Grinding is a divisive gameplay element, even in the best of games. Smiting enemy after enemy, hour after hour can grow tiresome after a while, and doesn’t lend itself especially well to the iOS platform, where instant satisfaction is the norm. For this reason, I must preface this review by asserting that Siralim 2 by Thylacine Studios isn’t for everyone. But for anyone who enjoys a good grind, and is able to overlook its harshly-designed exterior, Siralim 2 is a fantastic example of pure RPG-Roguelike excellence.
Graphical fidelity isn’t Siralim 2’s strong suit. Booting up the game, I instantly cringed at the questionable mix of pixel art and smooth text, which is generally an aesthetic no-no. Framerate drops plague certain dungeons, and tiled floors flicker underfoot as the strings holding the game together threaten to burst, hinting at a low budget and small development team. However, my initial concerns and judgments that arose while playing the first half-hour of Siralim 2 were completely vanquished when I came across the game’s Bestiary, hinting at Siralim 2’s depth and detail. With 536 beasts to hatch or capture in the game’s dangerous procedurally-generated dungeons, I soon grew enraptured with the chase to catch every last one.
But while the monster-capturing aspect of Siralim 2 vaguely resembles Pokemon and its ilk, its high level of difficulty and unusual progression style sets it apart from the pack. From the hub world of Siralim, your protagonist warps into an alternate dimension of Realms, which grow more difficult as you progress to higher levels. Every realm is ruled by a god, who can be swayed to your favor through the completion of various tasks. The God of the Sea might request that you find his lost doubloons, and the God of War might simply like to see you shed some blood in his honor. Helping out these sometimes-needy gods is a treat, as their character traits are quite over-the-top and self-aware. Unfortunately, the Goddess of Poison was written with strained, uncomfortably juvenile humor, which verged on tasteless. This character aside, most of Siralim 2’s humor is quite delightful. Every few levels, you’ll be presented with a massively-difficult boss, who will require quite a bit of grinding to take down, so you’ll need to return to lower-level realms to level-up your team. Combat is turn-based, and customizable with a huge variety of spell gems and weapons, which can be purchased, upgraded or broken down to their raw materials by characters in the hub world. There are no checkpoints within each Realm, so if your character dies, they’ll be instantly warped back to the hub world, depleting your Power Balance level, but without any serious consequences. It’s a fairly-balanced system, as you’re never forced to proceed to a realm that’s too difficult, but the rewards for taking a daring route are sufficiently enticing.
Beyond the grind, Siralim 2 also offers a few mini-games which can be played in the castle pub with some colorful dwarves, and in-depth breeding system. Upon summoning the souls of creature whose essence you’ve captured in battle, monsters can be added to your team or bred with each other to create more powerful combinations. The monsters are varied in personality and skills, and 8 hours into the game, I’ve barely seen a fraction of the game’s monster types. The amount of content in Siralim 2 is fantastic, considering the budget that the team is working on, and Thylacine’s pledge to boycott crowdfunding and microtransactions. What you see is what you get with Siralim 2, and that’s a great thing. If any of the content seems daunting or confusing, the developers have included an extensive library of information in the hub world, which can be read through manual-style.
For an iOS game, Siralim 2 is a little pricey at $4.99, but it offers easily a dozen hours of content, if not more. It’s well-written, well-designed, and if you can get past the rough visuals, it’s a highly atmospheric experience, clearly created by developers who are passionate about what they do. Thylacine’s love for the genre shines through in every moment of Siralim 2, and I highly recommend the purchase to fans of roguelikes, monster-collectors, and RPGs alike.