El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Hands-on Preview

Take a trip through a highly stylized take on various biblical stories and characters.

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At this year's GDC, we got a chance to play a brief portion of El Shaddai, an action game loosely inspired by various parts of the Bible. You'll hear references to various biblical characters, including Enoch, who happens to be the young, blond-haired protagonist in El Shaddai. Enoch is charged by God to recapture seven fallen angels who are in the process of building the Tower of Babel on Earth. Advising Enoch on his journey, interestingly enough, is pre-banished Lucifer decked out in a suit and equipped with a cell phone that presumably represents his direct line to God.

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Our demo began with Enoch in the realm of Ezekiel, a visually abstract area we're told draws its imagery from "earthly beauty" that serves as act three in the game. Enemies quickly appear, and Enoch is tasked with combating them with his bare hands, at least initially. The controls are simple--Enoch can assault enemies with various bare-fisted combinations by pressing the attack button, but there are also jumping and blocking buttons at your disposal. The first enemies we encountered didn't have any weapons and attempted to possess Enoch if he couldn't shake them off, but we were quickly greeted with armed foes that required a bit more finesse.

While Enoch can continue wailing on foes with just his bare hands, he has the option to also disarm enemies and use their own weapons against them. This is beneficial for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that securing a weapon opens up new attack combination possibilities (and parries) that make the game feel a bit more like Devil May Cry in terms of action. Secondly, and obviously, it gives you an advantage because enemies can't perform their usual attacks. As you use weapons, their effectiveness steadily declines, meaning Enoch can't inflict as much damage on his foes. But thankfully, he has a skill that lets him purify the weapon (performed with a single button press), which restores its strength.

Combat with our first weapon (a sword) felt pretty fluid, and it was apparent that we were only scratching the surface of what's possible in terms of combinations. But the second weapon we snared from an enemy was quite different--it was a projectile weapon that shot out tiny needles, and while it wasn't as strong as the sword, it was effective at keeping enemies at a distance. It loses its strength just like any other weapon, so Enoch still has to take a moment to purify it when the weapon weakens, which is shown when the weapon turns red.

2D perspective platforming can also be found in El Shaddai.
2D perspective platforming can also be found in El Shaddai.

It's worth noting that using this projectile weapon gives you an extra boost when airborne, making it especially useful when traversing the platforming sections of El Shaddai. In fact, even in act three, there's plenty of platforming, some of which is from a behind-the-back perspective. But there are actually entire sections that have 2D-style platforming where the camera is positioned in the traditional platforming vantage point. There are some exploration elements in El Shaddai as well, with some branching paths and hidden areas that hold items.

From what we've seen so far, it's obvious that El Shaddai's highly stylized look will grab the most attention, but there's also a fundamentally sound combat engine at work that we're eager to get a closer look at as we approach the game's release date later this year.

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