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El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Review

A marvelous spectacle of creative art style and design that falls short in gameplay

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The visually stunning game, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, was developed and published by Ignition Entertainment. El Shaddai is based on an ancient Jewish text (The Book of Enoch), which is rare treat as developers tend to shy away from potentially offensive subject matter. Even with the stunning backdrop, El Shaddai has a few flaws that hinder the overall experience. This game deserves at least a pacing look if only on it’s amazing visuals and controversial source material.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, which is loosely based off of the Book of Enoch, chronicles the tale of Enoch. Enoch is tasked with the mission of purifying and imprisoning the souls of seven fallen angels before God decides to unleash The Flood destroying humanity. As Enoch continues his journey he finds out it is not just the fallen angels that pose a threat, but their unholy spawn, the Niphilim, which may lead to the end of the world.

El Shaddai’s plot is very provocative, but it lacks a lot of details and backstory. The game does not give you much information on the motives behind the fallen angels, or any events leading up to their descent from heaven. There is also much ambiguity near the beginning of the story as you are front loaded with a ton of information in a short amount of time. This is particularly jarring, as it’s supposed to help set up the stage for the game. The story is still very interesting overall, if a little thin on the details.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

El Shaddai’s repetitive gameplay and lack of varying elements hinder its overall appeal. The title has two main gameplay components: platforming and combat. The combat portion is where the majority of the game lies. There are three different weapons in the game, but you are only able to hold and use one at a time. The weapons are as follows: the Arch (a sword), the Gale (a projectile weapon), and the Veil (a hybrid between a defensive shield and powerful melee weapon). These weapons have a rock, paper, scissors relationship with each other so it pays to switch between them often. They become more corrupted as you use them, lowering their effectiveness, so you have to periodically cleanse them leaving your defenses down. Each of these weapons has a few special moves to utilize, one being a pseudo dodge that you must master. This is crucial as there is no default dodge button; you have to rely on the weapon you are holding. The melee combat is reminiscent of games like Nier; you make your own combos by charging up your weapon at certain hits during your combo. This creates an interactive system that is relatively deep. The combat is hard and punishing during the later levels so you have to master each weapon through the game. Unfortunately the fighting gets stale quite fast as there are only a few bosses; the regular enemies are basically the same through the game. You will find yourself getting tired and wishing for more enemy variety as the game progresses.

The game also suffers from poor pacing. The experience consists mainly of you just running along a straight path periodically stopping at round platforms where you engage a few enemies. This sounds a lot like Final Fantasy 13 (today is Square Enix reference day) as you progress down a linear path to fight some enemies at the end. This is sometimes broken up by platforming segments that are deceptively challenging, but overall too short. These sections can be a little aggravating as the controls can be stiff and Enoch is not very maneuverable in the air. There is also poor depth perception in some levels, which, makes traversing the stage particularly difficult. There is one level that breaks up this pattern with an interesting bike chase with its own mechanics. Sadly, this is a rare example of a unique level in the game. The title does offer unlockable costumes and a new HUD once you beat the campaign, which warrants at least an additional playthrough.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

The presentation is where El Shaddai shines. If this game could be weighed purely on its presentation merits, it would get the highest marks. This game is just gorgeous. It feels like a painting – has come to life, with an ethereal otherworldly feel. Each stage has a distinct visual style and aesthetic that is very unique. This creativity carries through to the developer’s interpretation of the Fallen Angels and their Niphilim offspring. Even though some stages are almost barren of enemies, the overall design is so jaw dropping that you do not notice. You might want to stop occasionally and just revel in the scenery. Alongside the graphics, the music is also beautiful with chorus chanting and epic tunes that really fit the scene. The music fades from an otherworldly drone to an angelic chant as you progress from exploration to a deadly duel. The game’s presentation really is an experience that should not be missed.

The voice work in El Shaddai is a little dry, but it does the job well. The actors portray their characters adequately, but they don’t go the extra mile - instead sitting at a comfortable tone that almost borders on monotone. There are some frame rate issues during the intro and some cut scenes as they load. This lag is not very noticeable, but it is worthy of note.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

Overall, El Shaddai is a marvelous spectacle of creative art style and design. This game channels creative design throughout the whole world that it creates. Outside the unique presentation though, El Shaddai does not offer much. The gameplay is deeper than it appears and requires a firm understanding of its mechanics to progress. The game is difficult and requires patience; it is not a button masher. You will just wish there were more enemies or bosses to test your skill against and that the platforming sections lasted longer. El Shaddai is a ride worth experiencing, though not more than once.

Our ratings for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron on Xbox 360 out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
El Shaddai is a beautiful marvel of abstract and artistic wonder. The design aesthetic is unique and otherworldly. There is some lag and frame rate issues, but it doesn't detract from the overall experience.
The gameplay is deep and engaging. Unfortunately, El Shaddai suffers from some monotony and lacks a break in its repetition. There are some neat ideas, but they are over too quick and there is not enough variety to help create a complete overall package.
Single Player
El Shaddai is an exclusively single player experience. The story paints an engaging story that is marred from a lack of backstory and explanation. The gameplay is solid, but repetitive and there is not much variation throughout the experience. There are a few bonus stages throughout the game that encourages exploration and a few unlockables, but not enough to warrant more than a few playthroughs.
The game plays well enough, but can be clunky at times. In combat the controls are stiff and the camera gets in the way hindering you. During platform sections Enoch can be hard to control. The graphics are well done, but there are some frame rate issues.
El Shaddai is a unique video game with a very abstract style that it makes its own. Unfortunately the gameplay falls a little short of the overall picture El Shaddai is trying to paint. The game does warrant a playthrough, though.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron box art Platform:
Xbox 360
Our Review of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is ranked #568 out of 1990 total reviewed games. It is ranked #60 out of 104 games reviewed in 2011.
567. Hard Reset
568. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
569. FIFA Street
PlayStation 3

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
12 images added Aug 29, 2011 22:09
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