If you haven't heard of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, I don't blame you. This seventh generation title launched on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ten years ago, and to call it a cult classic is an understatement. Yet, a new generation of gamers is now able to explore this Hebrew-inspired epic on modern hardware. While El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron may have slipped under the radar, it's time to recognize that this hack-and-slash might very well be one of the greatest titles of its generation.
That's what I'd like to say, at least. While El Shaddai is indeed an incredible experience, playing it on PC is far from that.
The Port Quality of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
When you're dealing with a seventh-generation title, the port quality can vary from amazing to downright terrible. I wouldn't say this particular port is awful, but El Shaddai's PC version is about as bare-bones as it can get. While it runs on modern PCs now, that's about all it does right.
Extra features and graphical settings are essentially non-existent.
In fact, you can't change graphical quality at all. The only graphical setting you should be able to do is changing the resolution, which does, thankfully, support up to 4K. But that's it. In-game, there's no way to change the quality of graphics; instead, you're met with a launcher where you can tweak the settings before charging into the game proper. There's the option to enable multisampling, as well as locking the frame rate to Vsyc. That's about it. Good luck.
Vsync, by the way, doesn't even work. I have a 144hz monitor, so if I enable Vsync, Steam's in-game FPS counter will show 144 frames. However, after a couple of seconds of sitting at a blank screen, the game crashes. As far as I can tell, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron runs at a maximum of 60 frames per second. Cutscenes—which seem to retain the same visual quality as they did 10 years ago—sometimes dip to a fixed 30 frames. It's a huge disappointment. Playing this title at a higher frame rate would enhance the gameplay experience significantly.
Besides the overall absence of settings, I experienced three crashes in my roughly 9 hours of playtime. Two crashes happened twice in a row on a certain chapter, while another occurred during a cutscene for the final boss. Generally, El Shaddai is a smooth experience that ran just fine. One last disappointment is that this port does not support mouse and keyboard. The bare minimum I would expect from a PC port is mouse and keyboard support, but that is not the case here. With relatively simple controls, this was a puzzling exclusion.
The Journey that is El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
I didn't understand the majority of El Shaddai's story, and I believe that's because of my lack of knowledge behind its inspirations. This is a title that is based on Hebrew myth, and it's not an area I am familiar with. On a base level though, El Shaddai deals with God, angels, and the like. There is its own twist on the myth, of course. Lucifel, a companion on your quest in the story, speaks to God on a cellphone. Your character, Enoch, wears a pair of denim jeans under his pristine, white armor. Look, it sounds far-fetched but just roll with it. It's a ride
It's rare to see a title with such astounding art direction. The graphics, though dated, hold up due to the extremely unique environments you encounter on your adventure. El Shaddai transitions from paintbrush-like environments to cartoonish platforming sequences all the way to an adrenaline-fueled motorcycle chase through a futuristic city. Combined with a tremendous soundtrack, this is a game that isn't afraid to go wild and create an adventure you're not soon to forget.
El Shaddai mixes up its gameplay significantly, transitioning from third-person hack-and-slashing to 2D platforming. The 2D platforming sections aren't as numerous as the fighting. Even though the focus is less on these platforming sequences, the jumping and movement itself feels fluid and has just the right amount of challenge. You're not going to experience level design on par with Super Mario Bros. or Super Meat Boy, but I did enjoy these areas. It's a nice change of pace from the action-packed brawls you'll experience.
Yes, for the most part, this is an action title. The gameplay is incredibly simple but has a nice layer of complexity. There's three different weapons total, and your attack button is just that—a single button. You can time attacks to break an enemy's blocks, launch bad guys up into the air, and more. Getting the hang of the combat is easy but encounters gradually ramp up and become challenging. Mastering the different weapons is not a necessity, but you'll be rewarded.
I was able to sling together attacks like a pro with each weapon by the end of the story, which was a fulfilling feeling.
Despite this, I was disappointed in the weapon variety. One weapon is a sword-like object, another is a projectile-based weapon, and the last is a shield that can form into two fists. You'll probably stick with the one you feel most comfortable with for the majority of this experience. Even one more weapon would have enhanced the experience. Another downside is that El Shaddai gets a tad exhausting in the final stretch as you go through several bosses with little time between. For what they were, however, these fights felt like the right amount of challenge. Combat encounters are broken up between platforming elements, but still, the pacing felt very solid, negating some of the repetition as you take a break from the fighting.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron | Final Thoughts
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is not an experience you should miss out on, were it not for the shoddy PC port, that is. It's not a terrible port, don't get me wrong, but it does nothing to enhance the experience. With no support for higher frame rates or mouse and keyboard input, the effort here was minimal. Thankfully, the astounding, jaw-dropping visual design and satisfying gameplay mean that despite being a poor port, this is one exceptional, dare I say epic, video game.
TechRaptor reviewed El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Outstanding Art Direction and Sound
- Solid and Satisfying Combat
- Fun Platforming Segments
- Bare Minimum PC Port
- Tedious Final Stretch