El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Review

If there’s one game I had to choose that had the most prolific and striking artstyle, El Shaddai would be it. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was a game I had heard almost nothing about but the art looked pretty nifty and the combat was intriguing. I never knew that El Shaddai would have such a profound effect on me. It was a game which made me realise the true potential that a Video Game could hold.

Loosely based off of a Judaic scripture found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, you take the role of Enoch, the great grandfather of Noah. Being a human whose heart was so pure, he was invited into Heaven. Enoch’s mission is to purify Angels who have abandoned the heavens for Earth due to their love and fascination of the human race. If Enoch fails this mission then the Heavenly Council would unleash a flood upon Earth to purify the land. However he is not alone, for helping him along the way is Lucifel (Yes, THAT Lucifel, who is constantly on the phone with God and is voiced by Jason Isaacs. I’m not making this up), who exists beyond the planes of time and space and the four Archangels Raphael, Uriel, Gabriel and Michael

The entire game takes place in a tower which the Angels had built. Each Angel has their own floor and with that comes a new art style for that floor. Enoch has to tackle his way through all of the floors to purify all of the Angels and send them back to Heaven. This game’s appearance can best be summed up by imagining what would happen if a surrealist, with no preconception of what Heaven looks like, took some mind altering drugs and painted a moving picture you can interact with. There’s no real consistency with the art styles, jumping around from a children’s comic, a stained glass painting and even something that looks like it came straight out of Tron.

The game deals with mature concepts such as the Angels experimenting with humans, causing a “False Evolution.” The Angels believe that humans are worth acting against God, and often claim that humans have unlimited potential because of their emotions- something that the Angels cannot experience due to being emotionless. In any case, it’s a legitimate reason for the bosses to fight for their cause rather than being downright evil. It explores concepts such as blindly following the will of God and whether the morality behind his wishes are always truly righteous. El Shaddai is not afraid to toy with religious taboo and presents itself in a thought provoking and beautiful manner.

The varied floors allow the game to express itself and the personality of the Angel behind that floor. Traversal through these levels is linear and feature some alternate routes that allow you to get extra insight into the world by coming across a messenger. Geometrically, the game’s level design is not particularly interesting until you get to some platforming sections later on in the game.

Except this, this level design was interesting.

Aside from dealing with taboo subjects in a mature manner and being possibly the most visually striking game I’ve ever played; El Shaddai is also a pretty good hack and slash game. There’s only a few principal buttons for the El Shaddai battle mechanics, one button to attack, one to defend, one to jump and one to purify your weapon. It’s elegantly simple, you can choose between one of three weapons. The first is the Arch, a curved sword. The second is the Gale, a weapon that allows Enoch to shoot arrows from a distance and do a fast dash. Finally is the Veil, which is literally a shield that can reform itself and split in two at Enoch’s will; they’re used as heavy gauntlets for dealing high damage.

Each enemy is a little rock-paper-scissors game, as you need to find out what weapon an enemy is weak against and disarm the opponent that’s using the weapon at the time, or destroy an orb which the weapon pops out of and kill them. It’s a fun little system that’s helped by its one buttoned, rhythmic combat. Instead of just mashing on the attack button, you will have to time your attacks to flow into each other. The game does get difficult at times but you can always come back into the fray by mashing buttons to keep you alive, since you pretty much cannot die in El Shaddai.

Music in El Shaddai is about as trippy as its visuals. You can hear the choir suddenly harmonise into an electric guitar and provide a perfect companion to the epic landscapes before you, which is unlike anything I have heard before.

If you care about the artistic merit that video games could hold at all, then you should play El Shaddai. It truly shows that a AAA budget is not necessary to make a stunning, beautiful game. El Shaddai does things never seen before in dealing with religious themes and of course visually. The game is one of a kind and we’re likely to see nothing else like it in the years to come unless people hear about this game. It’s unique, has it’s own flair and is intellectually profound. If anything, this game is damn near perfect and truly incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen or played before. 

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is out now for Xbox 360 and PS3
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