Siralim is a retro inspired, turn-based, procedural role playing game by integrity based Thylacine Studios. At its core, Siralim is a game that has you combatting and summoning the mystical forces of Life, Death, Nature, Chaos, and Sorcery (insert malevolent “Mwahahaha” here). Though in this reviewer’s heart, I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that Siralim is the greatest thing to happen to the Pokémon formula in years. Yes siree, you read that right.
Siralim is criminally overlooked, even by those searching for exactly what it promises and undeniably delivers. I’m going to get this out of the way up front, and I understand what you’re probably thinking…Siralim isn’t the prettiest game. I myself neglected this title for far too long on that lone notion. Despite numerous user and steam generated recommendations, I was simply too jaded to believe such a fully fleshed out experience could come from such a visually archaic wrapper. That’s not to say the game lacks quality in visual character, or style, but I confidently believe most will neglect the depth and charm on offer, due to Siralim having a graphical fidelity barely more complex than the NES classics: Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy I. In fact, like the aforementioned, Siralim is barely animated in the overworld, and combat (aside from spells) even less so. But like a great book, one should not judge based off its cover, a true diamond in the rough awaits. As a visual artist myself, I understand this is all relative, and nonetheless comes down to preference and conjecture. What I do know is this, if you are expecting banal levels of NES style RPG subsystems and mechanics, you are pleasantly in for a world of surprise.
Upon starting a new game you are presented with a large swathe of customization options. The obvious name and sex choices are presented, but then you are asked a deeper question…what type of mage will you be? For instance, whether you choose to start your journey as a Nature, Death, or other mage type, can be equated to whether you would start your morning with tea, coffee, soda, water, etc. Sure, all of the above will hydrate you, but each one can play a different role in how your body metabolizes and functions on a chemical level…much is the same for Siralim’s classes. Do you fancy yourself someone who is focused on sheer damage output in combat scenarios? Consider a Chaos Mage. Are you more concerned with keeping your monsters alive at all costs? A Life Mage has your name written all over it. Do you solely think strength lie in numbers? Perhaps consider the necromantic ways of a Death Mage.
After character customization, you are presented with a brief, but implicitly grandiose intro on how you belong to a kingdom that is reliant on the protection of a storied lineage of Summoner Kings. Your father, The King, has passed and you must take up his mantle as the lone heir. Literally with the weight of the world on your shoulders, you are tasked with raising Castle Siralim to a height of glory and prosperity, the likes of which none have before seen. As king, you will venture forth to lands familiar and foreign, seeking treasure, artifacts, foes great and small, and seek out those who would wish for asylum at Castle Siralim from a cruel, evil filled world. Doing so will grant you powers and riches beyond measure, and a castle teaming with stewards and craftsmen to utilize in payment for food and lodge.
Min-max to your heart’s content without ever feeling pigeon holed into a specific build or playstyle. Strategizing and testing different “builds” of magic and team composition of unlocked monsters is a meta game within itself. Having myself placed hours into just finding my perfect team build. I, a Nature Mage on my primary save file, sport only two Nature monsters, as Nature type typically has a secondary beneficial passive effect for each monster, I tasked myself with seeing just how free form and viable mixing and matching could be. So, in addition to my party of six, I opted for the pure damage output of a Chaos creature in my ranks, as well as the resurrecting ability of a particular Life creature. Adding to that a Death type who summons friendlies and a Sorcery type that lowers an enemy’s maximum health with each attack (to prevent foes from effectively healing), and I’ve got myself one hell of a six man army. Tack on the ability to personalize (color), equip, and name each of your monsters, and you, like me, can roam the wilds, come desert, dungeon, or tundra, with your own group of “besties”.
The act of personalization, RPG progression, and ownership is second to none. As a defender of the dwindling niche that is the monster taming genre, I can firmly state Siralim stands up to the competition, and in some regards, bests it. Tired of ye old random battles in that “other game” that has you walking through tall grass, never knowing when your next combatant will strike? Yes reader, that is indeed a jab at my ever cherished Pokémon. I know, how dare I, right?! Well, in earnest, Siralim has NO random encounters. All enemies are presented in the overworld just like yourself, freeing you to run from, or chase after whoever, or more precisely, whatever you want. And if there’s one thing RPG fans in general love, it’s good ol’fashioned numbers. Specifically, seeing numbers rise in relation to our character/s, because that means one thing: Power, with a capital ‘P’. Siralim has you covered to the nth degree, as your player character, summoned creatures, items and artifacts will all continually rise in level, with no restrictions or level caps, period. Do you want to be a level 1000 God King? Do it!
For those hardcore players that starve for challenge, Siralim also boasts multiple modifiers that allow one the ability to turn the game into the semblance of a roguelike or “roguelite”. If you love games that make you restart from ground zero should you fall in battle, that option is available to you by enabling Hardcore Mode when starting a new game. Those familiar with Pokémon Nuzlocke challenges will be right at home here, with the Reincarnation Mode that has fallen monsters die if not resurrected by the end of a combat encounter, though they will then reincarnate as a different creature with a portion of the previously gained experience points. Lastly, the Random Creature Mode randomizes the creatures that spawn in different zones and through level progression, this can make the game wildly easier or vastly more difficult, but guarantees an intriguing playthrough regardless. The best thing about the above modes is that they can all be enabled or disabled together at once. For instance, say you like a little Nuzlocke style challenge and randomized variety, but nothing so extreme as to rob you of your progression or save file; go for it.
A complete freedom of choice that is continually encouraged by constant progression. Here, the wide margin for optional playstyles is such a major boon in comparison to the guided, hand holding experiences on display in typical monster taming video games. Keeping in mind the near infinite possibilities of procedural generation of environments and quests, an infinite leveling system, and an Arena to test your mettle, one would be hard pressed to run out of game here. Thylacine Studios is very candid that they sought out to “create a game that can be played forever.” They did, and I just may want to. If you are a Pokémon fan, someone who was into any other title in the myriad of monster taming franchises, or simply an advocate of NES style Japanese RPGs, it is damn near a sin not to own a copy of Siralim. So strap yourself in with a copy on your platform of choice, because Siralim has you covered and is available to you on Windows, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS Vita, PS4, Android, and iOS. Here’s hoping the sequel, Siralim 2 (currently available on Steam, iOS, Android), lives up to my newfound love of the first title.