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Afterpatch Review: Serin Fate
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
LOOK MA, I’M A WITCH! - Introduction
A week prior to emailing Crytivo, I had no inkling of Serin Fate’s existence. It wasn’t until I was browsing through the upcoming section of the eShop that it’d slither into my life. I’ll shoot from the hip and say the thumbnail turned me off. It wasn’t awful, but nothing about it managed to entice. What ended up piquing my curiosity was the different name. It was like a sore thumb sticking out amid actual English words. Don’t get me wrong, as Fate fits that descriptor. It was Serin that had me pondering and questioning. Well, after digging further, the photos were interesting to me. I’ve been burned before by pixelated art, but evidently, I didn't learn, and even though I’m going in blind, I was prepared to dance. Hopefully, I don’t come out of this with egg on my face.
WE HAVE A PROBLEM! - Writing
Farming simulators follow an established formulaic approach that, throughout the years, has proven quite beneficial. There is a smattering of ingredients that meld together seamlessly to create an experience worth having. This genre strives to promote a sense of coziness. It wants to replicate the serene feeling of snuggling underneath a blanket with a hot beverage. Serin Fate craves to nuzzle itself into that niche comfortably but, unfortunately, is a failure at doing so. That potent charm NPCs usually carry in their dialogue is missing. There’s no real opportunity to endear oneself to anyone because everything feels flat. Any information I got was the bare minimum, only ever enough to clue me into the events before pushing forward. No one has substance, which is a disservice to the inherent charisma infused in the pixel aesthetic. Sadly, that’s not the worst of this incohesive plotline.
Hell, when given the primary objective of the journey, the main character doesn’t even fathom the sheer importance of it. Ignoring that the actual premise is generic, the absence of drama or urgency severely bogs it down. As is, nothing is motivating you to the finish line. Nothing had me shackled in suspense or curious. To be fair, there’s an argument that other titles under the same umbrella have that problem, too. The advantage they have, however, is I’d be immersed in the mystery and invest myself in the characters. Serin Fate feels like the epitome of NPCs just happy to be there. They're faceless entities with dialogue full of meaningless words - that’s no bueno. Worst of all, because several of them aren’t interactable, the core cast is the main contributor to blandness. Personality is mainly lacking, but not all is grim.
SOME GOOD NEWS! - Writing
The overall package does comprise a handful of points that, if they were fleshed out, would have been quite interesting. The lore has the potential to be adequate. The ball is dropped, though, because Serin Fate has no desire to capitalize on it seemingly. For instance, I enjoyed how it manipulates phrases we’d say in everyday life, giving it a twist that’s faithful to this world. It adds an element of whimsy. Sadly, it’s also a look into a dim glimmer of passion that’s M.I.A within further literary snippets. Hell, the archetypes utilized, such as the determined princess or mean girl, are so basically realized and boring. The pacing is discombobulated, rendering any wonderment utterly null. Nothing about it was exciting, and I ultimately didn’t care about anything. That’s a problem in a genre that thrives off quirky, slice-of-life elements.
GOT MYSELF A PET! - Gameplay
I’m huge into Pokémon. Some would go so far as to classify me as a fanatic. The concept of capturing little critters before doing battle enthralls me. So, imagine my giddiness upon discovering that Serin Fate exerts pieces of that same ideology. Within the various areas, there’s a slim chance of crossing a unique animal. Balls won’t be what’s harnessed when catching them, though, or, at least, not in the physical form. You see, magic is integral to this universe, and because of that, a sphere of pure energy is what’s on the menu. Admittedly, it all sounds pretty identical thus far, but where it differentiates is, unlike Pokémon, there are no evolutions. The similarities only extend so much but include breeding. The problem is, in about 25 hours of playing, I caught one female. Due to the lopsided nature of finding this single gender, it mitigates usage.
For the seizure of a monster, weakening them won’t be fruitful. Serin Fate sets itself apart from other methods, using distance as the deciding factor - close proximity is the equivalent of near-death. It employs a stealth mindset in the player as you sneakily have to walk towards them, hiding in the grass to avoid detection. Moreover, because there’s no need to purchase anything, grinding for cash is no longer a worry. Mana is the required resource that can be recovered by simply slaughtering everything in sight. Granted, getting them to drop what’s needed isn’t a guarantee, but with progression, the bolstered mana capacity I’d gain helps supplement the discrepancy. That then triggers the perpetual cycle of casting the capture spell, murdering, then rinse and repeat. They respawn at a fair speed, too, meaning any retries were swift and immediate. I never had to meander around aimlessly, waiting.
WITCHES CAN CRAFT! - Gameplay
Unsurprisingly, crafting plays a significant role in Serin Fate. It’s not an original idea, but the execution is rather clever, encouraging you to go out and collect items. You see, recipes aren’t given through quests. Instead, they’re rewarded by grabbing hold of the drops of monsters or the treasures found in chests before analyzing each one. Doing so records them all into your notebook and potentially unlocks the means to construct various objects like weapons, armour, woodcutting tables, and so much more. I was always curious whenever I’d gather something I’d never seen, like a mouldy cloth or monster statue. What I especially loved was when looking inside the titular notebook, there’s a small photo of the item, along with a sentence worth of description, and whatever amalgamation embraces that specific thing as an ingredient. It’s bloody fun, but sadly, it’s hiding a dark secret.
Storage isn’t universal, meaning to build anything specific; I had to plop the materials into my inventory first - and that’s quite constricted. It’s absurd that such an archaic methodology exists in 2022. It effortlessly renders an intelligent, joyful activity into nothing more than a damn chore. Couple that with a piss poor memory, and it becomes arduous. I was jumping endlessly between table and chest, checking and rechecking what was needed. It got to the point I’d pick and choose what to make, severely undercutting the general idea. As an extra spicy kick to the pants, a box with that very capability can be built late-game. Until then, though, it taunts me. Serin Fate refuses to incorporate quality of life improvements, and it’s baffling. I’ll forever be astonished by how this single decision causes an entire mechanic to crumble into mediocrity.
MAKING BABIES! - Gameplay
One thing I failed to mention previously is to fornicate; it requires a fenced pen. Once constructed, the next step is placing both a male and female inside. Aside from bumping uglies, these enclosures serve other purposes. One can check the critter's happiness rating, play with them, and feed them a snack. Upon seeing this, I assumed the default pet grub would suffice. Unbeknownst to me, that isn’t the case, and each pet has a preference indicated from a deep dive into their species. It’s evident this feature is meant to be a focal point. My gripe is because of the multitude of species; it’s difficult to recall everything. By throwing in a tiny blurb in item descriptions, it would help to eliminate discarding helpful anything. With my minimal inventory space, I’d appreciate that quality of life inclusion. Are you beginning to notice a pattern?
TIME FOR BEDDY BYE! - Gameplay
Cycling day and night is a prominent feature of farm simulators. One could argue it’s a defining aspect. Many activities, be it crop growth, side-quests, or festivals, are varying degrees of reliant on it. Serin Fate doesn't stray from the tried and true recipe, but it does implement spices that muddle the food. For some stupid reason, your character has an internal clock. Typically, going to sleep isn’t contingent upon the sun setting and the moon rising. It’s a free-for-all, rendering it exploitable. Due to there being a bedtime, though, I’m forced to grind until it allows me to get shut-eye.
Another problem is with Mana's recovery. Every night, your apparition scurries outside to gather falling stars. Grabbing these restores a small amount, but this method is redundant. There are zero reasons for it, embodying the literal definition of pointlessness.
GROWING TREES! - Gameplay
Serin Fate has an intriguing levelling system that isn’t tied to the overall character’s stats. Instead, there are four different skills that, upon increase, bestow a point to invest in a Perk Tree. The categories are Witchery, Combat, Necromancy, and Harvesting. Many of the abilities you can learn are tied to either, which means they require allocation from a particular subset. Boosting these on an individual basis is pretty self-explanatory, but for further context, the icon that represents each is more than sufficient. In keeping with the fantasy aesthetic, cutting down trees and mining for ore is done with magical variations of the tools. I loved this method because I didn’t physically need to do it. It’s possible to summon these before journeying off. As you’re progressing the storyline, it continues working in the background. It’s a rare but excellent quality of life adjustment.
HELP, I’M PIXELATED! - Performance/Presentation
I’m a huge fan of pixel art and find it incredibly charming. Serin Fate has a serviceable graphical look, but that’s it; it only goes so far. The style itself is pretty fabulous, albeit the environments are generic. I’m not sure how to put it, but they feel empty. Perhaps that’s because a few areas are more prominent than the objects inside. It’s dense but doesn’t have the quantity such a thing demands. Probably the worst facet is the crashing. The game struggles, severely chugging in a fight with more than an enemy, particularly if they’d burst into a loot explosion. Frames plummet to single digits. It does bounce back eventually and carries on as usual. It wasn’t until I went to save after hours of playing that issues arose. An error occurred, and with it, the desire to keep pushing dissipated.
AND THE ENCHANTING VERDICT IS…
Serin Fate has excellent ideas I’m absolutely in love with. Unfortunately, the lack of quality of life shows an apparent disdain for a player’s time. Anytime I discover a facet I like, something that devolves the experience to being a chore creeps in. For example, the way abilities are taught with tablets sprinkled throughout the world encourages exploration - give me more of that. Yet, a needless internal clock being haphazardly tossed into my character feels like the title trying to control how quickly you play. It’s almost as though it’s attempting to control game length, artificially prolonging it. I do, however, believe that if every negative I pinpointed were addressed, the cleverness hidden within the slog would shine bright. Another thing is to please; when I pause, stop on-screen action. I’ve died many times just because I needed to use the loo, which is frustrating.
The absence of patches is telling, leaving Serin Fate in a nonoptimal state. As is, it’s an average journey of what could be great ideas. It’s also only worth grabbing in a deep sale.
Special thanks to Crytivo for providing the code used for this coverage.