Interview: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron’s Shane Bettenhausen

While we unfortunately didn’t have enough time during E3 to stop by Ignition Entertainment’s booth, we did get in touch with them afterward about an interview regarding El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. We know many of our readers are interested in the game, so we went ahead and got it.

Shane Bettenhausen, Director of Business Development at Ignition Entertainment, took his time out to answer some questions about the game. Hopefully, both of our efforts will clear up any confusion you may have had about El Shaddai.

Can you give us a quick rundown on just what El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is all about?

El Shaddai thrusts the player into the role of Enoch, a brave human who’s enlisted by Heaven’s Council of Elders to track down a group of renegade fallen angels who are corrupting mankind’s progress on Earth. The “Book of Watchers,” a key part of the Biblical apocrypha collectively known as “The Book of Enoch,” provides direct inspiration for the game’s narrative.

Where, and in what era, does the game take place?

We’re hesitant to narrow the setting of El Shaddai down to a specific time and place, since the game approaches these concepts with some fluidity, but most of the game does take place on Earth from several millennia ago, yet it’s a vision of our planet unlike anything you’ve seen previously—the fallen angels have used their powers to place an ethereal “veil” over the land, so the vistas may appear insubstantial and otherworldly.

Who is Enoch and why was he chosen by God?

Prior to being entrusted with avenging the fallen angels, Enoch was a devout scribe in service to the Council of Elders. Enoch is chosen because he’s an honest, selfless man with an unwavering faith in God who possesses a strong sense of responsibility. He’s also prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to reach his end goal.

Who is Lucifel?

As the most powerful and beloved Archangel in Heaven, Lucifel plays an integral role in executing the Lord’s plan have Enoch track down the fallen angels and bring them to justice. Although he does not physically accompany Enoch on this quest, Lucifel’s guiding spirit is always there to offer witty encouragement, sage advice, or simply help saving and loading your game.

Who are the Grigori that Lucifel keeps mentioning in the first trailer?

The Grigori are the group of fallen angels who defect from Heaven, relocating to the Earth in order to live among the humans whom they became so infatuated with. This story provides the core of the “Book of Watchers” upon which El Shaddai is based.

You’re taking a very interesting artistic direction with El Shaddai. Where was this watercolor-style inspiration conceived?

El Shaddai’s unique visual style springs directly from the imagination of its Director, Mr. Sawaki Takeyasu. Prior to joining the El Shaddai team, Takeyasu had previously been the art director for Capcom’s Okami and Devil May Cry, but for this game, Ignition Entertainment has given him absolute creative freedom, and we are ecstatic about the compelling artistic vision he has created for El Shaddai’s world and characters. He wanted to create something that would be difficult to describe without seeing it, a new look for games that would leave a lasting impact on players.

What do you hope to achieve in developing El Shaddai?

We’re hoping to achieve many different things with this game. First off, El Shaddai is meant to be a fairly disruptive title for the character-action genre, as it looks and feels different than many of the other “hack ‘n’ slash” games available. We also want to empower our core creative team in Japan to break beyond traditional game design barriers that may have held them back in the past, all while drawing from the immensely deep (and largely unexplored) well of story lines and characters offered by the ages-old source material. And fundamentally, we want to forge a rewarding, surprising, and profoundly engaging piece of interactive art that stands the test of time and makes many, many players happy. That’s the big goal.

Most biblical stories have some sort of lesson behind them. Does El Shaddai share this trait?

Since it’s based on ancient tales rife with timeless life lessons, El Shaddai will clearly contain many narrative elements that could be applicable to the player’s life. But we’re not looking to make this a purely didactic product that’s going to preach at the player: first and foremost, it’s going to be a fun, beautiful game. But if you’re looking to dive deep into the story line and explore all of its intricacies on a quest for deeper meaning, we’ll certainly have plenty of that for you to get lost in, too….

How long do you expect the single-player mode in El Shaddai to last?

Although the game is still relatively early on in the development process, we’re expecting that the average player will require between 10 and 12 hours to complete Enoch’s quest, but we also intend to include several reasons to replay the game once you’ve reached the conclusion.

This one’s a stretch – will the game have multiplayer?

Given the game’s focus on story line and the purity of the overall artistic vision, we’re zeroing in on making El Shaddai the most rewarding single-player experience possible.

Is El Shaddai being developed specifically for each platform or is the game being ported from one platform to the other?

We’re working hard to ensure that simultaneous development for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 continues apace, and so far, both versions are coming along nicely. Luckily, the engine that the team is using, Emergent Game Technology’s GameBryo, is well suited to cross-platform development.

In the most recent trailer, we saw Lucifel turn back the hands of time in order to save the life of Enoch. Will players have the ability to go back in time while playing?

As you surmised from that trailer, Lucifel has the ability to manipulate the passage of time in order to carry out the Lord’s will. Whether or not he is able (or willing) to use that power whenever Enoch wishes remains to be seen, but the player should expect to see some impressive displays of Lucifel’s abilities.

At the moment we’ve seen many beautiful environments that look like something out of a fantasy art book. Will we see any modern environments in the game?

So far, only a small amount of El Shaddai’s environments have been showcased, and bear in mind that everything that’s been revealed is still far from being finished. We don’t want to give away too much at this early stage of development, but rest assured that you’ll see a wide variety of locations, with some that are more ethereal and abstract, while others might be a bit more substantial and concrete.

The weapon that Enoch uses looks like a cross between a bow and a blade. Where did the idea for that kind of crossover spawn?

The weapon you’re referring to is known as an “Arch,” a specialized Heavenly blade forged from God’s holy power that is commonly used by angels. Many of these powerful Arches were stolen from Heaven when the Grigori descended to Earth, and Enoch is tasked with reclaiming them from his foes and purifying them to restore them to their original power.

Will Enoch be able to use any other weapons throughout the game?

Definitely. So far, we’ve only shown Enoch fighting in an unarmed stance and with the Arch weapon, but you will have a variety of different weapon types at your disposal in the final version of the game.

Is there anything you’d like to say about the game that we don’t know of yet? Any juicy information?

We still have a plethora of really exciting stuff to reveal about El Shaddai in the coming months, but we hope that your readers can remain patient as the team still has a tremendous amount of work ahead of them. One thing that I can say is that very little has been said about the third character who’s shown in the E3 trailers. You only see this character for a fleeting second or two, but they play a big part in the overall narrative, and if you’re familiar with the game’s source material you may be able to gain some insight into that role even at this early stage.

Thank you for your time!

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