El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Review – Our Father Who Art in Heaven Hollowed Be Thy Ass Kicking
Title: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Developer: Crim Co. Ltd
Release Date: September 1, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Crim Co. Ltd
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was originally released on PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2011, where it was generally praised. To this day, it is still considered a cult classic. Unfortunately, I never got to experience the original when it was released, so I figured the PC release was the perfect time to finally experience this title.
Seven angels fallen from grace have taken over the world. Scribe Enoch has been ordered to hunt them down before a great flood can cleanse the earth. Aiding him in his quest is the mysterious angel Lucifel, who reports Enoch’s progress to Heaven and four archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, who are all united in trying to save the human race from the dark influence of the fallen angels.
When looking at the big picture, the story feels very familiar. An unexpected hero is tasked with saving the world with near-impossible odds stacked against him. Still, this isn’t terrible as that familiarity can easily get you invested in the story, allowing the writer to focus on the characters and the world.
However, I felt like I was watching a set of loosely connected cutscenes that had little to no stakes. For example, Lucifel frequently monologues players about the events that transpired moments ago. This narration is framed as reports to Heaven and reveals insight into the emotions and motivations of certain characters.
This spoon-feeding of the plot is the major issue with the narrative as it devolves into events that look cool but without any reason to care about the implications. Additionally, the gameplay is not interesting enough to hold your attention, so the story is one of the major draws of the title. Unfortunately, the fact that it drops the ball so hard makes every chapter a slog to play through.
Around the sixth chapter, the halfway point, I started mindlessly fighting foes as they were thrown at me. The enemies did become more challenging, but your options in combat are limited to the weapons equipped. Otherwise, pressing the attack, dodge, or guard buttons are your only other options.
These weapon-specific abilities are supposed to make combat feel varied depending on which weapon you are using, although I found myself using the basic abilities that didn’t change. These were the most reliable tools, and they could easily trivialize most of the encounters you face. Due to this, I never completed an encounter feeling like I had learned the fight. Instead, I was just abusing attacks that would stun opponents.
I didn’t care about Enoch or his quest anymore, and I just wanted to get to the next event to see what the next stage would look like. These aesthetics are where El Shaddai truly shines. Locations look meticulously crafted like a painting through even the most generic fights. As a result, the world around me felt vibrant and huge.
So, when I started noticing immense screen tearing happening, I was disappointed. This marred my enjoyment of the areas as they would try to tear themselves apart on my screen. Character models also look extremely aged at certain points. For example, Enoch looked jagged as you could see the pixels of his outline. This roughness makes the cast stand out against the background in the worst way possible, showing you the title’s age.
Even prescripted cutscenes were not immune to these graphical issues, and the busy art direction could have attributed to this. As you can tell, that there are multiple layers on top of each other to make certain effects pop which makes the environments a joy to view when you can see how players were intended to experience them.
However, I feel like this port wasn’t well done. While not unplayable, it feels lazy and does a disservice to a game that otherwise would have been an immaculate spectacle. This ultimately felt like a substandard port because I couldn’t find any options to change graphics quality in any of the menus.
There is a small nondescript checkbox that needs to be clicked before you launch the game. When this checkbox has been clicked, a window will pop up with minimal settings to change, such as the graphics card and resolution settings, instead of launching normally. Not allowing players to change these settings in-game makes sense to preserve the look of the art, but when the experience is already less than optimal, restricting players’ options like this does not make any sense.
El Shaddai has a lot to offer players with its art direction and stunning visuals though I found it difficult to appreciate them when dealing with graphical issues, generic combat, and a ham-fisted story. This port should have been a great introduction to new players and giving veterans a clean way to view it. Instead, we are left looking at a port with missed potential in various ways.
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