By Josh Speer / February 18th, 2014
There’s another thing that Order of Ecclesia does differently. Besides the superb challenge and great storytelling, it also features an open map. Most Metroidvanias, with the exception of Portrait of Ruin, all take place inside Dracula’s Castle. Not so in this game. Instead, it is comprised of many smaller, more linear areas that you are tasked to explore to advance the plot and unlock new areas. It is almost like classic Castlevania games in this regard, but, luckily, it sports a lot of diverse and cool levels to make up for the linearity. It also has a sort of hub village you unlock that allows you to take on side quests to further strengthen Shanoa.
Soundwise, Order of Ecclesia is on par with the best of the series. It even trumps most Castlevania games with great sound effects, such as Shanoa shouting things like “Fire!” and “Wings!” when you activate glyphs, to the diabolical laughter or shrieking death rattles of enemies. The music in the game is a mixed bag, but the vast majority of the tunes will get you pumped and set the mood. They tend to stay on the ominous side of the spectrum, but many are almost rock tunes, just to keep you on your toes. A couple of my favorite examples are the following:
The art direction in the game is great, as well, though perhaps less pronounced than other features. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, merely that, if you’ve played a Metrodivania before, you know exactly what you’ll be seeing. That said, graphically this game is the closest to Symphony of the Night, which works nicely in its favor. The game also sports decent replay value, including multiple endings. Depending on how much of the game you want to experience, it could last anywhere from 9 – 22 hours to finish it. The game isn’t all that expensive nowadays, though it has held its value better than some in the series, still going for around $20-30 on Amazon.
However, it wouldn’t be fair to sing Ecclesia’s praises without noting a couple of flaws. First off, though I love the battle system, it can be hard to master at times and unforgiving. If you ever get in a truly hectic fight, you are likely going to run out of MP very quickly and get destroyed by enemies. Worse is the fact that, while your MP will refill, your heart meter won’t. So, if you waste hearts using ineffective combo attacks, you will only be able to refill them by grinding through areas. Patience and prudence are almost forced down your throat if you want to succeed. Furthermore, the challenge level of the game definitely isn’t for everyone. Yet, for those who like a stiff challenge and are fans of the difficulty of classic video games, this shouldn’t be a problem.
In the final analysis, Order of Ecclesia is a great, challenging and beautiful Metroidvania game. It is a worthy addition to the DS roster, and shows clearly why the genre became so popular. Better yet, it is one of the few Castlevania games to have a female protagonist, which is quite cool. Shanoa is both sexy and strong, and her story is compelling, if mysterious. The only thing it needs now is a direct sequel, because the ending of the game is very open-ended, and could easily breed its own series of sequels about Shanoa or even her descendants. Until then, I’m going to finish beating the game on Level 1 Hard mode.
Review copy part of the reviewer’s personal collection
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