Preview – Eastern Exorcist

Eastern Exorcist is, to put it simply, a work of art. With a Chinese inspired art style, each frame is hand-drawn; Wildfire Games have served us a visually stunning game. The gameplay is a clean 2D side-scrolling RPG with a hint of souls-like inspiration meaning you lose ‘Power’ upon death, have a refillable healing item and rest at shrines to fully heal as well as level up. Also, the game is pretty difficult! While gamers are not unfamiliar with gorgeous looking 2D side-scroller hits such as Cuphead and Hollow Knight, the gameplay needs to be just as good as it looks for it to be a highly rated game.

In the game you play as Lu Yunchuan, an exorcist sent to find and kill a demon terrorising the east. At the start of the game it quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem and your job as an exorcist is not an easy one. As you make your way through the game you come to learn of the dark pasts behind the characters and locations you encounter on your journey. Despite the game currently being incomplete and a few translation errors, the story is very well planned and has a lot of potential as it stands; I am looking forward to learning more about the character stories beyond what has been offered so far. Delving deeper into the NPC backgrounds and giving us more depth to the locations would be beneficial to the narrative and greatly affect the emotions of the player when going through large plot events that are currently told in 10 second cutscenes, skipping a lot of detail and preventing you from interacting with characters in the aftermath to learn more.

The combat is not all too unfamiliar from the usual souls-like formula including parry, dodge, block, attack and magic commands. Fighting the demons you encounter is fun and challenging especially against the bosses, however against the smaller enemies you fight in between it can become dull quite quickly; this is because the enemies aren’t challenging (I died once to regular enemies) so it becomes more of a chore. I do hope they update the combat to have an upwards and downwards attack because against enemies who fly it can become annoying, instead of challenging, to try and hit them; I also believe this would make the combat and movement of the game feel much smoother.

Exorcist Arts are your spells they’re cast using mana that you gain in various different ways, such as attacking, and use that to unleash a powerful magic attack depending on which Art you have equipped. There was a missed opportunity because you can equip four different Arts and change between them mid combat and while the idea of flicking through a bunch of different spells while in combat is really cool, it doesn’t quite work like that because they don’t share mana. Each Exorcist Art has its own mana bar so mana does not transfer between the equipped Arts forcing you to collect more mana to make use of this feature. The game gives you the opportunity to equip four arts but then adds road-blocks preventing you from using them all seamlessly throughout combat reducing the ability to mix it up during fights.

Upgrades are always an integral part of RPGs giving players the opportunity to build characters suited to their preferred playstyle; while this remains kind of true in Eastern Exorcist the upgrade system could do with a little bit of work. My main annoyance is that you use Power to upgrade your character and your Exorcist Arts, however I believe that there should be two separate currencies for these upgrades. By only having one currency for all upgrades means that on your first playthrough you can only fully upgrade one spell and max out your character level instead of experimenting. On one hand this means the game is more replayable by making your way through using different spells but at the cost of making the combat less fun than it could be. I am interested to see if they will add different currencies and provide more options to upgrade your character to gain more passive skills, for example after killing a certain amount of demons you gain a chunk of health; this would add more depth to levelling, more replayability and let the player choose how they want to play.

While only just releasing in early access the game still has quite a few problems it needs to address like the linearity of the game; without suggesting a more metroidvania approach, I rather think that the game should let players figure objectives out for themselves whilst playing through. When exploring I received an item and thought “I know what to do with this” but that feeling of discovery was instantly taken away when a pop up box appeared telling me exactly what to do. This makes these kinds of quests dull instead of giving the feeling of adventure. On the flip side I encountered no bugs or glitches whilst playing through the entirety of the game.

Eastern Exorcist is still far from being a complete game but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick it up if you like games of this genre. Averaging at around 5 hours of play time, it isn’t the longest game but it’s also very cheap compared to the obvious amount of time and effort gone into it. Also, Wildfire Games have already teased new content. After completing this beautifully hand-crafted game it left me wanting more story, background and dazzling cutscenes and I look forward to seeing what they change as well as add in the final product!