“Souls-like” games are a dime a dozen now, but within that genre we now have such a wide range of different approaches (and quality levels I might add) that there’s something for everybody. If you want your medieval style, stick with Dark Souls, gothic horror? Bloodborne, something that draws upon Japanese mythology? Well, there’s a few of those, including Nioh and Sekiro, some fantastical land? Well, I really enjoyed Decay of Logos even if others didn’t. Those are all set in lands that have been lovingly created in 3D and I’ve ignored an entire sub-genre of Soulslike, that being ones presented in 2D, and that’s purely because I’ve not really played any of them, until Eastern Exorcity arrived on the scene.
I’ll say right now, Eastern Exorcist is currently in Early Access, as I write this its had a couple of updates already, providing tweaks and balances in various areas. Even so, the gameplay has remained mostly the same, which is a good thing as it’s incredibly rewarding.
The focus of the game is on combat, though unlike those other games I’ll try and refrain from mentioning, you’re encouraged to just go all out and attack, though there limitations to this. There’s a variety of different skills you have at your disposal, from standard attacks to ones that launch your enemy into the air with the option to parry attacks thrown in there too, the latter is an important skill to master and the developers have included handy tells for most enemy types, including bosses, to remind you to hit the correct button.
The most interesting mechanic on offer is the focus on dispelling enemies. Once you’ve chopped them down to size you have to rid them from the battle field and claim their souls or else they come back to life and are much tougher to dispatch. Likewise, the game borrows its inspirations stamina mechanics, if you just bash away at the attack button, your stamina runs out quickly and you have to use the limited space provided to try and let the bar build back up again. This doesn’t take a long time, but it does leave you very exposed, as, like I’ve already mentioned, there’s no real way of just running away. You can change to the next/previous screen, but that resets the enemies you’ve already defeated. Instead, you’re rewarded for using the tells I’ve already mentioned to initiate parry and dodgy attacks that don’t use stamina.
There’s other influences here too, most notably Vanillaware’s output, this is evident in the layout of the game, with each 2D location being a part of a bigger map that offers a variety of branches to explore as you progress. It’s not just the games gameplay that draws from the likes of Dragons Crown and Odin Sphere, as there’s more than a hint of inspiration in its visuals with the almost handpainted look that WildFire Games has gone for.
Eastern Exorcist is a real surprise for me, its really compelling to play and there’s a brilliant risk/reward element to its gameplay, and with each screen being mostly its own separate thing it creates that special “30 seconds of gameplay” kind of feel that Bungie used to talk about when they were responsible for the Halo games. I won’t even pretend I’ve finished it, so I haven’t yet seen all it has to offer, mostly because I’m pretty crap at Souls-like games and I’ll still probably be chipping away at it in a few months time, but if you’re really into the genre then you could do a lot worse than this for less than fifteen pounds!
Formats: PC (version tested)
Release Date: 14 August 2020
Developer: WildFire Games