In a market full of action games, how does any one game stand out? The answer is simple: make it different. At first glance UTV Ignition Games' latest release "El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron" may appear to be similar to countless other games on the rack, but, if you dig a little deeper, and you'll find that this quest to bind fallen angels isn't your average "God of War" knockoff.
The world is in peril because seven angels have fallen from heaven. God has tasked one of his scribes, Enoch, to search them out, climb the tower they have constructed, and return them to heaven to negate the effects of their blasphemy. Armed with three of heaven's weapons, Enoch must battle his way to the top of the tower, and put an end to the false world created by the fallen angels. If he does not succeed the real world will be flooded to save it from effectively imploding.
Look At All The Pretty Colors
Stepping away from the standard green and brown centric palate that most games seem to borrow from these days, "El Shaddai" offers some of the most creative eye candy of this console generation. Each level of the tower is a different world designed by the angel that resides there, therefore the tower is made up of seven different personalities. The levels range from futuristic, to underwater, to downright trippy. The fact that there's no HUD makes it even easier to enjoy the fantastic settings.
In God We Trust
While it is becoming more commonplace for games to dabble in religion, "El Shaddai" is firmly rooted in the Deuterocanonical Book of Enoch. While there are other religious traditions worked into the story as well, the game manages to avoid taking a heavy-handed approach to the story, and it ends up being more intriguing than educational.
No Dimensional Crisis
"El Shaddai" seems to be a game of variety, with the graphics being just the beginning; the gameplay changes a bit as well. While the majority of the game is standard third person isometric view, there are segments of the game that switch to 2D with ease. There's even a little driving, that somehow manages to not feel out of place.
Everything That Goes Up...
One of the problems that has plagued 3D games for a long time, and will continue to plague them for years to come, is the single most frustrating part of "El Shaddai": jumping. Simple platforming wouldn't be a huge issue, but later in the game, jumping becomes key to traversing large segments of levels, as well as solving puzzles. Most of the time there is no penalty for falling, but in this game, starting over is penalty enough.
Three Weapons, Three Enemies
In a game where everything else changes so much, only having three weapons feels like it comes up a bit short. Add to that the fact that those same three weapons are the same ones that all of the standard enemies use in the game. If you do the math, it means that there are really only three different variations of enemies throughout most of the game.
Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness
Battle cleanliness is an annoying trend that has seeped into actions games over the last few years, and it makes an appearance in "El Shaddai." There's nothing like taking a break from a brutal battle to wipe off, or "purify," your weapon, leaving you open to attacks. It didn't work in "Onechanbara," and it doesn't work here either.
Some people might play through "El Shaddai" and think it's all over the place due to the variety in levels and gameplay, but it's the variety that makes this game so enjoyable. "Ascension of the Metatron" feels like it's an indie game that was made with a major budget. Making use of topics that generally don't used for games, art styles that you'd never see in the same game (if at all), and gameplay that doesn't get old quickly, "El Shaddai" keeps you playing because you don’t know what to expect next, and that's what great games should do.