REVIEW : El Shaddai ASCENSION OF THE METATRON (PC)
Beauty is a dangerous thing. The allure of exploring a world rich in the products of artistic expression might entice the unwary into an aesthetically appealing but fundamentally deficient wasteland. On the surface, El Shaddai: The Ascension of Metatron screams, “see but don’t touch.” The evocative vistas capture your interest, but the basic fighting system based on one pitiful attack button makes this religious adventure appear to be all style and no substance.
This isn’t a button masher, thankfully. Slicing down enemies with your arsenal of heavenly weaponry requires skill and precision, but the depth isn’t completely revealed until you unlock the harsher difficulty settings. Even on standard difficulties, the seamless pace of fighting acts as an excellent match to the expressive visuals. El Shaddai: The Ascension of the Metatron treats its beauty as part of the experience rather than a crutch to prop up a superficial facade, resulting in an engaging journey that delivers on multiple fronts.
Enoch, the scrivener, isn’t afraid to get his hands filthy. Originally appointed to record the elders’ acts, this brave human is hurled down to Earth to gather fallen angels before God washes away their sins (and the lives of countless humanity) in a cataclysmic flood. The majority of the story is told through animated sequences and still pictures interspersed with explanatory text. However, the more engaging plot components are intertwined with the gameplay. There are times when you run through plain 2D canvases with dialogue filling in key gaps, and the incorporation of the story inside the action gives the experience great weight.
El Shaddai is a straightforward action-adventure that integrates battle and platforming in 3D and 2D locales beneath its abstract and ambitious veneer. Although beautiful, the different stages you visit are linear, with only little detours off the usual route for the uncommon hidden object. This confinement limits your ability to wriggle free of the shackles and stretch your legs on this beautiful planet, but it is not without advantages. El Shaddai compensates for its lack of mobility with razor-sharp precision.
There is a constant urge to move forward, and you find yourself racing into combat, leaping over platforms, and sprinting across magnificent lands without pause. The visual and aural design does an excellent job at keeping you motivated to keep going. Every few steps, new landmarks appear, beckoning you along, and the eclectic music alternates between tracks to keep your ears as pleased as your eyes.
When challenged to a duel, you must redirect your attention away from the atmospheric wonders and toward the demonic demons closing in. Because your repertoire of moves is restricted, the battle is dependent on positioning and time rather than figuring out which attack to utilize. Every attack uses only one button. Depending on how you hit it (tap versus hold), if you use a modifier (which sends foes into the air), or whether you’re jumping or standing firmly on the ground, you do different techniques. Your defensive manoeuvres consist of the block and leap buttons, as well as the ability to dodge. It appears simple and simple to learn, but there is more intricacy than you may realize at first.
With each successful strike, you inflict visible harm on your frenzied adversaries. El Shaddai is played without a HUD (though you will be able to use one if you complete the game), but the expertly crafted visuals ensure you know all the information you require. Both you and your opponents wear armour that degrades as you take damage. You can see the impact of your rage on their ruined bodies when you land a particularly severe attack. It’s a great sensation to smack your well-armed opponents around until they’re just running around in their underwear. That tremendous feeling is reciprocal.
Enoch loses his valuable protection as fights progress, and there’s no better feeling than winning a fight after digging in your heels as you’re towards the end. If you die in battle, you can resurrect yourself if you have nimble fingers. Slamming on the shoulder or face buttons brings you back to life, albeit each subsequent try is more difficult than the previous. It’s exhilarating to wake up at the last possible second and then tear your stunned opponent to shreds.
Every weapon has advantages and disadvantages; keep them clean. Throughout the combat, your weapons gradually deteriorate from pure to corrupt. When they turn dark, they lose practically all of their power, so you’re wasting your time flailing around. You can clean your tool by tapping a button, but be careful with your timing. You’re vulnerable during those few seconds, and this tiny twist adds another dimension of realism to the fight.
Although you’re normally only allowed to battle two foes at once (new ones join in when their partners die), it can be difficult to keep your enemies at bay when it’s time to cleanse. At the very least, you have another option. When you deplete your opponent’s health, they become shocked. That is your opportunity to steal their weapons. El Shaddai is such a beautiful game that it would have been worth playing even if the fighting were mediocre. Beyond the game’s amazing visual design, though, creator Ignition Entertainment provided reasons to play. The fighting system makes fantastic use of its limited moveset to produce a compelling experience that requires concentration and drive to succeed. When you complete the game for the first time, you unlock score attack missions, which provide you with leaderboard challenges to strive for.