Summum Aeterna is a hard game to talk about because it really seems to have the right ideas in many of the right places but doesn't really push any of them to their actual functional limits, leading to half-baked ideas.
The issues the game has really begin right at the start with the story and the characters, in that they aren't really given the depth or the attention they need to hook the player. The main character — the King of Darkness — is a defiled king cast down from his throne. If this sounds cliché, you'd be correct; it never seemed to get deeper or more interesting from this point. The King of Darkness is an incredibly bland protagonist, who is, as you'd expect, rude to everyone around him due to them being "beneath" him, and he never changes. However, this isn't even the most baffling thing about him: his conversation sprite doesn't match up with the in-game sprite. In game, he's a blond, relatively slim and clean-shaven man, yet in any conversation, he's an incredibly well-built, dark-haired and bearded man. It's a very odd decision and just feels like a lack of care or effort.
However, in most cases, for a roguelike, its staying power comes from its actual gameplay loop. And for Summum Aeterna it’s… OK. While there are some interesting decisions here and there, it mostly feels messy, badly explained, and incredibly uninspired. Movement feels very stiff, with the King of Darkness both floaty and incredibly heavy all at once, which leads to awkward situations in some of the more precise platforming sections. It also didn't feel particularly responsive, sometimes jumps didn't seem to come out even when I was confident I pressed jump, and with the traps doing as much damage as they did, it led to some incredibly frustrating deaths. Combat at the early stages can be a slog; enemies have a lot of health, and unupgraded weapons do pitiful amounts of damage, yet towards the latter half of runs, it really picks up. As you gain new weapons and gems to augment these weapons, a nice flow begins to pick up, heavily amplifying the power fantasy. Weapon ascensions work well alongside this to give additional abilities to weapons.
The boss fights throughout Summum Aeterna were a little bland; they have far too many long openings, and even with a relatively weak weapon, they can be killed way too quickly. Yet, the worst problem I have here is the sheer unoriginality: the "Three Valkyries" are a near carbon copy of the Mantis Lords from Hollow Knight, yet due to this title's combat not flowing as well as Hollow Knight's it loses much of the satisfaction. Also, the Hand of Chaos — who randomly invades your world within Chaos-inflicted rooms — was a relatively pain-free boss. The fight didn't feel worthwhile or even particularly satisfying. The boss" patterns had no change or additional flair throughout the whole engagement, which made it very boring.
The best part of Summum Aeterna revolves around its interesting stage-building mechanics. At the start of each run, you select a seed, which you collect throughout runs. These all have a set stage, alongside different "genes" — modifiers changing many parts of the run. This really does lead to some unique and interesting choices, even before a run has properly begun, especially when combined with the rune system, allowing you to reroll to try and craft a perfect seed. This works in part with the barely explained chaos system, which adds additional changes throughout each run. You gain access to cursed shrines, which give chaos levels yet also add a negative effect, such as increased enemy health. You also have rooms afflicted by chaos, adding afflicted enemies, along with a chance to get invaded by the Hand of Chaos — who is literally just Frieza from Dragon Ball Z, from his design to his attacks. This is supplemented by chaos levels, which give you "wishes", allowing you to choose between different buffs and upgrades at certain level milestones.
Meta-progression is where the biggest problems seem to occur; much of the game feels balanced around having the skills upgraded, which leads to enemies feeling far too strong in the early game. Many of the unlocks are purely a stat increase, however, there are most definitely some with unique features. Primarily, the forge unlocks modifiers for the weapons, oftentimes improving their core abilities, such as the curse ability on scythes or the ammo count on pistols. This biggest issue comes in the form of resources; there are so many different types that it gets incredibly overwhelming and annoying to manage.
Summum Aeterna isn't a complete flop, yet it seems to simply take too many ideas from other games and struggles to carve out a concrete identity of its own.
Summum Aeterna (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
Summum Aeterna has some intriguing ideas, bogged down by unoriginality and unsatisfying combat.