First Impressions: El Shaddai

I can honestly say that I have no idea what’s going on in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.  I made it to Chapter 03, which is actually the fourth chapter because it started on Chapter 00, & I know as much about the plot as I did when I started.

What I can tell is that El Shaddai is based on the Book of Enoch.  This is a non-canonical book (meaning not part of the traditional Bible) believed to have been written by Noah’s great-grandfather, Enoch, before the Flood.  Now, as I’ve never read the book, I can’t say how closely El Shaddai matches it.

Everything I know about the plot of El Shaddai I got from reading the plot synopsis on Gamefly’s website.  Basically, you play as Enoch, a human who worked as a scribe in Heaven.  After several angels rebeled against God & go down to Earth, God became angry & planned to flood the world.  However, Enoch pleads with God to instead let him capture the seven fallen angels, thus protecting the world from God’s wrath.  I can also tell you that it takes Enoch over 300 years to locate the Tower of Babel where the angels are hiding.  Each level of the Tower is home to a separate angel, & Enoch must traverse each to capture them.

The game gets confusing right from the start.  It opens up with a dark-haired man in trendy dark clothing telling me about a man who had 72 names who was essentially immortal.  Then the scene cuts to the same guy talking to a blonde man, who is Enoch, dressed in centurion armor.  Then the game drops me into a sumo fight with some cyclops the game caption tells is a Watcher.  Because it doesn’t tell me any controls, I promptly die.  But apparently I was supposed to, because the story goes back some & starts at a semi-proper place.  I say “semi-proper” because it starts with Enoch going to Earth but doesn’t explain anything really before then.

I don’t typically use this term, but this game is trippy.  The first level I’m lowered to Earth by what I can only assume is the hand of God.  I run around this shiny ice wasteland, breaking alien-looking containers & fighting shadow imps (that’s not what they’re called, but that’s what they look like to me).  After a mini-boss fight, I get this weird loading screen where I can practice fighting while the game loads, which scrolling images in the background tell the story up to 300+ years after Chapter 00.  Note to game developers, I can’t pay attention to what’s in the background when I’m trying to fight.  But basically it was Enoch meeting different people while searching for the Tower.

After finding the Tower in some space rift, I swear I’ve fallen into a scene from Akira.  Even the music sounds like something from that movie.  But why is the scene so diabolically futuristic when I’m fighting men wearing tribal masks?  I stopped questioning the game right around the time I fought shooting stars using space lasers.  I guess the game gets around this by saying all knowledge comes from the Fruit of Knowledge, & therefore from God, so angels have advanced technology.

Oh, & the dark-haired man I mentioned before is Lucifer, my wing-man.  That’s right, the Devil acts as my save point.  (For those of you unfamiliar with Christian history, Lucifer is the proper name for the Devil, & he was an angel before he was overcome by pride & tried to overthrow God, after which he was cast out of Heaven).  Enoch talks to Lucifer, who in turn calls God on a cellphone of all things, keeping up with my progress & saving the game.  He also narrates the story in between chapters & occasionally gives me advice during the game.  If he betrays me later, I’m going to be so disappointed, as it will be the most blatant betrayal in the history of gaming.

But for all of its trippiness, the game is unique so far.  The visuals & sound are absolutely stunning.  Characters are anime-styled & cell-shaded.  The environments, while linear & very limited, are beautiful.  Each floor of the Tower is distinct.  The game switches from 3D to 2D levels, which are just as beautiful & trippy.

Gameplay also switches from combat to platforming.  Mostly you run along the path given, jumping over gaps & whatnot.  But occasionally enemies pop up in designated areas & you’ll fight them.  Combat is fast but not overwhelming, & you have three different weapons which you can steal from enemies, which has yet to cease being amusing.

I’ll have to wait until I finish before I can say if the story ever starts making sense.  But what I can say now is that, in spite of the game’s incoherence & general sense of WTF-ness, I feel compelled to continue.  Even if it’s only to see what weirdness it has in store for me.

– GamerDame

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