Preview: Eastern Exorcist is Difficult, Beautiful

Screenshot: Eastern Exorcist

It’s hard to overstate how great it is to play a game with satisfying controls. Tight, fluid combat should be the standard, but so many games get it wrong across the spectrum, from indie to AAA. Thankfully, there are those developers that put special care into getting this aspect just right.  Having precise, responsive controls is also essential for fast-paced action games with little margin to error—like Eastern Exorcist.

Eastern Exorcist is a challenging 2D side-scrolling action adventure game with role-playing game elements. You take the role of an exorcist—which in this fictitious depiction of ancient China means you’re a dude with a sword and lots of know-how when it comes to kicking demon butt. And that’s a good thing, because there are a ton of evil creatures and spirits around that need to be banished.

Screenshot: Eastern Exorcist

To banish your enemies, you’ll have to master Eastern Exorcists’ sword combat, as well as dodging, blocking and the extremely important counterattack. Then, when you have weakened your enemy far enough, you can banish them. If you don’t banish them fast enough, you’ll have to face them again for them to be permanently defeated. Combat is fast and dangerous with little margin for error, even on “normal” difficulty.

Boss battles are plentiful in Eastern Exorcist—and you’ll need to use your counterattack liberally if you hope to succeed. Counterattacking gives you invincibility frames, and does massive damage—but it can also leave you vulnerable in certain situations, especially when counterattacking ranged attacks. The bosses you’ll face have interesting movesets and are usually difficult, though there are some that are easy, making some bosses feel like massive spikes in challenge level.

Screenshot: Eastern Exorcist

Eastern Exorcist lets you play in a semi-open world. Most of the time you have the choice of path to take—though in the few hours I played, I was just as often forced to take whatever the direct path was to my next goal. There are shrines throughout the world that allow you to rest, fast travel, and level up your character in a way that’s reminiscent of Dark Souls’ bonfires or Sekiro’s shrines. Except, in Eastern Exorcist, you don’t lose all of your experience upon death, but rather a fraction of it—and there’s no body to recover.

Eastern Exorcist is not only difficult, it’s also gorgeous. It uses a hand-drawn Chinese art style that is spectacular to look at. Levels are beautiful, often with lively backgrounds that show off its fictitious eastern world. It’s story-driven, and many story elements are told in cutscenes that use the same type of art style, and are excellently done.

Screenshot: Eastern Exorcist

When you first play the game, you’re greeted with the usual tutorials you would get in most games familiarizing players with the basic and then more advanced controls. And then, it feels like it never stops, introducing a new mechanic or element every time you encounter anything remotely novel. The tutorials stopped the action so many times in the first two hours, I was beginning to get exhausted from them. Pacing them out a little better would have been great. It’s not like the developer didn’t realize it was a problem, since there was a patch to make the tutorials less intrusive.

Eastern Exorcist is currently in Early Access, though it’s fully playable with the core mechanics in place, and the male protagonists’ story complete. According to the Steam store page developer Wildfire Games estimates that, if the game has reached a certain satisfactory degree of completion, it will leave early access in three to six months. The only work that remains is polishing the current product, adding more challenge modes, and adding in additional story content.

Screenshot: Eastern Exorcist

Challenging, fast paced, but fun, Eastern Exorcist is worth picking up. It has a gorgeous hand drawn Chinese art style mixed with a fast paced, satisfying combat system. It does have some unexpected difficulty spikes, and will probably benefit from some additional development time, but as it is now, Eastern Exorcist feels like a complete experience.

Eastern Exorcist is available now in Early Access on Steam—and there’s a demo to download so you can attempt some exorcisms yourself.


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