Hack'N'Slash Review

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron – Review

In a world where you can get Christian rock music, Christian Films, and even Christian Comics, we have very few Christian Games. My favorite Noah’s Ark 3D being one exception. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron aims to fuse the teaching of the Bible with a memorable visual style and gameplay. Does it work though?

Enoching at the Door

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron tells the story of the angel Enoch who is tasked with traveling to Earth. His task to bring back seven angels who’ve left Heaven, failure to do so will result in the big boss himself flooding the earth. We don’t want that! Enoch puts down his pen, grabs his armor, and with the help of Lucifel starts an epic quest spanning hundreds of years to find “The Tower”, a monument created to shield the angels from God’s gaze. 

Now dear reader, I won’t insult your intelligence by claiming the story has pockets of intricate storytelling and nuance. It does have an interesting main narrative, high stakes, and is supported by Lucifel being mysterious and likable. Unfortunately, it’s presented in such a way that it’s got all the poise of an elephant ballerina after a few pints wearing odd shoes.

Some of this will get touched on later, but in terms of a narrative perspective, the first half-hour alone has a timeline that jumps back and forward. This is followed by an exposition dump in a cutscene that you either fight off foes or stand there and watch your silhouette get slapped down. I believe this is supposed to represent Enoch’s multi-century journey, but you’re either paying too much attention to the fight or it looks too goofy for anything said to sink it. The background art looks nice though.

Another fantastic story device that couldn’t be more overused in this game if they tried is the “Forced loss boss battle”. You know it, you loathe it; Unwinnable boss fights to show just how tough things are. In the first two and a half hours, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has more than its fair share of these. It’s around this point you fight the first boss fight which is not only a real fight but needs to be won to progress. It’s a real pace killer, and unfortunately, that is one of the major issues with the game.

Dance with the Devil in the Pale Moonlight

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a hack and slash title in the vein of other cinematic character action titles such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. The combat has a heavy emphasis on combos and dodging while looking overly stylish for a guy who looks like a bookworm in the introduction cutscene.

There is a 3 weapon system here in El Shaddai. You’ve got:

  • An Arch – essentially a bow without the arrow that you use to physically whack someone.
  • A shield that morphs into gauntlets. Another melee choice.
  • Projectiles called the Veil that you seem to control via telepathy for your ranged attack.

Each weapon does more damage to certain enemies and also needs to be “purified” after use to maintain optimal damage output. This is done via a single button press, but it has a lengthy animation so you need to create an opening to do so.

Combat is performed with few buttons. You have all your attacks performed with the press of one button. Heavy attacks require you to hold the button in and different combos/abilities require rhythm with pauses and such. An example with the Arch is that if you delay a button press you jump over your foe and attack from the rear.

As well as attacks, you have a jump button for getting out of the way and the platforming sections, a block button, and the mentioned “purify” button which cleanses weapons. This button also lets you take weapons off your enemies if you make them dizzy first.

Holy Diver

Outside of combat, you’ll spend the bulk of your time running across barren yet beautiful wastelands. You’ll occasionally find yourself tackling the odd barely thought out the puzzle, and there is a particular sequence later on fans of Final Fantasy VII should get a kick out of.

The controls and feedback have this weird floaty feel to them. Be it intentional because you are an angel or just a development quirk, it doesn’t quite have the tightness of the titles it emulates and feels quite “cheaply” made at times. This isn’t helped by the wonky pacing, lack of HUD, and barebones information the game gives you throughout.

El Shaddai: Ascension of Metatron - Slash

Bible Black

Visually (and please pardon the pun here) El Shaddai is frankly heavenly. It’s a true masterclass of art direction and style just oozes from the screen the second you leave the main menu.

Vibrant colors and minimalistic designs are married with some intricate symbolism. This is combined with an outstanding fusion of heavenly fantasy that bleeds over to cyberpunk scenery. And this is simply the icing on the cake. 

The character model for Enoch and Lucifel is fantastic. Enoch for some reason comes equipped with a pair of Jeans and almost has a look of the 90s model Fabio with his long flowing hair. Lucifel is all suited and booted looking like a mysterious anime antagonist or Shin Megami Tensei support character. 

The enemies of the game take up less defined forms. There are humanesque foes early on, but later enemies range from the more demonic to the rather triangle and angelic. While varied in their design, there aren’t too many and repetition of them hits very quickly. It’s a damn shame considering the source material and creativity of the environments. 

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

The game is fully voiced with mixed results. You’ll mostly hear from Lucifel, who by design is quite mysterious and almost monotone at points. Enoch himself rarely has much to say, but the fallen angels and narration scenes are done brilliantly.

Musically El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is about as eclectic as you would expect from the graphics. The wild arrangements of experimental tracks alongside heavenly compositions and devilish rock tracks are all brilliantly done and are a guiding force throughout the tale. 

In terms of this particular port of the game, not a whole lot has been done. There are a few visual tweaks you can do and V-Sync is essential otherwise screen tear will wreck the experience. Aside from the fact it’s now playable on Steam, there isn’t anything extra for those of you who already own the game on PS3/XBox 360.


El Shaddai: Ascension of Metatron has always been a title I’ve enjoyed but often struggled to recommend. It’s repetitive due to shallow combat and few and far between set pieces. Visually the game is untouchable, but in such a way it almost damages the game by trying to make such rich visuals with an experience that’s otherwise average at every turn.

It feels like they’re trying to emulate a Grasshopper/Suda/Swery style of storytelling, but with all the intricacy of a nuclear bomb. More often than not, it tries to replicate without care or understanding why certain aspects were done in the first place.

It’s not all bad, the game does what it sets out to do and provides a memorable and unique experience. It’s just a pity that shallow gameplay and a lack of significant improvement in the PC version knock it down somewhat. I do think gamers who enjoy more cult classic titles will find enough to love here to justify a few nights of angel chasing.


Platforms: PC, XBox 360, PlayStation 3

If you would like to see more Hack and Slash games, you may be interested in our review of Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate.

Many thanks go to Crim for a PC review code for this title.

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