Master the ancient art of exorcism
I’m such a sucker for a pretty game, and anything unapologetically drenched in Eastern mythology is an easy sell for me. So when Eastern Exorcist came across the ol’ review inbox, I nabbed it. I mean, look at it — can you blame me?
Developed by Wildfire Game and published by bilibili, Eastern Exorcist features dazzling art and a compelling story in a side-scrolling action game. Currently in Early Access on Steam for $16.99 with an introductory price of $13.59, Eastern Exorcist promises to be a riveting tale joy, sorrow, action, and, of course, exorcism in a fantasy Eastern world.
Eastern Exorcist opens up on players taking control of the hero, Lu Yunchuan, and your band of brothers on the hunt for King Mandrill, who has been terrorizing towns with his army of demon monsters. A bad judgement call on your part leads to the demise of the group, two dying and one barely clinging to life. Upon your return to your academy, your teacher, outraged at your decision causing the death of two students of the art of exorcism, calls for your expulsion and casts you out of the city. Dishonored, you are left with no other recourse except to return the remains of the fallen brothers to their cities so that they may rest in peace alongside their people.
Along the way, you discover villages in need of an exorcist; although you have been expelled from the academy, you pledge to protect the people you come across in any way you can, uncovering enclaves of demon monsters as you go. Although your name remains tarnished, you feel compelled to save others from the otherworldly beings, wandering the lands to make amends for the lives taken too soon.
As mentioned previously, the aesthetics in Eastern Exorcist are stunning. If you’ve ever seen old Chinese paintings of mountains or other scenery, you’ll notice a common theme of heavy mist. After visiting Hong Kong and seeing the misty mountains myself, I can see why they’re often the topic of these paintings — they’re majestically captivating. The art of Eastern Exorcist reflects these spectacular landscapes captured in these paintings, providing this almost primal beauty that resonates with something extremely deep in the psyche. There is something breathtakingly familiar about the art style, as if these scenes project a homeland from a thousand past lives prior. The scenery doesn’t just stand out — it envelops you — and it’s hard to resist trying to peek around every corner to explore what else there is on offer.
The audio is as equally captivating as the visuals; while the battle music takes things up a notch and the cutscene music is appropriately cinematic, it’s the sound design I felt most charmed by. I enjoyed wandering through villages and the outlying lands surrounding them, as the sounds of nature were incredibly prominent. Birds chirping and other soothing sounds were featured throughout Eastern Exorcist, which really sold this somewhat cold, distant world filled with non-human entities. I loved how much the sound drove home the ambiance in Eastern Exorcist, even going as far as just keeping the game running to listen to nature’s lullaby.
Although the look, sound, and feel of Eastern Exorcist were immensely enjoyable, playing it left a little something to be desired. First, I highly recommend playing with a controller, as using the PC controls are somewhat confusing. It’s not so much that they’re hard to master — key-binding obviously makes that a non-issue — it’s that there’s a lot to keep track of and, as you unlock new abilities, the amount of keys you need to keep assigning to special moves and attacks just gets a little unwieldy. It’s just best to use a controller and make your life easier in this particular regard.
Battling in Eastern Exorcist is a bit hit or miss at the moment, unfortunately. The nature is extremely straightforward — battle demon monsters until their HP gauge drops completely, then dispel their souls so they can’t rejoin their bodies and come back to life. Players can attack, charge attack, parry, block, dodge, and dash as a baseline, then add more abilities as they go, but moves will require stamina to perform, and stamina drains a bit too quickly to really be of much use. If you like to strategize in your side-scrolling action games, you may feel a bit robbed of the experience, but if you’re like me and Leroy Jenkins your way through life in general, you won’t feel the loss at all.
I really enjoyed where the story was going with Eastern Exorcist, and I found the exploration aspect to be really engaging. The skills tree was also very interesting and fit intuitively into the game’s direction, as collecting the souls of the demons meant you have more points to spend on new demon-hunting abilities. Unfortunately, the game somehow forced me to delete my save file (I’m still not sure how it happened) and I’m now stuck in a perpetually looping training session for some bizarre reason and can’t bypass it without starting over… again. I’m at a loss for what happened and I really can’t bring myself to try it again. I’m not entirely convinced the issue isn’t user error (this happened after the game updated), but I’m also not sold on the idea it’s the game’s fault either.
Regardless, I thoroughly appreciated the time I spent with Eastern Exorcist. It felt like playing a period piece drama; with stellar voice acting in Mandarin and solidly translated subtitles, Eastern Exorcist’s story was one that could have easily been a feature film that would have received critical acclaim. In fact, for how mesmerizingly cinematic Eastern Exorcist was, it felt odd that it was ultimately a side-scrolling platformer, part of the same genre as Super Mario Bros. and other light-hearted titles. Eastern Exorcist is a feast for the senses, one that will have you transfixed on your screen as you float from one area to the next.
I may have had a weird experience with Eastern Exorcist, but I sincerely want to believe it’s somehow my fault due to the game’s incredible beauty and the undeniable potential it possesses. With that being said, I’m relieved it’s an Early Access title, as it definitely needs a little more work and fine-tuning to make it play as beautifully as it looks. If you’re a fan of Eastern mysticism and enjoy side-scrolling action games, Eastern Exorcist is a deep and deeply captivating title that will definitely stand out in your Steam library.