When a development team has games such as Devil May Cry, Okami and Viewtiful Joe under their belt, one can’t help but expect big things of anything new that they turn their hands to. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has certainly been building up the hype as of late, and TSA was invited over to check out the game for ourself.
El Shaddai is a 3rd person fantasy action title inspired by events in the Old Testament, in particular the apocryphal ‘Book of Enoch’. Enoch, a brave and just human, is caught up in a pivotal battle raging between Heaven and the Fallen Angels. Though lacking their powers, he must overcome the Fallen Angels in order to save humankind from a great flood ordered by God to wash away their twisted empire on Earth.
In order to succeed, Enoch must use his natural combat skills and master a range of powerful Heavenly weapons under the guidance of the watchful Archangels.
The obvious starting point for talking about El Shaddai is the visual style; it’s absolutely breath-taking. I’ve never come across a game that looks so striking and there were instances, such as chapter 2, where I just had to stop playing for a moment to drink it all in.[drop] It’s not a one trick pony either, as every chapter I played (I got just under half way through the game) looked totally different to the last. The best example of this is chapter 4, but I can’t tell you what it is because I really don’t want to ruin the surprise. Needless to say I spent the first few minutes looking shocked, and the last few minutes grinning like a simpleton. The music is also extremely good, matching up with the vibe of the level. If a game could be scored on presentation alone, then El Shaddai would be sitting at the top of the class.
Of course looks aren’t everything, and we need some solid gameplay to back it up. This is the area that concerned me the most, as I really wasn’t keen on parts of the Japanese demo. Thankfully things seemed a lot smoother this time. I don’t know whether the team have tweaked it, but when Enoch jumped he felt a bit weightier, whereas before it was terribly floaty.
The game lacks any sort of health bar, opting to create a clutter free screen, so instead you have to rely on the visual markers to assess how Enoch is doing. The more damage he takes, the more armour will fall off him until he’s pretty much down to his briefs.
In terms of fighting, you can fight with your fists but you’ll really want to grab a weapon as soon as possible. You can get one by stealing it from an enemy; I always thought stealing was a sin, but you’re actively encouraged to do so.
When using a weapon you will notice it gradually changing colour. This is because it is becoming corrupted, which makes it weaker. When this happens you either have to liberate another one, or purify the one you have. The downside to purification is that it takes a couple of seconds to do, which leaves you open to attack. I still maintain that the fighting system needs a target lock but its omission isn’t a game breaker by any means, or at least it wasn’t during my playtest.
I enjoyed the time I spent with El Shaddai. Obviously there’s more to go through, but with the game out for PS3 and Xbox 360 in a couple of weeks it’s best to leave that to the review. It’ll be interesting to see if the levels remain varied, and if the fighting is deep enough to maintain interest for several hours.