It’s been pretty much a decade since the original release of El Shaddai all the way back in 2011 on the Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3. Even back then it was a bit under-the-radar, so will this fresh spotlight on it entice those that may have missed it the first time to try now? Let’s find out
Inspired by the apocryphal Book of Enoch, El Shaddai follows God’s chosen hero Enoch, a scribe seeking seven fallen angels on Earth to return to Heaven and prevent a great flood from destroying mankind. He is helped in his quest by a guardian angel in Lucifel, alongside four other Archangels, as he attempts to capture and imprison the fallen angels. After spending several hundred years roaming the Earth, Enoch has finally located the great tower that homes those that must be returned to Heaven.
The game is loosely based on numerous characters & tales from Judeo-Christian biblical writings, but thankfully this acts as more of a narrative backdrop for Enoch’s adventure as opposed to the main crux. There isn’t really any preaching to be had, nor is any knowledge of these tales really needed, with the theological angle mainly playing in to the games overall visual style as the fallen angels warp human civilisations. It’s certainly an interesting tale, with Lucifel on hand to narrate and offer save points, and the constantly changing worlds will keep you intrigued during ths games runtime.
Probably not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the audio-visual design on display here is one of the games highlights for sure. The worlds are always heavily stylised, but even then you can see where the inspiration comes from with numerous cultures around the world used as a base for environment & character designs. A lot of the games variety comes from this as each chapter can look and sound different to the next. There’s no UI to get in the way either, so you’ll have to keep an eye on Enoch visually as his armour cracks and weapons discolour to denote damage etc
As you would expect for a port of a game from 2011, you don’t really need much to run this game at a locked 60fps. My PC (R51600/16GB/RTX2080 ti) pretty much put its feet up and sat back with a cup of Earl Grey the whole time even when running 4K/60. It’s my work laptop (Core i7/16GB/HD 7750) that was interesting, now back in action for low-end testing, as it had no issue hitting 1080/60. Wouldn’t surprise me if you could get great performance out of old 15 year old hardware on this game given how barebones of a port it is really. Doesn’t even have KB/M controls or Steam cloud save integration.
Whilst the game likes to dabble around in as many genre’s as possible to aid its experience, for the most part its easy to think of the game as a simple 3D action platformer. You’ll usually be combating the followers of fallen angels and avoiding pitfalls that try to block your progress. The combat system itself is somewhat simplistic in that it lacks a typically fleshed out combo system you would expect of a hack & slash, instead a mastery of timing is required to counter and unleash more powerful moves that you string together in sequence. This is further simplified by the fact there are only a few weapons, which do offer different combat styles of course, but ultimately feel limiting. Being able to steal an enemies weapon as they are downed is a nice touch though as it allows for quicker switching, purifying of the weapon, and smoother combat overall.
As noted before the game does go into other styles of gameplay occasionally. Often it’ll switch things out to a 2D style action platformer like the games old as you jump between platforms and ride waves to reach the next section, there’s even the odd driving section and puzzle to complete that adds extra flavour. This does add a lot of variety to how the chapters can play out, but then there’s always a downside to this approach too – that being the jack-of-all trades and master of none approach. The gameplay doesn’t really excel in any area to be honest, I’d even go as far as to say it is somewhat mundane and is carried by the audio-visual design.
El Shaddai is certainly an overlooked gem, no doubt about it. The visual flair and narrative crafted around biblical stories still holds up after all these years, you can almost lose yourself in the stylised worlds. Amusingly, the games visuals have aged better than the gameplay here, something unexpected given the age of the game. Second time around hasn’t quite held up for me, but those that haven’t sampled the game before should find things enjoyable. If you’re looking for something a little different, then El Shaddai should offer plenty, especially to newcomers.
A decade on and still a visually beautiful adventure, so long as it’s your first time