Here’s an oddity – a video game based on a ‘story’ in the Bible. That story is the book of Enoch which, I’m told, is something to do with Noah’s Great Grandaddy and him trying to put a stop to some fallen Angels called the Watchers and get them off Earth before a great flood comes (you know, like the one seen in Evan Almighty, though probably more funny at the time). You see, they’ve been ‘interfering’ with humans and creating weird little bendy creatures that look like tofu called Nephilim. Of course, this being a game developed in Japan with some of the creative peeps being the people that made Devil May Cry and Okami, don’t expect this to look like something from a 70s Moses movie. This is a psychedelic telling of the story with Anime roots, fusing all kinds of imagery including choral soundtracks and jazz.
So, what’s actually going on here? Well, you play as the androgynous Enoch as you run about the 3D landscapes in your blue jeans and white holy armour. You’ve been sent on a quest by your guardian angel Michael who just so happens to dress in a smart suit and talk to God on a cell phone. You acquire three weapons you can use in the first hour of the game and from then on in it’s up to you to choose the right weapon at the right time to fight the strange creatures that come at you. These range from floating balls of flame, to strange beetle-like creatures and hulking monsters that look a bit like Bane from Batman (I told you this was going to be weird, right?) The three weapons you’ll be using are The Arch, The Gale and The Veil. The Arch basically looks like a massive saw blade which is used for close-up melee attack, the Gale is a halo you put on your back which fires out darts from long range and the Veil isn’t what you’d expect, rather two shield that can be used for good defence and also to bash enemies out of the way and break objects. You can’t switch between these at will though, rather you have to swap between weapons by choosing which enemies holding them are attacking you at the time, knocking them unconscious and then kicking seven shades out of them with their own weapon. You’ll also have to watch out for your weapon of choice becoming saturated with the evil you are fighting and must then purify it with the touch of a button. Think of it like a tactical reload to mix things up a bit.
And mixing things up is where the problem lies in terms of actual gameplay. With only three weapons, one modifier by pressing guard whilst jumping or attacking or by holding down the attack button, that’s all there is to combat. The game is about 8 hours long and in this time you’re basically just rinsing and repeating. There are some nice touches though, like battering the buttons to keep yourself alive and giving yourself a chance to fight on without returning to a checkpoint and your armour coming off Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins style to serve as a health meter, but when it comes down to it, for me at least, the combat just doesn’t offer enough variety.
As well as combat there is some platforming to do as well. As usual when jumping onto platforms in 3D space there’s the problem with judging exactly where you are but luckily, if you do fall, with a click of Michael’s fingers you’re put right back to where you were before you fell to your doom. There are also some 2D side-scrolling sections that seem to be all the rage at the moment (Shadows of the Damned and Alice Madness Returns anyone?) and these look just as stunning as the 3D sections as you run around in silhouette in front of massive stained glass windows or surf on top of hand-drawn waves as part of a picture painting. 3D worlds also vary massively in looks but are never dull to look at. One moment you may be ascending a massive tower with fireworks and neon strips hanging down from infinity, the next you could be running through snowy landscapes or what seem to be massive colourful oil slicks. Other times the world may be empty apart from a few shafts of light with mysterious figures lurking all around you.
As a piece of art, El Shaddai scores massively. It’s wondrous to look at and a genuine treat for the eyes. However, for me, the combat just doesn’t excite me and there’s not enough story and exposition to hold my interest. If you like your games to offer something different then it’s definitely worth consideration. If you like your games to function as a furious combat game then you’d be better off playing Devil May Cry 5 or Bayonetta. Strangely, Bayonetta has a similar theme (angels and demons) but technically wins hands down in terms of how you can beat up the bad guys with style and also in terms of an insane story that’s more gripping than just a geezer on the phone telling you what to do and why you should be doing it.
By the way, if you’re wondering what a Metatron is, it’s a vessel through which God speaks to people. Just so you know.
Being a game, I have to mark this on gameplay. If it were in an art gallery it would get much higher but El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron gets a good 6 out of 10. I see other people have scored it higher but hey, that’s just my opinion.
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