Religion And Games With El Shaddai's Takeyasu Sawaki

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Posted by patrickklepek (5719 posts) -

When the dust settles on 2011, it’s unlikely many will be arguing El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was the best playing game this year, but it’ll be easy to make the case that it was one of the most striking. Every screen looks like a painting.

Of course, El Shaddai was overseen by acclaimed Okami and Devil May Cry character designer Takeyasu Sawaki.

“El Shaddai came about in a very interesting way,” said Sawaki in a recent email exchange. “Members of UTV Ignition’s London office first came up with the idea to create an action game based on the Book of Enoch, but they wanted the game to be developed in Japan.”

Like El Shaddai, Okami had an incredibly distinct look, one that made it instantly identifiable.

Ignition approached Sawaki about the idea, and asked him to become involved. Intrigued by the concept, he proposed being the project director--a first for him. El Shaddai started active development in 2007, and was released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this past September.

Sure, El Shaddai hasn’t made the same impact as either Okami or Devil May Cry, but it’s received near universal acclaim for its looks, which are trippy, strange and distracting in the best way possible.

“When the process first started and I was reading the Book of Enoch, I actually thought the texts were boring!” he told me. “But creating the Tower of Babel level structure allowed for endless possibilities for design and variety. Since the game launched we have seen people write about how each level looks like it could have come from a different game--which is what we wanted to achieve.”

Its meaning is debated, but El Shaddai is often literally translated as “God Almighty.” And while El Shaddai is based upon the biblical apocrypha The Book of Enoch, the adaptation plays fast and loose with the events depicted within.

In the game, one of the main characters, Lucifel, is often found talking to God on his cell phone. El Shaddai continues a long tradition of Japanese video games, especially true regarding RPGs, having little problem layering religion into the narrative.

We don't really see in the West, but even in this case, the game isn’t meant to be especially religious, as Sawaki isn’t.

“I have no specific religion, but I always strongly feel that this world is not everything,” he said. “I believe in a ‘voice inside’ and ‘intuition.’ In Japan, we often view religion as more of a spectrum of beliefs and philosophies, but I was very conscious about the themes I was working with throughout the El Shaddai’s development.”

Xenogears' story is crazy, but you can't accuse the game of being afraid of touchy subjects.

Sawaki figures that’s why many Western games avoid religion.

“People in Japan typically describe themselves as following multiple belief systems and philosophies,” he continued, “whereas other regions of the world more strictly adhere to one particular religion. I believe this causes sensitivities on the topic of religion that does not happen here in Japan. That may explain why it is more ‘taboo’ in Western cultures than in Japan.”

You can’t make a game with religious themes without having given the subject some serious thought, however, and Sawaki admitted the subject has given him some pause, influencing the game’s look.

“Sometimes in my dreams I see what I think to be the afterlife,” he said. “Dreams I have had inspired some of the looks in El Shaddai.”

The game was designed with some narrative gaps that Sawaki is currently hoping to fill; he’s writing a novel that will expand on some of the side stories mentioned in the game. This could also feed into “further brand extensions,” but Sawaki was unwilling to talk about what else he was working on.

He also waived away the notion that El Shaddai’s sometimes heavier themes were a reflection of his own aging process.

“I will say that like Enoch, we are all faced with difficult choices in our lives and we want to believe we made the right ones,” he said. “That is human nature. However, the reality is someone like Lucifel,’ who views with third person’s eyes, realizes better than you.”

If you're tired of yet another military shooter, you can't get more different than El Shaddai. Seek it out.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (5719 posts) -

When the dust settles on 2011, it’s unlikely many will be arguing El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was the best playing game this year, but it’ll be easy to make the case that it was one of the most striking. Every screen looks like a painting.

Of course, El Shaddai was overseen by acclaimed Okami and Devil May Cry character designer Takeyasu Sawaki.

“El Shaddai came about in a very interesting way,” said Sawaki in a recent email exchange. “Members of UTV Ignition’s London office first came up with the idea to create an action game based on the Book of Enoch, but they wanted the game to be developed in Japan.”

Like El Shaddai, Okami had an incredibly distinct look, one that made it instantly identifiable.

Ignition approached Sawaki about the idea, and asked him to become involved. Intrigued by the concept, he proposed being the project director--a first for him. El Shaddai started active development in 2007, and was released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this past September.

Sure, El Shaddai hasn’t made the same impact as either Okami or Devil May Cry, but it’s received near universal acclaim for its looks, which are trippy, strange and distracting in the best way possible.

“When the process first started and I was reading the Book of Enoch, I actually thought the texts were boring!” he told me. “But creating the Tower of Babel level structure allowed for endless possibilities for design and variety. Since the game launched we have seen people write about how each level looks like it could have come from a different game--which is what we wanted to achieve.”

Its meaning is debated, but El Shaddai is often literally translated as “God Almighty.” And while El Shaddai is based upon the biblical apocrypha The Book of Enoch, the adaptation plays fast and loose with the events depicted within.

In the game, one of the main characters, Lucifel, is often found talking to God on his cell phone. El Shaddai continues a long tradition of Japanese video games, especially true regarding RPGs, having little problem layering religion into the narrative.

We don't really see in the West, but even in this case, the game isn’t meant to be especially religious, as Sawaki isn’t.

“I have no specific religion, but I always strongly feel that this world is not everything,” he said. “I believe in a ‘voice inside’ and ‘intuition.’ In Japan, we often view religion as more of a spectrum of beliefs and philosophies, but I was very conscious about the themes I was working with throughout the El Shaddai’s development.”

Xenogears' story is crazy, but you can't accuse the game of being afraid of touchy subjects.

Sawaki figures that’s why many Western games avoid religion.

“People in Japan typically describe themselves as following multiple belief systems and philosophies,” he continued, “whereas other regions of the world more strictly adhere to one particular religion. I believe this causes sensitivities on the topic of religion that does not happen here in Japan. That may explain why it is more ‘taboo’ in Western cultures than in Japan.”

You can’t make a game with religious themes without having given the subject some serious thought, however, and Sawaki admitted the subject has given him some pause, influencing the game’s look.

“Sometimes in my dreams I see what I think to be the afterlife,” he said. “Dreams I have had inspired some of the looks in El Shaddai.”

The game was designed with some narrative gaps that Sawaki is currently hoping to fill; he’s writing a novel that will expand on some of the side stories mentioned in the game. This could also feed into “further brand extensions,” but Sawaki was unwilling to talk about what else he was working on.

He also waived away the notion that El Shaddai’s sometimes heavier themes were a reflection of his own aging process.

“I will say that like Enoch, we are all faced with difficult choices in our lives and we want to believe we made the right ones,” he said. “That is human nature. However, the reality is someone like Lucifel,’ who views with third person’s eyes, realizes better than you.”

If you're tired of yet another military shooter, you can't get more different than El Shaddai. Seek it out.

#2 Posted by jkuc316 (981 posts) -

@CodyH said:

First

Great Job Jeremy

#3 Posted by dvorak (1497 posts) -

This game has a very specific target audience in mind, and I'm completely ok to be way outside of that scope.

#4 Posted by Son_of_Nun (10 posts) -

I'm Awake. Thanks Patrick!

#5 Posted by bassman2112 (847 posts) -

Though I'm an Atheist, the notion of a game with biblical set pieces is appealing. The fiction envokes some interesting imagery that I'm sure translates well to a game haha. May end up checking it out =) Thanks for the article, Patrick.

#6 Posted by DiamondDave (29 posts) -

No offence Patrick, but it is actually Lucifel that talks to God on his cell phone.

#7 Posted by Little_Socrates (5684 posts) -

@patrickklepek: You play as Enoch, but it's Lucifel that spends the game talking to God on a cell phone. Enoch never even touches a phone. (Don't mean to judge, just hard to imagine you played much of El Shaddai if you didn't correctly identify them!)

I rather enjoyed this game. I honestly think it is pretty fun to play, and mixes things up pretty drastically at points. Its ending levels are less than superb, though. Its visuals and characters, however, are fun from start to finish. The story it tells might not be interesting without them, but combined with its aesthetic it was one of the most interesting games I'd played this year.

#8 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Wait, Enoch's talking to God? I think you mean Lucifel, Patrick. Also, as long as I'm pointing out petty flaws, the game came out in August (I got it for my birthday in August).

#9 Posted by DJ_EuroGhost (130 posts) -

@dvorak: In what way? I am a devout atheist and the book that this game is based on is a collection of bronze age desert fables... wouldn't be any different from playing a lord of the rings game or a comic book game, you know, something else that is made up :)

#10 Posted by Little_Socrates (5684 posts) -

@DudeOlav: I'm gonna guess it's the people who can handle an INCREDIBLY vague story and people who can coast on character and atmosphere.

#11 Posted by Klaimore (948 posts) -

It's great to hear Sawakis point of view on religion is. I know I definitely playing this game this year.

#12 Posted by Hailinel (25179 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

Wait, Enoch's talking to God? I think you mean Lucifel, Patrick. Also, as long as I'm pointing out petty flaws, the game came out in August (I got it for my birthday in August).

What does it matter that it came out in August?

#13 Posted by GTCknight (704 posts) -

Played the demo and I have to say that I didn' t enjoy the lack of a HUD, or any form of device which could tell me what was happening or was I near death.

#14 Posted by Maajin (1074 posts) -

It must be cool to remember enough of dreams to design stuff based on them. Great article, Patrick!

#15 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -
@Hailinel
 
He said it came out in September. (Hey, I said I was pointing out petty flaws. Those were literally my exact words.)
#16 Posted by RedCricketChase (444 posts) -

I was raised in a hardcore Pentecostal household, so any game with the name of God in the title, which isn't making fun of Christianity, ain't gonna get bought by my atheist ass. Haven't quite healed enough yet from that religion, heh!

#17 Posted by dvorak (1497 posts) -

@DudeOlav said:

@dvorak: In what way? I am a devout atheist and the book that this game is based on is a collection of bronze age desert fables... wouldn't be any different from playing a lord of the rings game or a comic book game, you know, something else that is made up :)

I would consider myself an atheist as well, in the way that I don't really give a fuck about religion. Putting aside the fact that no one can be a 'devout' atheist, there a virtually infinite quantity of quality fiction-based content out there that doesn't deal with poorly translated pseudo-religious bullshit. Of course it's all made up, but it's also just fucking dumb on top of that.

It's not even as much the content, but the approach they took. I'd just like to remind everyone what that dude showing off the game in the QL said: "Well if you know your bible..."

Fuck. Right. Off. (not you, whoever that dude was)

#18 Posted by Movius (16 posts) -

It's fairly simple. Not having any history of Christianity the Japanese tend to just use it as another myth to mine for characters. No different to the use of Egyptian or Viking gods in predominantly Christian countries

#19 Edited by Branthog (5583 posts) -

Using various mythologies as the background or world to create a story out of isn't very original, but it's something I can tolerate if it is done right. Religion, on the other hand, is just another gimmick. This seems to straddle religion and mythology, but still contain nothing that I find compelling or interesting. The background on this sounds a lot like a Shyamalan "with a twist" *yawn* story. Or like a Dan Brown attempt -- ridiculous and uninteresting, yet somehow that found an audience of people who thought they were in the middle of something clever and awe-inspiring.

I want to play a game about religion about as much as I want to play a game about abortion, feminism, immigration, or any of several "I just took Philosophy 101" concepts. Gamers seem to succumb to this sort of trickery, so easily, but it strikes me as no different than GamaSutra needing more hits, so writing yet another "sexism/women in gaming" article or a television show promoting that an important character might die this next episode, or a show putting a puppy or a child in harm's way because they aren't clever enough to find another way to achieve emotional impact.

To each their own, but this is a genre that does not appeal to me. Much in the same way that demons and ghosts don't appeal to me. It's like watching Paranormal Activity, which is a lot like staring at your fireplace and waiting for Santa to climb out with a sack full of toys. I think we all want to see more games with a greater level of maturity, complexity, and story depth, but I don't think we want the cheap low-hanging-fruit attempts at it.

And yes, I discern between the two things: religion and mythology. A game set in the world of Norse or Greek gods is mythology. A game steeped in a currently practiced and preached dogma is religion. (Unless there is a huge contingent of people out there that still believe in Norse or Greek gods, in which case I guess that's still "religion", too . . . but I am under the impression those are dead religions).

#20 Posted by fooflighter737 (172 posts) -

Flying spaghetti monster games....nah I'll pass, I get enough fantasy in RPG's

#21 Posted by Little_Socrates (5684 posts) -

@dvorak: Thing is, to know literature, you really do need to know your Bible, whether you're Christian or not. It's, you know, the first widely-published book. It shapes most of our narrative today. I'm not saying I know mine, but I acknowledge the importance of knowing the Bible to really get most literary allusions.

I think that Quick Look also largely misrepresents El Shaddai. There's a goddamned Tron level in that game. You ride a light cycle for an almost absurd amount of time. My jaw literally was dropped throughout the entire sequence.

Also, this loading screen has that one track that sounds EXACTLY like the jam at the end of Another Brick In The Wall (Part I).

#22 Posted by Kifftopher (33 posts) -

@GTCknight: Duder, there is indication of damage/near death... Enoch's armor breaks away as you take damage.

#23 Posted by Branthog (5583 posts) -

@dvorak said:

@DudeOlav said:

@dvorak: In what way? I am a devout atheist and the book that this game is based on is a collection of bronze age desert fables... wouldn't be any different from playing a lord of the rings game or a comic book game, you know, something else that is made up :)

I would consider myself an atheist as well, in the way that I don't really give a fuck about religion. Putting aside the fact that no one can be a 'devout' atheist, there a virtually infinite quantity of quality fiction-based content out there that doesn't deal with poorly translated pseudo-religious bullshit. Of course it's all made up, but it's also just fucking dumb on top of that.

It's not even as much the content, but the approach they took. I'd just like to remind everyone what that dude showing off the game in the QL said: "Well if you know your bible..."

Fuck. Right. Off. (not you, whoever that dude was)

This stuff turns me off, too. It's fine if it appeals to certain people, but let's stop acting like it's great literature or something. It's the equivalent to a gaming website doing a long pretentious (yet superficial, to anyone giving it more than glancing attention) article about something we all have to pretend to care about so that you can convey to the rest of the industry and your readers that you are a Serious Journalist. Take nearly every article I've ever seen spewing the same uninteresting paragraphs about "women in gaming". I guess the words I'm looking for are patronizing and disingenuous.

To be fair, however, it's not merely religion. That's why I say, if it appeals to someone else - great for them. I also don't have any interest in Pokemon, Naruto, or Dragon Ball Z (all things I know the names of but don't actually know anything about). The only difference is that nobody has ever presented any of those things to me as something I'm supposed to care about or be moved by or find deep and compelling as some sort of new peak in gaming maturity, because I'm so clever bible jesus god religion twist. Those things are not presented to me in this pretentious "look how deep I am" sort of way, when as you put it, it's actually just fucking dumb. Somehow, we are blinded by just how dumb things are in gaming. Because it's slightly new or is something different than jumping over boxes or shooting dudes in the face, we wet ourselves over it. We're kind of like the kid who just took Philosophy 101 and thinks that he's the only one who is finally seeing the whole world in a different way that nobody else is seeing and is driving everyone nuts with his juvenile "what if we're all just a butterfly's dream?!". We're wetting ourselves over a game where you talk to the christian god on a cell phone while those in other forms of story telling and literature (writing, music, movies, etc) are looking at us like we might look at that dumbass college freshman. Like we don't even know the world of great story telling that is out there, beyond our superficial and silly stories where we think "but you can choose to harvest the little girls or save them!" gimmicks are clever, moving, and compelling.

Also, everyone get off my fucking lawn! :P

#24 Edited by dvorak (1497 posts) -

@Little_Socrates: I completely agree with your argument about knowing bible as the basis for literary references, and as far as that is concerned, I'd like to think that I know enough having been begrudgingly put through catechism and confirmation.

It was just the tone that he used at the time -- perhaps not properly representing the game -- which really seemed religiously pretentious. Assuming people know something cultural can be annoying, if not completely harmless, assuming people know something religious is another thing.

#25 Edited by Rapid (1382 posts) -

Great article Patrick, I am glad to get a sense of what the developer thought about this game. It's interesting you mentioned the title, I would have not knew it stood for God O Mighty, and makes me wonder what would have happened if they just named the game "God O Mighty" . Then again, it might just sound like a B-rated comedy flick.  
 
I got to say I am of the same mindset  following multiple belief systems and philosophies, personally its a nice medium, not stuck believing in one thing,  open to many possibilities.

#26 Posted by MindChamber (346 posts) -

"Sawaki figures that’s why many Western games avoid religion."

Lol, Im guessing he didnt Play Dante's Inferno. Nothings cooler than fighting Satan and his huge jiggly dick.

#27 Posted by dvorak (1497 posts) -

@Branthog: Exactly. Now that someone else has said basically everything else I was probably going to say, I can make my exit.

#28 Posted by Little_Socrates (5684 posts) -

@dvorak: Totally reasonable to get a bad vibe from the way Shane presented. The game barely even presents itself as Biblical, really, but the way he presented the game was a bit too reverent for his product. Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls are non-canonical Bible, so most decent Christians out there still have probably never read them. Hell, a lot of them have probably never even HEARD of them. Literature and religious studies major sure get a kick out of their existence, though.

He's actually not on the development staff, BTW: merely on the localization. And, to be totally honest? Other than the voice acting and the script, which is pretty freaking awesome (with Jason Isaacs totally reprising his role as Lucifel) the localization is pretty awful; the menus and tutorials often make no sense in the sake of "keeping in fiction," and there was NO attempt to localize lip-syncing.

Again, I think it's one of the coolest things to come out this year. I'm a non-denominational Christian, but that also means I really haven't studied the Bible nearly enough to begin with to make that kind of declaration of faith. The reasons I like the game have little to do with their religious nature, and I think emphasizing the religiosity of the game is doing it a disservice. The most religious thing about the game is how vaguely it's presented; most in-game events can be interpreted in a ridiculous number of ways due to the lack of context given, which sounds like most religious texts to me.

#29 Posted by Brodehouse (10104 posts) -

I played El Shaddai. That game is bananas. Also, jeans.

#30 Posted by Movius (16 posts) -

A few comments seem to imply that this game is based on currently practiced Christianity/Judaism. Only the Ethiopian Orthodox Church considers the book of Enoch canon (they consider it the first human writing. It is actually quite late circa 100BC. ) All major christian churches in the anglosphere as well as jews do not consider Enoch to be one of their holy books. (Though it is cited in the new testament.)

This is like saying Neon Genesis Evangelion is an important piece of Christian theology.

#31 Posted by csl316 (9038 posts) -

I quite enjoyed El Shaddai. I found it fairly fun, so not solely a visual treat. But damn, what a visual treat it is.

#32 Posted by Godzilla_Sushi (1084 posts) -

To say that Western developers shy away from religion in games seems to assume that gamers might want that but are denied by societal restrictions. I could care less about games tackling any religion, and the ones that do are subtle. Mass Effect has cult sects, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor reference Islamic Extremists, Fallout has humanity hanging onto religion. Prey even kind of implies that the old man was wrong about believing in the spiritual stuff because aliens existed and jacked us up.

Japanese games tackle it in almost absurd sensibilities. It isn't subtle, rather they use bright colorful and silly ways to vaguely communicate spirituality. It almost never comes through. None of that is out of context. I can play Final Fantasy and recognize the summons as inspired by different Gods of mythology. But there are way more examples where nothing cuts through the absurdity.

There are countless indie titles right now on Steam that communicate all that better then most Japenese games even come close to. They're also good, and not always a JRPG.....

#33 Posted by Animasta (14715 posts) -

@Branthog said:

Using various mythologies as the background or world to create a story out of isn't very original, but it's something I can tolerate if it is done right. Religion, on the other hand, is just another gimmick. This seems to straddle religion and mythology, but still contain nothing that I find compelling or interesting. The background on this sounds a lot like a Shyamalan "with a twist" *yawn* story. Or like a Dan Brown attempt -- ridiculous and uninteresting, yet somehow that found an audience of people who thought they were in the middle of something clever and awe-inspiring.

I want to play a game about religion about as much as I want to play a game about abortion, feminism, immigration, or any of several "I just took Philosophy 101" concepts. Gamers seem to succumb to this sort of trickery, so easily, but it strikes me as no different than GamaSutra needing more hits, so writing yet another "sexism/women in gaming" article or a television show promoting that an important character might die this next episode, or a show putting a puppy or a child in harm's way because they aren't clever enough to find another way to achieve emotional impact.

To each their own, but this is a genre that does not appeal to me. Much in the same way that demons and ghosts don't appeal to me. It's like watching Paranormal Activity, which is a lot like staring at your fireplace and waiting for Santa to climb out with a sack full of toys. I think we all want to see more games with a greater level of maturity, complexity, and story depth, but I don't think we want the cheap low-hanging-fruit attempts at it.

And yes, I discern between the two things: religion and mythology. A game set in the world of Norse or Greek gods is mythology. A game steeped in a currently practiced and preached dogma is religion. (Unless there is a huge contingent of people out there that still believe in Norse or Greek gods, in which case I guess that's still "religion", too . . . but I am under the impression those are dead religions).

me not knowing the bible had no impact on me enjoying the game; sure I looked at the wiki article on the book of enoch but i felt like it really had nothing to do with real life stuff. Isn't Assassins creed steeped in religion? Persona 4, even, was pretty well steeped in Shinto, and there's still a large amount of people who believe that. Digital Devil Saga is so steeped in Hinduism... it fucking included Ardhanarishvara for christ sake (look it up). They aren't actively promoting Christianity with this game. The book of enoch isn't taught in many sunday school classes after all! Just because Christianity is a big thing that I don't agree with doesn't mean that the bible can't spawn a good game or two.

#34 Posted by TehFlan (1944 posts) -

I'm not sure why atheists feel the need to talk about how much they hate religion every time it comes up ever. I sense quite a bit of bitterness. It's not even like this is a Christian game. Chill out, duders.

#35 Posted by 88Fingers (279 posts) -

japanese games suck

#36 Posted by dudeglove (8037 posts) -

lol, Japanese video games and Christianity.

#37 Posted by thetenthdoctor (291 posts) -

@TehFlan: Because most of them could be more accurately described as "anti-theists", not atheists. They're on a quest to convert everyone around them to their belief system, usually even more obnoxiously so than Christians. It's ironic when you think about it, actually.

#38 Posted by Jumbs (272 posts) -

@TehFlan said:

I'm not sure why atheists feel the need to talk about how much they hate religion every time it comes up ever. I sense quite a bit of bitterness. It's not even like this is a Christian game. Chill out, duders.

Bitterness? More like they're upset people still give a shit about these fables.

#39 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11934 posts) -

@Movius said:

It's fairly simple. Not having any history of Christianity the Japanese tend to just use it as another myth to mine for characters. No different to the use of Egyptian or Viking gods in predominantly Christian countries

It's basically this. Saying that El Shaddai is in any way a game based on Judeo-Christian belief doesn't especially strike me as a true statement, considering it has even less to do with its "source material" than the Marvel Thor comic has to do with actual Norse Mythology. Oh well. It's nice to see that people are taking this as an opportunity to tell us how cool it is to be atheist.

#40 Posted by Tebbit (4473 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater said:

@Movius said:

It's fairly simple. Not having any history of Christianity the Japanese tend to just use it as another myth to mine for characters. No different to the use of Egyptian or Viking gods in predominantly Christian countries

It's basically this. Saying that El Shaddai is in any way a game based on Judeo-Christian belief doesn't especially strike me as a true statement, considering it has even less to do with its "source material" than the Marvel Thor comic has to do with actual Norse Mythology. Oh well. It's nice to see that people are taking this as an opportunity to tell us how cool it is to be atheist.

Yo dawg, I heard you liked Atheism, so we put a post with the word "religion" in the title on the internet, so you can watch people shed all social dignity while you browse!

#41 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

Awesome interview, Patrick. I really enjoyed that. This game didn't get much press, but it's it's getting this sort of thought-out discussion.

#42 Posted by clumsyninja1 (817 posts) -

When it comes to certain themes japanese culture tend to be more open than the west. Shintoism and Budhism has a lot deities. Versus Christians has just a few.

#43 Posted by jetsetwillie (857 posts) -

don't games encourage critical thinking. something which goes completely against faith/religion

#44 Posted by cassus (388 posts) -

So many other and better fables it could be based off of. I might still give this game a shot, though. Hardcore antitheist, but I'm okay with playing games with religious beliefs as long as it's not taken as fact or being shoved down your throat. As an example, I wouldn't play Bible Adventures. This game seems to play pretty loose with the whole idea and does not seem preachy.

#45 Posted by TatsurouXIII (652 posts) -

Religious stuff is more interlaced with pop culture than most realize, it's only natural that these things make it into video games. Persona games are awesome, because they take so many characters and ideas from world religions and actually make them equal. The whole thing with Satan being one of the final personas, big step towards mainstreaming the fact that all these things are fairytales. If Charlie Tunoku can dig that hey, Satan is a cool dude, the rest of the world should follow and just admit that the age of believing in fiction is over.

#46 Posted by Luketh (5 posts) -

I didn't think much of El Shaddai's demo other than visually, but I really loved the game when I got it for myself. Gameplay's pretty formulaic and for all the symbolism the plot had a lot of gaps and weird Japanese tropes that felt a little out of place... But still, something about it was really enjoyable. Definitely worth a look since the price has already plummeted on it.

Hit a nice balance between visual design, sound design, simple combat and weirdly compelling setting with a lot of interesting subtext running beneath the surface. The visual range as you go through the plot is really quite stunning. As someone else pointed out already, chapter 6 with a light cycle ride through a sprawling cyberpunk city is as unexpected as it is beautiful and actually makes some modicum of plot sense.

Thanks for a little more insight from the creators! Also, British actor Jason Isaacs voiced Lucifel. After voicing Lucifer in Lords of Shadow last year. I can only conclude he's the official video game voice acting devil from his choices of roles...

#47 Posted by thetrin (131 posts) -

@Branthog said:

Using various mythologies as the background or world to create a story out of isn't very original, but it's something I can tolerate if it is done right. Religion, on the other hand, is just another gimmick. This seems to straddle religion and mythology, but still contain nothing that I find compelling or interesting. The background on this sounds a lot like a Shyamalan "with a twist" *yawn* story. Or like a Dan Brown attempt -- ridiculous and uninteresting, yet somehow that found an audience of people who thought they were in the middle of something clever and awe-inspiring.

I want to play a game about religion about as much as I want to play a game about abortion, feminism, immigration, or any of several "I just took Philosophy 101" concepts. Gamers seem to succumb to this sort of trickery, so easily, but it strikes me as no different than GamaSutra needing more hits, so writing yet another "sexism/women in gaming" article or a television show promoting that an important character might die this next episode, or a show putting a puppy or a child in harm's way because they aren't clever enough to find another way to achieve emotional impact.

To each their own, but this is a genre that does not appeal to me. Much in the same way that demons and ghosts don't appeal to me. It's like watching Paranormal Activity, which is a lot like staring at your fireplace and waiting for Santa to climb out with a sack full of toys. I think we all want to see more games with a greater level of maturity, complexity, and story depth, but I don't think we want the cheap low-hanging-fruit attempts at it.

And yes, I discern between the two things: religion and mythology. A game set in the world of Norse or Greek gods is mythology. A game steeped in a currently practiced and preached dogma is religion. (Unless there is a huge contingent of people out there that still believe in Norse or Greek gods, in which case I guess that's still "religion", too . . . but I am under the impression those are dead religions).

I'm not entirely sure you understand the word "gimmick". There is nothing about the subject matter, or the way it was portrayed in El Shaddai, that suggests the game exists to shock. It's an interpretation of a mythological text.

I'm guessing you've never played El Shaddai, because your whole diatribe of using a religious text for "Shock value" or "Emotional impact" is a red flag that you have no clue what the game is about. There is nothing controversial about El Shaddai, nor is there anything shocking. The game is an aesthetically gorgeous interpretation of a text (that happens to be of religious origin). In fact, the game stays remarkably true to its source material in theme, dressing it up in a unique coat of paint.

Also, I do find it funny that your interpretation of "brain dead psychology" is addressing the three hottest sociopolitical issues in America today. Are you suggesting that they're non-negotiable, or that no argument exists? Are you saying that abortion and feminism are NOT controversial sociopolitical topics in our modern landscape?

Your post seems to be all over the place, but you largely seem to be shaking your fist at the sky. I may be wrong, but I gather from your post that you don't like games about the fantastical. Why do you play video games then? Why not just go outside and sit under a tree? There is plenty of reality around us. Video games should be about the fantastical, the unreal and the absurd. That's the power the video game has. It can be ANYTHING imaginable.

#48 Posted by spilledmilkfactory (1889 posts) -

Just picked the game up on sale from Amazon. I wasn't exactly head over heels for the demo, but it's different enough that I'm willing to give it a shot

#49 Posted by nickux (1385 posts) -

You know, I was very excited about this game before it came out. But for all of its high-concepts and amazing art and Biblical inspiration it was not fun to play. While I can appreciate it from a more philosophical point-of-view, as a game experience I found it to be awful. Terrible platforming, boring combat, and the storytelling felt mired in its own ambiguity.

#50 Posted by RsistncE (4496 posts) -

All I know is that I want a new God of War trilogy set in modern times where the Apocalypse begins. You're John Smith and your family get's killed off during the shitstorm. Turns out you're (unknowingly) one of Kratos descendants and the murder of your family really sets you off. What follows is you murdering the fuck out of Mohammed, Moses, Jesus and then finally God/Allah/Yewah/Elohist etc. whatever you want to call him. That game would be fucking glorious.

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