Looking just like a storybook, Eastern Exorcist aims to provide stunning visuals and challenging gameplay, and gets about half of it down. While it has some nice key visuals, environments, and designs; it falters in animating anything aside from the main character and some choice enemies, though this can be a fault of the “Early Access” tag. Otherwise, the game is pretty, but bogged down by frustrating combat and subpar animation. That, and the unfinished translations can be immersion breaking at times.
Eastern Exorcist tries to be a mishmash of souls-like progression and 2D combat, a lot like Dead Cells. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t feel responsive or fluid enough to provide the experience it promises. Eastern Exorcist attempts to introduce dodging, blocking, and parrying like normal games of its kind, but the options do not feel weighted at all. The block is downright irrelevant against some bosses, the parry is incredibly hit or miss, and the dodge attempts to be both an aggressive and defensive option, but doesn’t allow for an full attack progression if used once or twice. Parrying doesn’t feel satisfying in any way, but it is a good one-hit mechanic for small enemies if you can land it. Blocking just flat out doesn’t work against some attacks, and you’re better off using stamina to dodge anyways. Dodging gets you out of tight situations, but also has some mechanics with the magic you’re given. If you have magic that works with dodge, you’re required to use it offensively if you want to use the magic. Even so, the magic does not feel impactful either. While the combat system is “functional” in the strictest sense of the word, it doesn’t flow well or feel satisfying. What should feel rewarding isn’t, and you’re left with a more frustrating experience than anything else.
Generally, the visual experience is pretty solid, and the main character is animated pretty well. My main gripe with the rest of the animations is that they don’t seem to have nearly the same effort put into them as the main character. Every enemy looks like it’s straight out of a flash game, with strings pulling at every joint. While this is a form of animation that normally pairs well with the storybook style, in Eastern Exorcist it just looks very amateurish. The animations have many tells to allow you to parry, which is the main gist of it I guess. Outside of that, they don’t look very good, and once you see the exact same enemy again (but bigger), it doesn’t feel like it has any impact. The boosted forms of the normal enemies that have added aspects and a boss health bar do not feel engaging or challenging like bosses do. They feel incredibly health tanky, and just aggravating to fight. While adds in the boss fights are generally the same, in boosted monster fights they feel even worse. They don’t bring any level of strategy to the fight, it’s mostly a temporary obstacle to destroy until they inevitably respawn.
The story is a bit hit or miss as well, it starts off straightforward but then takes a bunch of turns that leave you wondering whether you’re doing a side quest or the main story. While the quest is simple, to kill the demon king, you’re sidetracked by mishaps that don’t necessarily flow back easily into the main narrative. While this can be used for worldbuilding, it is mostly used for fetch quests for inconsequential characters that you barely interact with anyways. Not only that, some items that are used in fetch quests, for both the main story and sidequests, and completely untranslated. This leaves the player looking for context clues to figure out where they’re meant to go and how to deliver the item. Luckily, the untranslated items I had gotten so far were straightforward and didn’t necessarily impair my progress. This is definitely a product of the early access nature of the title, and should be fixed as soon as possible.
To summarize, Eastern Exorcist is a pretty game, but that’s mostly what it has going for it. What can absolutely be an action packed in-depth combat experience feels more like a vapid romp through some cool environments while attempting to dodge through attacks. The overall experience feels much more like an unrefined base with some potential to it, and seeing as Eastern Exorcist is in early access I’d hope a lot of it is fixed. Until then, I’d hold off from playing it, as you can find a similar, more polished experience in other games that are currently on the market.
Score: 6 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC