SolSeraph puts you in the divine boots of Helios, the Knight of the Dawn, as he helps build civilization and fight against a multitude of Lesser Gods, each manifesting as the embodiment of natural disaster. There is a jumble of religious iconography in the game, and Helios looks especially angelic, but this is not associated with any particular faith. Instead, SolSeraph invents its own mythology, borrowing bits and pieces from the world’s religions.
Each of the five territories consists of two different types of games. To begin with, you fight monsters to discover a new civilization. Each is housed in its own type of environment, which presents its own set of hazards. For example, the island nation is prone to constant flooding, while the snowy northern tribe has farming problems and must rely on livestock instead. You lead people to manage their populations and resources such as food and timber, as well as build defensive structures to repel attacks from monsters. Then you can build a temple next to one of the monsters’ lair, take part in a combat campaign or fight in the arena to clear it, and continue until you unlock the last part, which contains the junior boss god.
SolSeraph’s approach is more like a tower defense game, as waves of monsters all follow a set path to a centralized base marked by a campfire. Defeating waves of monsters requires a variety of defenses, along with divine abilities to summon lightning or send a guard.
People pray to Helios without even hearing an answer, so the idea still exists that they act on faith and hope that some dispassionate deity will put an end to their struggle. You are not as careful as you dictate.
Functionally sim segments are relatively simplistic, but often not intuitive. Monster waves are rare, so it’s often easy to build up a huge arsenal of defenses before the first attack occurs. There is no real penalty for failing, and in reality, the on-screen game simply starts the monster clock from scratch again, keeping all your latest building changes. At the same time, it is not always clear where the monsters will appear and in what quantity. The construction of temples to clear the lairs of monsters depends on reaching the threshold of “Souls”, which are collected from the defeated monsters. This can be counterintuitive in a game about a god gathering believers, who can also logically count as souls and more intelligently associate with building a temple of worship. Instead, Population only matters if it gives you bodies to assign to defenses and farms. There is no counter for your total assigned versus idle villagers, which means you can reassign them at a critical moment by accident.
The other half of the game, the platforming segments, can be unforgiving. The controls are tough and the monsters come from all directions, making it often difficult to turn quickly to take on various threats. Life is expensive, with very rare health regeneration and a magical spell that only recharges one measly unit of health at a time. Checkpoints are often nowhere to be found, which is especially frustrating when you accidentally wander into an optional area with a tougher combat that grants a small permanent reward like additional Weather Magic for a portion of the sim.
Much more problematic in the sequence of actions is the interaction between foreground and background. Helios leads his battle strictly on one plane, but enemies often approach from the foreground or background. You can see them approaching, but until they reach you, the sword strikes will not touch them. The transition between untouchable and vulnerable is not clearly marked, so it is often best to wildly slash an approaching enemy until they take damage – but since some of them fly diagonally towards you, this is not a solid defense. The interaction between these areas can be a major issue when you just need to dodge the background characters firing projectiles, but the tendency of enemies to jump from one plane to another just creates more problems than it’s worth.
Lesser Gods boss characters are an exception to this rule. The collection of boss specimens is largely a creative mixture of different cultural backgrounds from around the world, and the strength of each one and the nature of the attacks are tied to the natural disasters they present to your people. Defeating them gives you new strength, but it is almost as enjoyable to defeat the personification of floods, droughts or wildfires as you watch your culture fight them.