E3 2011: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron hands-on
Kickin’ it within the West Hall, at the Ignition Games booth, I got the chance to sample one of the many games I had been looking forward to for 2011. This was none other than El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.
For those who haven’t been following along with its developments, El Shaddai tells the tale of Enoch, ancestor of Noah, whose tale is recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Seven angels have abandoned heaven to further sate their fascination of mankind on Earth. God appoints Enoch to track down the angels and return them to heaven, otherwise, a great flood will cover the Earth. Aiding Enoch is Lucifer, who, at the time, is protector of Earth. Due to his unique ability to exist outside of time, Lucifer is able to provide hints to Enoch at every turn.
Despite the art being intricate and vibrant, the same cannot be said about the demo’s gameplay. The controls work well enough. Enoch has a single button for attacking, a default double jump and the ability to block, although, occasionally his guard seems to misfire, resulting in Enoch getting the ethereal crap knocked out of him. The game advises that if you hold down ‘jump’ you can prepare Enoch to perform a special counter attack, but this was not happening every time I tried doing so.
I also learned that the chosen visual approach can infringe on the gameplay. The surrealistic painting style can make it confusing to differentiate a hole in the ground from a random decorative patch in the road. It doesn’t help when the game randomly inverts the colors – like a photo negative. Because so much is going on, it’s hard to tell if the environment is trying to trip you out or help you. At one point, I had to ride windswept waves across a gap but thought for a moment they were just part of the scenery. I also had to mind specific spots on these waves that I could stand on, lest I accidentally fall into oblivion.
The overall weakness of the demo was its length. The small amount of content, consisting of only two 3D areas and two platforming sections (each almost identical), didn’t leave a whole lot to soak in. For example, there wasn’t a boss fight. The demo stops right at the first boss’s intro. Enemy fights were far and few, only with transitional points where you fought higher leveled foes. There weren’t a whole lot of options available to keep these battles fresh – you don’t get any finishers or much in the way of special combos. Two of the three weapons available to Enoch were provided: The Arch, a curved blade, and The Gale, a floating set of jewelry that fires unlimited projectiles. They look cool, but the fashion in which Enoch utilizes them shows that he’s been going to the same boot camp as Dante, and other renowned Japanese action game protagonists. Enoch’s arsenal is actually just as accessible to his enemies. In putting them in a dizzy state, you can ‘purify’ (a lavish term for ‘mug’), their weapon and it becomes yours until you purify a different weapon.
El Shaddai is definitely a sight to behold, but the demo is but a single drop of water found in the desert of its mystery. Hopefully, the full version, coming out on July 26th, will provide much in customizations and skill development. From what I’ve experienced thus far, it’s going to have to take a back seat until I scope out more of its Dali-esque terrain.