The Average Gamer

E3 2011 – El Shaddai: Ascension of The Metatron Preview (360)

Enoch. Down, ladies.

El Shaddai: Ascension of The Metatron is a beautiful and exceedingly odd game. After 20 minutes on the demo at E3, I’m still not entirely sure about this button-mashing platformer.

You play Enoch, who is apparently on a mission from God to run around and hit things. You dress in snazzy jeans and are blond with white armour plates and white weapons, therefore you are good. What’s not apparent in the game is that you also have a rather large package. Make of that what you will, boys and girls.

There’s a guy that you’ll occasionally run into – he has black hair and a black shirt and therefore I have instantly presumed that he is evil. Looking at his snazzy jeans, it’s probably not his fault. He just feels inadequate next to Enoch. Also, his name is Lucifel. Not LuciFER, you understand. LuciFEL. This guy stands around looking effortlessly cool and talking on his mobile to God.

The game is very stylish with… nah, I’ll let the screenshots speak for themselves. Scroll down the bottom where you’ll see that each section has a different art style. Your job is to travel along an invisible corridor through a range of minimalist environments, leaping from platform to platform and occasionally running across ocean waves that let you plunge to your death with no warning whatsoever. Platforming is trickier than it should be due to the combination of camera angles and aesthetic choices. See 3:15 in the video, with the water puddles and then the holes in the floor immediately following. It’s not complicated – you have pretty good control over Enoch, both on the ground and in the air – but the number of times I ran straight into holes like that… aaaargh!

Lucifel. He's probably just misunderstood.

Combat is… Okay, I’m done trying to be diplomatic. I hated the combat. I found it enthralling at first because the attack animations are very slick and almost elegant. 10 minutes later, the excitement wears off and you realise that it’s all either jumping or mashing your single attack button. Double jump, double mash. Dodge then mash. Mash into the air, jump, mash some more. After a certain number of hits, your weapon becomes corrupted (ie. turns black) and you have to purify it by holding down a shoulder button. A corrupt weapon is probably less effective but, to be honest, I was looking out for that and there wasn’t a notable damage reduction.

When it comes to battle complexity you’ll need to use a few tactics, like getting in close to a ranged enemy and staying far away from a melee enemy or… Oh, that’s right. You need to use two tactics.

What I found particularly frustrating was that you don’t even have the freedom to use these two tactics when you want. There are three weapon types in the game, a big Bat’leth-style melee weapon, some swirling arrow things (called Gale) for range and something else that I couldn’t really figure out because I didn’t get it until after clearing most of the enemy. The annoying combat restriction is that you can’t choose what weapon to use on demand. You change weapons by stunning an enemy who uses the type you want and then stealing it from him. Enoch only carries one weapon at a time, so woe betide the gamer who carries the wrong weapon for an upcoming platform or enemy.

I appreciate the game’s aesthetic and the effort that’s gone into keeping El Shaddai accessible to longtime and new gamers. I want to say that I’m curious to see more. Problem is, I’m not. The single-button attack method is nice and simple but even with the striking attack animations for each of the weapon styles, the game bored me very quickly. As with many Japanese-designed games, I find the whole thing technically very pleasing yet a little too soulless.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron will be released in the UK on 9th September 2011, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Watch Gamespot’s video of the demo from March and check out the June screenshots below: