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El Shaddai E3 2011 Hands-On Preview

El Shaddai

To begin to appreciate El Shaddai we must first understand the story. It’s a pretty simple but involving one: God chose seven angels – named the Grigori - to watch over the world. However, the Grigori developed an unhealthy fascination for humankind and gave into the temptation of abandoning Heaven for Earth. To prevent humanity from being lead astray by the fallen angels ‘The Heavenly Council’ decided it was nigh time to rid the inhabitants of Earth by ways of a great flood. A human scribe in Heaven, named Enoch, objected to this, naturally, and is given a chance to capture the rogue angels in order to spare the plight of Earth. So building a Viva Piñata boat complete with a pair of blue horses is out of the question, but a vibrant experience is certainly still on the cards.

El Shaddai

The graphics are wholly unusual but they work wonderfully. Think Rez meets Okami, or just look at the screenshots. As Enoch hunts down the seven angels he will traverse through their differing visual styles which means an unusual mix of areas to explore and enemies to fight, making a refreshing change from concrete and jungle. It would seem that the inspiration for this graphical feast comes from Okami and Devil May Cry character designer Takeyasu Sawaki, who leads the El Shaddai development. As Enoch explores these 3D environments he will inevitably encounter enemies. Combat is easily controlled with three buttons: one each for attack, block and jump. It’s an accessible case of easy to pick-up but hard to master, which means even our hopeless reporter could look good to a passer-by but equally silly when sat next to someone who knew the potential moves better.

 El Shaddai

Combat for us generally involved using the three buttons to form basic hitting combo attacks. Enoch begins with no weapon, but can steal one from a stunned enemy. There are only three weapons and only one can be carried at a time, but each has unique properties: the Arch is a quick melee sword that resembles the classic Klingon weapon of choice (the Bat'leth), the Gale is a ranged projectile weapon and the Veil gives a slower more powerful punch. It was easy to start bashing away at opposing foes with the weapons but with some guidance from the developer we could pull off some killer moves. Each weapon is more suited to a different kind of enemy so combat becomes a slightly rock, paper and scissors affair, which is why it is extremely handy (and fluid if pulled-off properly) that Enoch can steal a weapon from an enemy.

 El Shaddai

El Shaddai has some more interesting gameplay elements added into the mix for good measure. Some are small extra touches: weapons must be purified by Enoch or else they lose their effectiveness and armour, represented on characters, falls off when damaged, so you may get to see a naked angel or two if that floats your boat (which may now just conjure-up images of blue horses). If you do lose a battle, which is quite probable, or fall down into the abyss in one the 3D or 2D platform sections, which is even more probable, then progress can be quickly resumed.

El Shaddai

The platform sections we played, although clever visually, were tough and will be frustrating for some to progress, especially if they just want to get on with the combat. Completing a platform level will prove satisfying for players who enjoy a break from the action, but probably more refreshing will be the driving section which is comparable to the motorbike sequence from Final Fantasy 7. Replaying the game is encouraged with multiple difficulty levels, including a hardcore mode for the, hardcore (damn you El Thesaurus), and rather ingenious are the angel bosses which appear several times throughout a level and can actually be defeated if the player is skilled enough.

El Shaddai

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a rare case of ‘ignorance is bliss’. Throughout our play-through we were largely unaware of the religious story, and were instead engulfed by what was being unravelled in-front of our eyes. The cherry on top was Lucifel, a spiky-haired well-dressed man who carries a mobile phone and guides the player along their quest, but actually represents the Devil before he become evil. It will help to start playing with an open mind, but it is still easy to just pick up a controller and be entertained by both the combat and the visuals. We hope that, when released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 9th in Europe, El Shaddai can prove to be more than a novelty and will be fun for more than one sitting. It’s not going to be appeal to everyone, but for many El Shaddai could be a god send.

El Shaddai

POBmaestro | 24th June, 2011

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