There have been a wealth of awesome games coming out of the indie scene over the last few years. With far less pressures put on them, thanks to having much smaller fanbases and way less shareholders to please, small independent developers are free to take more risks, be more creative and afford to deliver different, innovative experiences that AAA publishers wouldn’t even dare to look at twice. It’s a freedom that has the power to re-write gaming’s fatigued rulebooks (FTL: Faster Than Light, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Fez etc.) or a power to refine and breathe new life into the games that we have enjoyed in the past (Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, Rogue Legacy etc.). Siralim falls slap bang into the latter category; of refining a tried-and-true old-school formula and executing it in style.
When you first begin, Siralim entices you with just a bread-crumb of backstory; your father, the previous king of Siralim, has died and it is your job to protect and manage the kingdom. Luckily, you also discover that you are a powerful mage with the great skill of controlling the nasty critters that roam wild in your kingdom. You are then given the choice of what type of mage you would like to be. Each different type of mage comes sporting their very own little monster that fights your battles for you. For example, I started the game as a Nature Mage which meant that my first loveable companion was a Springtime Aspect, a sort of giant organic golem, whose special ability was Call of the Bloom. Basically, if a creaure attacked my Springtime Aspect, it would have a 30% chance of dodging their incoming attack and healing 25% of its health thanks to its Call of the Bloom special ability. Neat!
Siralim has a huge amount of creatures and every one of them has their very own unique ability. Remember the first Pokemon game? Well, Siralim has over twice as many creatures to catch! Admittedly, Siralim’s critters only have one special ability, compared to Pokemon’s more varied selection of abilities, however, I found Siralim’s more streamlined approach to be rather refreshing. Putting a critter’s face to each of Siralim‘s plethora of special abilities helped keep me up-to-date with some of the nuances within combat. For example, there’s a minotaur early on in the game which is a bit’ve a bad-ass; every time it gets hit, its damage output increases by 20%. He is one prickly son-of-a-gun. After vanquishing my team a couple of times in one hit, I quickly realised that the minotaur dude needs to be attacked last. Every time I saw the minotaur, I knew that s*** was gonna get real if I focussed my attacks on him too early in the fight. Now, that is just one example of many, many more nuances within Siralim‘s deep and surprisingly satisfying combat.
The combat system within Siralim is turn-based and much of your time is spent spamming the attack option and hoping for the best. However, there are a lot of layers to the combat system, but these layers often take time to truly materialize. Each creature’s special abilities play a massive role in the combat and it’s learning and understanding these abilities that will help give you the advantage in battle. There is also an abundance of magic spells that can be cast when the s*** hits the fan. These range from support buffs, that can protect or heal your critters, to more direct attack spells, like fireballs or lightning projectiles, that can do some heavy damage to the many nasty monsters that Siralim throws at you.
One thing that I really loved about Siralim is that the monsters that you initially hate, like the ones that one-hit-kill you or keep dodging your attacks or keep reviving the enemy party members, are the monsters that you will end up absolutely loving when they are assimilated into your own party. It’s so satisfying capturing that nasty little bugger and making it your own, especially when the creatures that cause you the most trouble turn into super useful allies that really benefit your team.
Visually, Siralim is not much of a looker, but I’d be lying if I said I’d want it any other way. Its 8-bit/16-bit aesthetic is unbelievably charming and each of the hand-drawn sprites are wonderfully designed and lovingly crafted. It’s a game that has undoubtedly had a lot of love and enthusiasm poured into it and it really does show. What also helps to bring the action to life is some terrific sound design. Each of the monsters have their own 8-bit/16-bit sound effects and the fantasy score, though a touch repetitive, manages to imbue the game with a measure of fantasy mystique that is very welcome indeed. The fantastic hand-drawn art, whimsical music and clever sound effects invites your imagination in and the incredible depth of the game mechanics keeps you there; it’s a great roguelike RPG that is full of rewarding and meaningful content.
It’s been a while since a small-scale indie game has knocked me off my feet in the same way Siralim has. The more I play it, the more I love it. It’s an astonishingly rewarding retro RPG rabbit-hole that only gets better the deeper you delve into it. It reminds me a lot of a turn-based Rogue Legacy, where you are constantly upgrading your castle, exploring and looting randomly-generated dungeons and constantly leveling up your character. It’s not a game I’d recommend for everyone, but those who do get into it will be absolutely hooked. It’s stylish, it’s deep, it’s addictive and it’s perfect on PS Vita.
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