Eastern Exorcist | Game Review | Monsters and Mysticism
Embark on a mesmerizing journey in Eastern Exorcist, a 2D action sidescroller rich in captivating Chinese mythology. Read our review for an in-depth look!
Buy: Xbox Series X|S
Buy: Xbox Series X|S
Evil can take many forms.
One moment it can manifest itself as the hate within our own hearts, and the next it can be a demon with blood-stained fangs and eyes that pierce your soul.
While we each have to battle the evil within ourselves, we can rely on powerful warriors who harness the power of magic to dispel the demons that hunt us in the night.
Or at least, that’s the situation in Eastern Exorcist.
Eastern Exorcist is a 2D action sidescroller with a heavy emphasis on Chinese mythology and mysticism. It is also the first game to exit the doors of the Chinese indie game studio Wildfire Games. Let’s find out if their demon-slaying debut stuck the landing or took a tumble in this review of Eastern Exorcist on Xbox Series X.
Two Tales of Woe
Eastern Exorcist begins by presenting the player with an option: play as the male character Lu Yunchuan, or the female character Xiahao Xue. I thought initially that each character would play through the same story with unique abilities, but that’s not really the case. The two different protagonists each have their own story campaign as well as their own unique moveset, abilities, and even enemies.
That means you’re essentially getting two games out of Eastern Exorcist, and it’s difficult to argue with that kind of value these days.
Lu is the titular exorcist warrior, and his campaign is a quest for vengeance and redemption after a decision he makes in the prologue leads to a tragedy. On the other hand, Xiahao is a half-demon who embarks on a quest to save her brother after he crossed the Viper King. Both stories are entirely sufficient, and thankfully neither of them overstays their welcome. Depending on your skill level, each one can be completed in under five hours or so, and the brisk pace present in each ensures there’s no dead weight.
And while each story sounds like it's your run-of-the-mill fantasy RPG narrative, Eastern Exorcist subverts expectations pretty quickly. Within the overarching stories are smaller ones that show the evil we harbor as humans can be just as detrimental as the wraiths slashing at your throat. I won’t spoil any of them here, partly because I think they deserve to be experienced fresh and partly because I think these might be some of my favorite RPG stories in recent memory.
Influenced by Culture
Right off the bat, it’s clear that Wildfire Games is proud of its rich heritage. The visuals of Eastern Exorcist are a glorious mix of Chinese-style ink painting and masterful art direction that is reminiscent of some of Klei’s best work. Occasionally, I got heavy Mark of the Ninja vibes from general animations as well as the look of the characters, and any game that comes close to that level of style is a slam dunk in my book.
There is some solid variety in enemy types and their assorted designs, but in this case, that also means that there are quite a few generic creatures to face. The prologue is awash with big rat enemies, smaller rat enemies, and buzzards. Nothing too interesting, but they give way to Witcher III draugr-type drowned demons, terrifying tree monsters with glowing eyes and mouths, various insectoids, and plenty more.
I was always happy to see what Wildfire did with a new “fodder” enemy, and even more so when I reached each of the incredible stage bosses, which I’ll cover a little later. Suffice it to say, Eastern Exorcist looks great, and there are some suitably scary demons to fight throughout.
Running On Empty
All of the enemies in Eastern Exorcist are out for blood, and both of your protagonists have the years’ worth of training needed to send them into the next life; considering the intensity at which the prologue shoves tutorials down your throat, the game really wants to give you the same amount of training in a much shorter amount of time.
I was bombarded with tutorials basically through Chapter 1 of my first playthrough (I went with Lu first), and sometimes I would have the same tutorial repeat several times after it seemed like I had cleared it. I’m not sure if that happened by design because I messed up the initial tutorials or if it was some kind of glitch or mistake, but it was a little bothersome, especially when the combat itself isn’t overly complicated.
I’ve seen some people compare Eastern Exorcist to Sekiro, but that kind of tactical depth isn’t really present here, and I mean that in a good way. There are basic attacks, timed special moves, dodges, parries, and the “dispel” move that exorcizes your enemies and gets rid of them for good.
The combat is just a step below the smoothness of something like Salt and Sanctuary, but I got used to it pretty quickly and found it to be quite fun. However, sometimes I would enter a frenzy and forget that the game uses a Soulslike stamina meter to keep the player in check, which got me into trouble occasionally. Though that’s my own fault and not on the developers in any way.
I’m the Boss Now
Now, for those boss fights. Hoo boy, are they something. They all follow the Dark Souls boss fight formula you might expect, and I faced more than a couple of loading screens for a few of them, but their toughness isn’t really what makes them special.
Every time I entered a boss fight, regardless of which campaign I was in, I was wowed by the enemy designs. The imposing Snow Ape of Lu’s prologue couldn’t have prepared me for the floating mass of twisted, contorted faces and flesh piloted by a child zombie, or the haunting, possessed tree I would face a few hours later.
Xiahao’s campaign fares just as positively, with a tall ghoul that uses leg bone nunchucks coming out on top as a favorite of mine.
Eastern Exorcist is a gem, I don’t really think there’s any way around it. It has action, story, and some truly impressive art backing it all up. I had some issues with its heavy-handed tutorials and combat that doesn’t feel quite as smooth as some of its contemporaries, but those things did little to dull my overall experience with the game.
You can pick the game up on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC, and it’s also available on Game Pass for subscribers. I’d highly recommend it, especially at its budget MSRP of $17.99.