Have you ever played a side-scroller and thought to yourself, “Man, an auto-aiming feature would really make this game easier?” Well, there is a game for you. It’s developer Dreadbit’s Seraph, recently released on PC as part of Steam’s Early Access. Just because Seraph has an auto-aiming feature, don’t think it will be an easy game; there is also another feature called dynamic difficulty scaling that keeps you on your toes.
In Seraph, you take control of an angel who is bringing down demonic hordes in a futuristic setting. She takes them down using her holy powers and arsenal of guns. Her standard guns, though, are her twin pistols, so the gameplay feels like you’re Lara Croft in a 2D setting killing demons. Her holy powers – termed “miracles” in the game – give her a multitude of skills. One in particular is blink, allowing her to temporarily bypass enemies and their attacks as well as giving her extra mobility (since this angel doesn’t have wings).
Blink and auto-aiming really gives Seraph a great edge as a side-scroller. It allows you to really focus on moving and evading rather than aiming and killing. This is especially evident when you have waves of enemies on both sides—the angel will use her twin pistols to shoot both ways giving you a clear decision on which side to blink to. For those decisions when you want to just focus on one enemy (like a boss, for example), a quick press of a button or a quick hold of a joystick in the direction you want to focus on will lock the angel’s aim in that direction. But I find it actually easier to just let the auto-aiming feature do its work; most of the enemies are very agile to move from one side of the screen to the other, and focusing on one direction can sometimes be a bad decision.
As mentioned previously, even though Seraph is kind enough to give you leniency in aiming for targets and a move to escape easily, it also makes sure that you’re getting a challenge. The dynamic difficulty scaling feature is exactly as how you think it is. The better you are at avoiding attacks and killing demons, the harder the game will get. This means the demons you face, even though there’s not a lot of different types, changes attack patterns and gets more skills as the difficulty spikes from 1.00 to 8.00. The increasing numeral depiction of the difficulty, in my opinion, reinforces my satisfaction that I am getting better and better in the game as I progress.
There are ways to customize your play style in Seraph. The angel can pick up new guns via chests, which consists of assault rifles, shotguns, and revolvers. She can upgrade these weapons by collecting various items dropped by felled demons and inside the chests to make them stronger. You can also create new and upgrade miracles with these items; however, you can only have two active miracles at a time. The miracles range from projecting a frisbee-like orb to creating light pillars that can be used as traps.
The angel’s stats can also be upgraded in two ways: the standard leveling up and collecting and distributing shards. Leveling up consists of collecting motes, some of the items that demons drop when they are killed or scattered along the level, as experience points. After collecting enough motes, the angel levels up, increases her stats (like her health points) and gets to choose a blessing. Blessings are passive buffs and the angel gets to pick from four random ones per level, and after four different ones have been chosen, they can only be upgraded (so choose wisely). The angel can also pick from a list of other buffs via shards. Shards are these crystal-like essences that demons can drop as well. After collecting three shard pieces, a full shard is created and can be attached to a buff. The buffs from the shards are categorized in three families: defense, holy, and munitions.
There are other ways to collect shards, motes, and demon parts than the main game. Seraph features daily challenge and weekly survival modes that you can participate in. Completing these modes results in an overall ranking with other players who have participated, and rewards are given based on how good you are. These modes are great ways to increase your stats if you do find a certain level (or difficulty spike) a little hard to progress. It also encourages competition between players to see who’s really good at the game.
Another innovative feature in Seraph is its Twitch integration. Although, I wasn’t able to do it (since I don’t have a Twitch account), the feature allows a player to not only broadcast his/her gameplay live, but it will also allow spectators to vote on certain things as he/she progresses through the game. The votes can be rewarding or punishing; the choices may be to give him/her a powerful arsenal for the next level or to face two bosses instead of one.
Overall, Seraph is shaping like a great game to pick up if you’re itching for a good side-scroller. The features such as auto-aiming and dynamic difficulty scaling gives the game a refreshing new take in the genre. The challenge modes also gives it a slight competitive flavor that makes it great.
This preview is based on an Early Access version of the game provided by the publisher.