Eastern Exorcist caught many of us by surprise earlier in May when it appeared on Xbox. What exactly is an Eastern Exorcist, and frankly, why did a game this pretty fall under so many of our radars?
The answer is simple. While the game had been reaching players on PC for years, the Xbox launch marked its first foray onto consoles. However, is it any good? Or might we need to exorcise our rights to avoid it (sorry, not sorry)? Let’s find out!
Beginning with a brief overview, Eastern Exorcist is the first game (at least from what I can find) developed by Wildfire Game, a studio based in China. The game was published by BiliBili, a company that started as an answer to YouTube and nikoniko but has since expanded into other industries including gaming. The game was originally released on PC in 2021 but has made its console debut with this Xbox release.
The game is a 2D side-scrolling RPG with hack-and-slash elements and a (very light) Metroidvania flavour. You get a choice of two characters: Lu Yunchuan, an exorcist who is skilled with the sword; and Xiahao Xue, a half-demon who, alongside her brother, aspires to become fully demonic. While the choice is presented almost as if choosing between Mario and Luigi or Sonic and Tails, in reality, both characters come with their own fully-fleshed out 4-hour campaigns. To truly appreciate the game, you need to play through both stories.
Both characters have entirely different move sets, levels and skill trees, and combo timing. Lu Yunchuan’s story is the harder of the two, with branching levels and more difficult encounters. Xiahao Xue has an easier campaign with shorter levels and less difficult bosses. However, Eastern Exorcist isn’t very difficult, barring a few boss encounters, for both.
Both stories are structured in three chapters which are largely linear in progression. While there are some sidequests and in the case of Xiahao Xue, a few instances of player choice, the game is less Ori or Hollow Knight and more The Bards Tale ARPG: Remastered and Resnarkled. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the game falls out of the traditional RPG trappings, making it more of a weekend RPG.
The combat is where the game shines the most. It is fast, fluid and responsive. Special abilities help enhance the flow of combat with flashy finishers and helpful buffs. Items (which are unlocked throughout the game) can provide additional buffs and abilities, as can the surprising in-depth skill tree. With a level cap of 30 and a short length, do not expect to unlock all possible abilities in a given playthrough (even though, with backtracking, it may be technically feasible).
Moving on to the presentation, Eastern Exoricst is a visual stunner with gorgeous hand-drawn graphics in an ink-painting style. Moreover, the animation work is solid too, allowing the art direction to shine even brighter. The stories are largely standard and enjoyable. While there is nothing earth-shattering about the revelations within the game, and the characters are largely as two-dimensional as the sprites that represent them, the game’s lore did compel me, and the stories utilize well-loved tropes to decent effect.
The musical tracks are sparse but nice to listen to. The dialogue is solely in Chinese, so while I can’t fully comment on the performances, my overall impression was positive. Finally, the cutscenes (described as being in the “Chinese Opera” style) were visually stirring but were held back by poor video compression.
The performance of the game is rock solid with no noticeable frame dips, crashes or bugs (it is worth noting some players are having difficulty progressing, I encountered no such issues). However, the localization does leave some things to be desired. Some translation work is lacking context or nuance which can make learning the systems of the game a bit difficult, and several achievements are unlocked with untranslated text.
Finally, to briefly touch upon value and you’ll currently find Eastern Exorcist available for free on Game Pass or for £14.99. This value is very fair as the game provides 8 hours of solid content with an optional New Game+.
You should have a good time with Eastern Exorcist. The combat is flashy and nuanced, the hand-drawn artwork is gorgeous and the short length makes it a perfect weekend game. There are some areas for refinement, especially in the polish of the overall package, but the fun of Eastern Exorcist shines above all else.