Asura's Wrath may as well have been the strangest game shown in April at Capcom's yearly Captivate gathering. Sporting gorgeous visuals and a sense of scale that puts even God of War to shame, the hands off demo appeared to be little more than an extended Quick Time Event. That all changes with the introduction of a new playable build at E3, showing off an extended version of the earlier demo that adds some more traditional "pummel everything in sight" combat to the mix.
The story, which is presented episodically and which Capcom keeps likening to a television series in its approach, follows Asura, a fallen deity who has been betrayed by his former colleagues in the heavens and stripped of his powers. Adding insult to injury, the scheming gods have also kidnapped Asura's daughter Mithra, triggering a revenge-fueled quest to wrest her from their clutches. The fallen deity is the focus of the story, but Capcom's rep grew very quiet and "no comment"-y when asked if any other characters will be playable.
The playable bits in the E3 demo come with a few caveats. The difficulty has been dialed down and the combat system is still being tweaked. The basics appear to be in place though. Going by PlayStation 3 controls, the X button jumps, the circle button launches a basic attack -- this can also be held down to perform a launch move -- and the triangle executes a heavy attack. Tapping square fires a projectile while holding it brings up movable crosshairs while Asura freezes in place and performs a rapid fire attack. The downside of the projectile attack is, of course, the minimal damage caused.
The first section of the demo, not seen in the Captivate content, sees Asura facing off against Wyzen of the Seven Deities. This is the same boss we've already seen, but he's roughly man-sized at the start of the fight, which sees Asura taking on a variety of run-of-the-mill baddies as well as Wyzen himself. Deal enough damage and the double-dealing deity grows to larger proportions. At this point the play switches from a fairly standard battle arena to a more scripted series of events.
It's easy to call these QTEs and leave it at that, but the reality is a bit more complex than that. There ARE some traditional "tap this button to proceed" moments, but there are just as many that give you limited control over Asura. In one example, he's running directly toward a distant Wyzen, who has now grown to roughly the size of a skyscraper.
The forward run is automated, but you can jump or move left to right, and you can fire your projectile. Button prompts also pop up occasionally as time slows down, creating a small window in which Asura can perform a counter attack. In the case of this particular event, countering involves catching an incoming missile in mid-air, spinning around and hurling it back at Wyzen. What stands out most, not just here but throughout these events, is how cinematic the presentation is.
The battle continues to escalate, with Asura taking on Wyzen in a variety of ways. All the while, a power meter is filling up. Once it is topped off pressing L2 triggers Burst Mode, a special attack which appears to move the battle on to its next phase. Wyzen continues to grow throughout, eventually becoming roughly twice the size of Earth.
A rather insane cutscene/QTE/playable sequence unfolds in which he tries to crush Asura beneath a great, mighty fingertip. The revenge-seeking deity sprouts four more arms and lets loose with a flurry of blows. His arms break off one by one, but the damage caused is enough to defeat Wyzen, hurling him off into deep space. It is here that the demo ends with a tantalizing "To be continued..." popping up on the screen.
Capcom predicts a roughly 10-hour experience for Asura's Wrath, though given the episodic, story-driven nature of the game, downloadable content seems like a distinct possibility. There's nothing being revealed about that just yet, of course. On its own though, Asura's Wrath feels like something very different, with familiar elements like third-person action and QTEs used in atypical ways. Given the apparently heavy focus on story, it's hard to say more without knowing more. Taken on its own though, the E3 demo is completely cool and dripping with top-shelf production values.