El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is completely and utter bonkers. Now that I've got that off my chest, let me elaborate on why that is and why that fact alone makes it such a great game.
The game is based upon the ancient Hebrew religious texts, The book of Enoch. These texts describe the watchers, fallen angels, who left heaven and indeed God, in order to create civilisations of their own on Earth. Each of them have stolen pieces of God's wisdom, and corrupted it, twisting it into unholy things and for this, they must pay.
This is where you as the player comes in. You take control of Enoch, a human brought to the heavens above to learn all about God and his wisdom. It is here where you are trained for your ultimate mission, you must defeat the aforementioned fallen angels and capture their souls so they may repent for their sins.
It is a very complex and in depth story which can completely confuse people at times. The over view above makes it sound pretty easy to follow but the reality is, things aren't that simple and you have to really pay attention to even attempt to follow the storyline properly. That being said, once you have a grasp on what is going on, you will find an immensely well crafted and engaging story, even if you aren't the most religious person in the world, its still possible to enjoy the game.
Aiding you in understanding what is going on is your companion and teacher, the black leather clad angel Lucifel. His voice will guide you throughout your journey, he will also give you hints and tips about how to proceed sometimes, for example "He isn't sure what weapon to steal" generally means you are using the wrong kind of weapon against a foe. Lucifel also doubles up as a save point and you can find him in many different locations throughout the game. You always know when he is around as you can hear him talking to God about you on his mobile phone!
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron isn't just successful in its story however, beneath that lies an incredibly fun to play game comprising of many different parts. The first, and main part of the whole package is an engaging and immensely fun hack and slash. There are 3 types of weapon that you can use to make your foes repent, all of which can be stolen from any of the enemies you face off against.
The first is your Arch, a curved blade that is quick and agile. When you wield this, you also gain the ability to float after you jump for a short period of time because of the shape of the Arch, holding it above your head much like a hang glider. The second weapon you get is called a Gale and is your ranged weapon. It is a ring that sits on your back and surrounds you with floating darts that you hurt towards your opponent in quick succession, just like the Arch the Gale also has a special ability; when you have the Gale equipped you can dash quickly away from enemies which does come in really handy. The third and final weapon you are able to get your hands on is the Veil. The Veil is another melee weapon but this one is focused more on heavy hits and defence when needed and comprises of a shield which breaks in half in combat giving you two gloves of sorts. You encounter many heavily armoured enemies throughout the game for which the Veil is ideal, as you can just smash your way through it. Whilst wielding the Veil you can also hold the guard button and both the pieces of the veil will join back up into a shield to protect you. There are also some paths which can only be opened by you smashing it through with the Veil.
All of the weapons are subject to a rather unique mechanic, as you hit each enemy your weapon becomes more and more corrupt. The more corrupt it is the less damage it will do and is signified by the colour of the weapon in question. A purified weapon will be bright, shiny white, whereas a corrupt weapon will be a dark red/ black colour. If your weapon becomes corrupt you have to purify it yourself by using one of your shoulder buttons on the pad but this cannot be done whilst you are taking damage.
Attacking the enemies is done by pressing the square button, the amount of presses is equal to how long your combo goes on for. It may sound easy, but you have special moves to add into that which are done by combinations of buttons like guard and attack for example. Later on in the game you are even able to invoke one of the guardian angels spirits to come and aid you in battle.
As I mentioned before however, the hack and slash side of things is not the only thing you will be doing in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. In places you are treated to a 2D platformer, which is great fun and challenging at the same time. Here the focus is not so much on battle but more getting from the start of the level to the end while overcoming various different obstacles and things that want to kill you, such as protruding spikes from walls and slippy wet surfaces that you have to time jumps correctly off and on to. These sections can be a welcome change from all the hacking and slashing, but some of these levels are downright strange. One notable level has you running about in a cartoon world that wouldn't look out of place in something like Paper Mario! You will know exactly which level I mean when you come across it yourselves.
Add to the mix a high paced motorbike scene ala' Bayonetta, a transforming power ranger-esque boss and one of the strangest boss fights I've ever come across involving a stage, a god dancing in the middle and backing dancers attacking you wearing shells on their head and you get a lot of variety within the one game making it pretty unique.
Adding to that uniqueness is the art style. It is unlike anything I have seen before in a game, at first I wasn't too sure on it but as I progressed throughout the levels each one got more spectacular and displayed the beauty of the style in a different way to the last. Each level is full of bold colours and eye catching designs. The visuals were obviously of massive importance to the developers and you can really tell that when wandering around. Add some top notch voice acting and overall quality sound and you've got yourself one very atmospheric game.
While there are many positives to talk about, this game also has a few negative points although thankfully, not too many. The biggest negative, to me, is the death system. Upon being hit enough so that all your armor falls off and you die, you can simply just mash any button to keep Enoch's eyes open. You can do this five times before you get the game over screen, which gives you a huge advantage over your foes but makes death feel a little inconsequential. You know you have this buffer so it doesn't matter if you die, which removes a large chunk of the challenge from the game.
Also as fun as the game is to play and as much as it has going for it, it brings nothing new to either the hack and slash or platforming genres so if you are looking for ground breaking gameplay, you wont find it here.
What you will find however is a gem of a game which uses tried and tested methods for the game styles it uses, which results in it being hugely enjoyable to play. As mentioned in my opening line, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is completely bonkers, but is great for it. A title I would definitely recommend picking up if you are looking for something a little bit different.
- Interesting story
- Gameplay is a lot of fun
- Art style is beautiful
- Great sound, both on voice acting and ambiant sounds
- Story can, and will confuse people
- Death System removes some of the challenge
- No major innovations to the hack and slash and platforming genres