Ignition is known for taking risks with quirky games that otherwise might not have seen the light of day outside of Japan, such as Boing Docomodake and Lux Pain. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron isnt exactly the most conventional title for a game, so that alone got me to look further into this game. When I saw that the character designer for the game was Takeyasu Sawaki, from Devil May Cry, I was doubly intrigued and gave the demo a whirl.
1. The first thing that stood out to me was the presentation, with the word “ethereal” immediately coming to mind. It reminded me of the presentation in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. There were also watercolor cel-shading like we have previously seen in Okami (right down to the swirls of wind), which is not surprising considering the designer from that game was involved. The music is atmospheric and haunting. The voice acting sound decent so far, better than what was in Arc Rise Fantasia. There’s an option to choose between English and Japanese voices and subtitles, which is a rather nice inclusion.
2. While it looked pretty, the graphical style made it a bit difficult to discern where you were jumping to and to distinguish between a puddle and a gap at first. Thankfully, the checkpoints were generously dispersed enough that missing a jump didn’t set you back too far.
3. The storytelling felt abstract, and there wasn’t much sense of what it was actually about from what’s presented in the demo. You play as a mortal priest named Enoch, and you’re on a mission, but that’s about as much as you’re given. I imagine things will make more sense in the full game.
4. The platforming and short corridors connecting the battles work fine, and the controls for those are fairly responsive. However, some variation in those would help keep those sections from becoming boring over time.
5. The arena battles also evoked thoughts of Okami. However, there’s no way to escape, so you have to fight them. It doesn’t help that blocking seems ineffective, as enemies’ attack break through anyway after about two to three hits.
6. You have to stop and purify your weapons (or steal one from your enemy) periodically, because they become corrupted the more you use them, which dampens their power. You can also steal enemies’ weapons to use for yourself. Stealing their weapon does leave them unarmed, so it benefits you to steal it even if you already have the weapon they’re holding. The blade and darts were the only two types of weapons you got to try out, as the demo ended right as you encounter an enemy with the third weapon.
7. Combat felt rather simplified. Yes, you can steal different weapons from enemies, but you only use one attack button and a block button, which leaves little variety in battles. Button mashing can be fun in short bursts, but it can get monotonous after a point.
8. Should you sustain lethal damage during arena battles, you can mash R1, L1, square, and X to recover. If successful, you revive right in the middle of battle with nary a scratch. This was a handy feature considering how the odds are more stacked against you when facing off against multiple enemies.
9. The lack of any sort of HUD fits with the overall minimalist approach of the game. The only indication of health you get is the top of the screen turning red when you’re running low, which helps alert you to be more careful and/or get ready to mash the aforementioned buttons.
10. The demo was on the short side, but it did leave me curious about the game, and I’d want to see more of it before I make any final judgements. But it does seem like it has potential, and hopefully the gameplay will be substantial enough to sustain itself over longer play sessions.