Sunday, 29 July 2012

Serious Sam: Random Encounter

Serious Sam Random Encounter by indie studio vblameer is their take on the Serious Sam franchise based off the Japanese RPG format. The game has wandering around a 2D map like other JRPGs. Every few steps you will enter into combat and have to fight enemies in a action-turned based format with up to 3 characters. During combat the game has two section. The menu selection section consists of you deciding where you want your weapon to fire, deciding to switch weapons or use an item. The game then unpauses and your characters carry out the action. You can move your charaters up and down the screen to avoid enemy fire and direct their fire more effectively. I think the 2D Graphics are spot on and definitely convey the 16-bit era type gameplay quite well.

From a game design perspective, it's a  good concept but below average execution. So what went wrong in my case?

Combat is unbalanced- In the real serious Sam games, the game strikes a very sharp balance between enemies and your weapons. So while there are lots of enemies, you also have lots of ammo and your weapons are usually just enough to take them out. Unfortunately, in this game that balance is broken, there are often way too many enemies and weapons just don't deal enough damage.

Aiming is awkward- Just like in Serious Sam, enemies can come from almost any angle, allowing you to choose where you aim your gun might actually have had a detrimental effect on creating gameplay balance. I found myself focusing the guns in the centre and then finding the enemies from the top and bottom pretty much . The gun coverage is simply too narrow to accommodate all the enemies on the screen and I simply kept getting overwhelmed.

I understand the developers were trying to make it feel like an FPS but from a game balance and design perspective I think they should have reduced the amount of control players had over the aiming and reduce the areas where the enemies could wander around it. In other words, making it similar to a Tower Defense game like Plants and Zombies.

Need better pickups and more powerups- Some of the pickups are really fun but there are often in short supply. Furthermore because they are limited it's difficult to know when they should be used. I think one thing the designers should have done is created special abilities such as the ability to move faster or attack faster, the equivalent of magic spells in other RPG games. I think this would have really solved the entire problem of balance while increasing strategic depth and playability.

As one reviewer put it, it's a great 'proof of concept' but really needs some polish to be worth US$5 it was released for. I say just play the original Serious Sam game or get Serious Sam Double D instead.

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