Wireframe

SolSeraph review - sol-less

By Richard Wakeling. Posted

ActRaiser was a peculiar game, namely due to its unorthodox mixture of action platforming and city-building strategy. It’s also nearly 30 years old, which is pertinent when you consider how much better it is than SolSeraph in almost every aspect of its design.

Developer ACE Team’s latest is, of course, a spiritual successor to the 1990 SNES game, yet it somehow feels even more dated than the original. While ActRaiser was innovative and experimental, SolSeraph is a poor mimicry that fails to muster the same creative spirit.

Structurally, both games are nigh-on identical, with isometric city-building sections interspersed with 2D action platforming. Neither of SolSeraph’s two halves is any good, but the side-scrolling levels are the more egregious of the two by a clear margin. There are basic sword attacks, you can shoot arrows, and there’s a block that can also morph into a backdash.

It’s simple stuff, which isn’t inherently bad on its own, but the controls are unresponsive and everything wrapped around these levels is uniformly dull. There’s really not much to say about the level design other than you run from left to right and occasionally need to jump. Enemy designs are uninspired too, with bats, blue guys, skeletons, and little deviation from these familiar tropes. Some of the bosses are visually interesting, but rarely fun to fight.

It can look good in fleeting moments, but applying the character portraits – reminiscent of 1940s Disney animation – across the whole game would’ve made for a striking art style.

A surprising amount of your time is actually spent waiting for enemies to slowly enter from either the background or foreground. This encompasses the general flow of each level, as you wait for enemies, hit them a few times, and then repeat.

Some enemies enjoy peppering you with arrows from off-screen, while others do everything in their power to stay away from you. There’s nothing enjoyable or satisfying about fighting any of them, and they mostly feel like they were designed just to irritate you. All you need to do is look up the word ‘bland’ in a thesaurus, and you’ll have myriad ways to describe SolSeraph’s action platforming.

The city building doesn’t fare much better either, although it avoids a lot of the previous frustration by virtue of its simplicity. Each level begins with the same rigmarole as you build houses, farms, and lumber mills to accumulate resources and people.

Then you use these assets to construct barracks, archer towers, and other structures that will help to defend the town from an encroaching band of monsters. At this point, it becomes little more than a rudimentary tower defence game, where the easiest way to win is by simply building more stuff.

There’s no nuance or strategy to be found here, which is indicative of SolSeraph as a whole. It does nothing to evolve or improve on its 30-year-old foundation, instead opting for an insipid replica that lacks any of the same charm or compelling ideas of its inspiration. ActRaiser pushed boundaries when it was originally released, but its memories were better off left in the past.

Highlight

The city-building/tower defence half of SolSeraph may be lacking in complexity, but at least it performs well on a controller. Constructing buildings and pathways is done with ease, thanks to an intuitive control scheme that disperses any longing for a mouse and keyboard. SolSeraph isn’t a good game, but it could’ve been worse.

Verdict: 20%

An uninspired and sleep-inducingly bland replica of a much better game.

Genre: Action, strategy
Format: PS4 (tested) / Switch / PC
Developer: ACE Team
Publisher: Sega
Price: £11.99
Release: Out now

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