El Shaddai Demo Impressions

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is an action-adventure game scheduled for release on July 26, 2011. In June, a free demo was released on the XBOX Live Marketplace and the Playstation Store.

In El Shaddai, you play a warrior named Enoch who has been sent by Heaven to capture fallen angels who are messing with the humans. The game features both 3D and 2D platforming segments and an interesting battle system that has you stealing your enemies weapons.

After spending some time with the demo, I’ve been left with a very mixed reaction to the game, but the game is definitely original.

A Beautiful World

The art style is the one place El Shaddai truly shines. The game is incredibly colorful and the environments change seemingly randomly as you progress. One moment, you’re in a colorful 2D platforming sequence and the next you’re jumping through 3D monochrome corridors. The original art style alone makes it worth playing through this free demo just to see it in action.

“Purifiying” Weapons

The combat is fairly standard. In the demo, you use a sword (that looks like a bow) and a rapid-fire projectile weapon. Both are equally effective and offer a variety of combos that can be used on the ground or in the air. The combat is fun to watch, but really isn’t all that different from other recent action-adventure games.

The demo has you continually switching between the two weapons as you steal them from enemies. When you steal weapons, you “purify” them to make them your own. You can also “purify” the weapons at any time after you have them. However, the demo doesn’t make it clear what “purifying” does. Even after playing through the demo twice, I am still uncertain about how the system works.

Mixing 2D and 3D

All of the combat in the demo took place in a 3D area, but the platforming segments were divided between 2D segments and 3D segments. It’s great to see a game mixing both in such a seamless way, but none of the segments were incredibly impressive.

The 3D segments were mostly dark corridors with large holes to jump over. My first problem was realizing that the dark circles were actually holes I could fall in to and not just part of design. There is the occasional un-interesting enemy (an enemy that doesn’t require strategy to defeat, just pressing a button once or twice) or “grass” to cut.

The 2D segment was more interesting, but lacked any combat. The colorful look is great, but I hope the platforming requires a little more thought in the full game. There are an excessive number of platforms. This makes the actually platforming portion very simple. Jumping to a new platform was more like moving up and down a staircase.

The best portion of the 2D platforming involves riding waves. It’s not the first time it has been done, but it is done well in El Shaddai and proved to be the most interesting portion of the 2D segment.

Closing in on Launch Day

El Shaddai is less than a month from release, and the demo didn’t leave me too impressed with anything other than the art style. It is an interesting concept, but the final game is going to have to offer a lot more than the demo to make me want to play through several hours of this sort of gameplay. Specifically, the platforming needs to be more varied and interesting and the combat more thoroughly explained.

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