

DEEP
DIVE

KITCHEN
SINK

LEFT
FIELD

SCEPTICAL
FACE

LEARNING
CURVE

BAM!
DONE!

HOT
POTATO

PICK UP
& PLAY

LONE
WOLF

BAM!
DONE!

HOT
POTATO

LEFT
FIELD

LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ARTICLE!
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET US @JAYTEE_GA, OR E-MAIL: EDITOR@JTGA.CO.UK.

CONCLUSION

Seraph is an arresting and unique title that deserves attention. It’s great to see Sony throw its weight behind a game that could easily get lost in a sea of bigger budgeted behemoths. More importantly, it doesn’t try to outstay its welcome and delivers on its premise. This IS a skill based shooter, despite what its “…without aiming” tagline suggests, and you’d do well to give this one a look ahead of it’s release on PC and PS4 this year.

For more information, check out: http://www.seraph-game.com/

Or follow @DreadbitGames on Twitter.

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