The game development scene in China has largely been an unknown quality from Western gamers until recently, when a few big profile games have shown up from the region. From the impressive FPS Bright Memory that was made by one developer, and the ARPG Guijan 3 by Aurogon Info & Tech; some have started to gain cult popularity with gamers and it looks like there are a lot more potentially good games coming soon to the market.
Eastern Exorcist is one such game. This Soulsborne platformer by Wildfire Game Studios came out with a positively received demo a few months back that gave some a short preview of what to expect. Now they have released the game in Early Access for Steam where while it has some shortcomings– is looking to be a very promising game indeed.
You play as an exorcist; Lu Yunchuan. After making a terrible decision that led to the three of his brothers, he found himself being exiled by the Changsan Sect. You now work as an exorcist for hire, as well as returning the ashes of your fallen brothers back to their hometown. As a precaution though, the story is told in a ‘stoic’ manner, that while familiar to myself as someone who was brought up watching Hong Kong and Chinese movies and dramas, may seem very rigid and ‘emotionless’ to those who aren’t familiar to this type of storytelling.
The aesthetic however, is gorgeous, and easy to love. It will remind you of games by the esteemed Vanillaware, where gorgeous, painting-like 2D models and backgrounds can strike you with awe at times. There really is a uniqueness to the aesthetic that sets it apart from other Soulsborne platformers, or most games, as the Chinese culture and aesthetic that you see in this game has been woefully underrepresented for quite some time now. I would say though, the music in this game while good isn’t as memorable as I like, and the sound effects are passable. Currently, the game is only available in Cantonese dubs with English subtitles and while I know there might be some who prefer English dubs, I have to say that the original Cantonese sets the feel that you are playing a game set in Ancient China.
It is not an easy game even on normal difficulty and I even found myself having trouble while trying it out on casual. One particular mechanic, while intriguing, really adds to the difficulty in this game. As you are an exorcist, any monster that you defeat has to be exorcised or else it will be revived and be more powerful than before. This is not something easy to do while you are battling with several at once. As any other Soulsborne, you collect souls that allows you to level up your character. You can do these at shrines, and it is also where you can choose to play optional combat challenges.
This is an easy game to recommend to Soulsborne enthusiasts, where while it has familiar gameplay to games like Blasphemous and Dead Cells- it sets itself apart with its setting, folklore, and aesthetic. As a fair warning though; it is still in Early Access for a reason. Controls need a bit of a rework as it can be floaty, and the difficulty needs to be tweaked further because at times it can feel unfair. Furthermore there are still a few bugs in the game and the UI feels unfinished.
Eastern Exorcist is truly a diamond in the rough, but one that has a good structure and featureset readily available, even as an early access game. While the issues it has can be a little annoying, I am optimistic that those would be ironed out sooner than later. Especially looking at the amount of patches this game already has.