Biblically-Inspired El Shaddai Getting a Spiritual Sequel

I was pleasantly surprised when scanning through some gaming news that a hidden gem I’d rented a while back was getting a spiritual sequel.  El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was a very trippy yet intriguing game I reviewed all the way back in 2011.  Although overall I felt the game was only average, mostly due to a confusing plot & some repetitive combat, the sheer spectacle & uniqueness of the game was such that I kinda feel everyone should play it.  It’s just so weirdly compelling.  For one, it has such a striking visual style that I adore.  For as much as people ramble about better graphics, you have to admit most modern games tend to look the same when they all go for the super-realistic look.  Not that that’s a bad thing… but games like El Shaddai demonstrate beautifully how sometimes having a unique style can be better than just graphical fidelity.

Secondly, not only were the graphics unique, but the gameplay could be varied at times, or at least the settings.  One level you’d be running around a stained glass backdrop, the next you’d be in a mecha punch-em-up, then you’d be fighting off corrupted angels while a pop idol tries to block your view by mugging the camera.  It was weird, usually in the right ways.

Sadly, the plot was rather incoherent at times.  El Shaddai was based on (or perhaps a better term in inspired by) the Book of Enoch, an apocryphal gospel, meaning one that wasn’t deemed fit to be in the official Christian Bible.  The most I know about the Book is what I’ve gleaned off the Wikipedia page.  In the game, however, the story is that Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah (from the flood), works as a scribe for God & is given visions of God’s plan to flood the earth due to angels rebelling & falling to earth to lead Man astray.  Thus Enoch is tasked with purifying (ie. killing) these angels.  There’s also some subplot about the Nephilim being offspring of angels & humans, & them being cursed to consume the world, & some girl that’s important… but it’s all a bit confusing.  Lucifer is there to help, pre-fall I assume, & even though it’s supposed to be ancient times there are cellphones & mecha & TVs… It’s the most liberal of liberal interpretations.

Despite El Shaddai receiving a generally positive reception, I’ve never heard anyone else talk about the game, so it came as a surprise when Famitsu ran the story that the developer, Takeyasu Sawaki (lead designer on Devil May Cry & Okami), would be releasing a spiritual successor to the title this summer.  Not much is known yet about this upcoming The Lost Child, but in the article it’s reported that the game is set in the same universe as El Shaddai.  We’ll also get some returning characters, like Lucifer.  Maybe he’ll finally turn out to be evil.

We do know a general sense of the plot.  The plot will follow Hayato Ibuki, a magazine writer covering a story about a person who committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at Shinjuku Station.  During his investigation, he’s pushed onto the tracks by a black shadow, only to be rescued by a woman named Barcia.  From this incident, Hayato gains the ability to fight against angels & demons to aid him in his investigations.  Another known aspect is that, whereas El Shaddai was an action hack-and-slash, The Lost Child will be a turn-based RPG.

Between the settings & combat, The Lost Child sounds like it might be similar to recent Persona games, but with less Japanese school children.  One article I read stated Hayato would be able to “capture & train” the angels & demons, most likely to use them to aid in future combat, similar to how Personas work.

For those curious, you can view the original Famitsu article & teaser trailer here, but you’d better be able to read Japanese.  The Lost Child is slated to come out in Japan on PS4 & PSVita this summer, so hopefully we’ll be getting a look at this spectacular, if confusingly esoteric title soon.

– GamerDame

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Game Review: The Fall

For some reason, science fiction has never really interested me as a genre.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s a reflection of my pessimistic nature — I fully expect we’ll have killed each other out of pettiness or overpopulation long before space travel becomes a thing.  Maybe that’s why, when I do decide to check out a sci-fi game, it’s usually of a dark or dystopian nature.  Something that illustrates a potential danger if we don’t keep ourselves in check.  I think that’s why the trailer for Over the Moon Games’ The Fall caught my attention.

1437238852019

In The Fall we take the role of the artificial intelligence program ARID (Autonomous Robotic Interface Device) after crashing on an unknown planet knocks her human “pilot” unconscious.  ARID’s programing requires her to protect the pilot of the combat suit she inhabits, & thus she begins to search for a means to save them in the rundown factory they’ve mysteriously landed on while dealing with droids a bit too invested in following their programing to the letter.  In the end, the player will find themselves questioning if the enemies are the ones who have gone crazy, or if ARID has.

The Fall is best described as a side-scrolling puzzle/adventure game with a touch of combat thrown in.  For the majority of the game, you’ll be trying to find ways to overcome the next obstacle standing between ARID & the medical facility she’s ultimately trying to reach.  But as she progresses & continues to show signs of aberrant behavior, you’ll have to contend with the facility’s defense droids in short shooting sections.  However, these sections play out on a slower place, with ARID hiding behind cover or using her cloaking program to wait for the right moment to pop the droids in the head.


20170130175245_1Narrative: Although short & ending somewhat on a cliffhanger, obviously setting up for the next chapter of the game still in development, I felt that The Fall had a tightly contained, complete story arc.  While getting help for the pilot is ultimately the main goal of the game, the story focused less on that & more on ARID’s evolution in sentience.  As an AI, there’s obviously a rigidity to the way ARID thinks & problem solves, which in turn puts her at odds with the AIs in the facility who are blocking her from her prime directive.  I appreciated that it wasn’t your standard rogue AI story like I expected in the beginning.  None of the three personalities in the game have gone “crazy”, per se, as it is them following their programing to the most logical, if extreme, conclusion.  Their outcomes are all understandable, even predictable.  ARID, for instance, is understandably frustrated when she has to appease the domestic droid protocols to receive clearance to reach the medical facility to save her pilot.  Not only does this hinder her prime directive (the very thing she was programmed to do), but as a combat unit she isn’t “made” to carry out such menial tasks.  It’s an interesting evolution in her psyche where she has to learn behaviors that aren’t things AIs are supposed to do (such as lie).  In a way, The Fall illustrates the potential pitfalls of relying on AIs without beating us over the head with it.

And in the end, we get a nice conclusion to this part of ARID’s story even while it sets up intrigue for the next chapter.

Overall, while short, The Fall has an interesting classic sci-fi story that maintains a tight, contained focus on its story & characters.

Score: 4


HeadShotAimingMechanics: Overall, I felt The Fall’s controls were simple & effective.  Right Mouse Button pulls up the aiming mode, where you can switch between the flashlight (explore) or the target sight (for shooting).  It was easy to aim at enemies or places in the environment, although I did notice when I would enter aim mode the direction would frequently default to the right regardless of which direction I’d previously been facing.  I’m also not a huge fan of having to hold down the buttons to stay in aim mode, but I didn’t see an option to change it to toggle.  However, this is more a personal preference than one that affected gameplay, as the combat was slow enough that I didn’t have a problem aiming while holding down the mouse buttons.

Cycling through the inventory was simple.  However, I didn’t really care for having to be in aim mode to interact with the environment.  I also frequently got stuck behind cover.  I’m not sure if this was a game problem or an error on my part, but I found rather than pushing E again exit cover, I’d have to move in the opposite direction to exit.  As with the aiming, it was more an annoyance than a problem.

Being a puzzle game, I found the puzzles generally interesting, & many of the solutions very amusing.  The game definitely has a dark sense of humor at times.  For example, a big portion of the game is ARID having to achieve merits to reach the medical facility by acting like a “proper” domestic droid & doing chores around a fake house & community.  A few of my favorite solutions were offering a rotting human head (stolen from a giant slug) to a child as a protein-packed meal, quieting a crying baby by sucking them into the vents, & attaching a cable between a tire axle & a flying jenny which resulted in sending the child flying into the distance.  At times the solutions seemed pretty opaque, but I found that if I explored as much of the area as I could, picking up everything & trying each combination, I would find something that made sense.  You can’t use the wrong item.  I never felt completely stuck.

Overall, while I had some personal issues with the control scheme, the controls were well implemented with some fun puzzling.

Score: 4


20170515134755_1Aesthetics: I thought The Fall had a very nice, bleak presentation that suited the themes & setting excellently.  I think the lighting is the best part, helping to cast an eerie glow over the levels.  The entire game just felt creepy to run through.  Those cardboard cutout people were the worst.  Even though the player can only operate on a 2D plane, the backgrounds really gave a sense of depth an ambiance.  I felt the sound designs was well-done, as well, mostly sticking this slow, droning tone suited for an old, crumbling factory, but occasionally picking up with some techno music during the brief fight scenes.  The voiceacting, for all three characters in the game, were well realized & portrayed.

Score: 4


Replay Value: Average.  While nothing in the story itself really changes, there are different options a player can take, such as letting the Caretaker live or not, or deliberately failing the tests.  And once you know the puzzle solutions, The Fall is a fairly short game, clocking in at a few hours, making a second playthrough conceivable.

Score: 3


Breakdown

Untitled

Final Score: 4

Final Word: Though a bit on the short side, & ending on a “To Be Continued…”, The Fall is a fun little indie sci-fi game that takes a focused, measured look at the potentiality of AIs & the troubles such programs might pose.  Personally, the regular price is a bit high for the length for my tastes, but if you can snag it on sale I definitely recommend checking it out.

– GamerDame

Title: The Fall
Consoles: PC, Wii U, PS4, XB1
Rating: T
Developer: Over the Moon Games
Publisher: Over the Moon Games
Release Date: May 30, 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under 4, Indie, PC, PS4, Reviews, Wii U, XBox One