REVIEW: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has everything you have for an epic adventure. Chase scenes, intense fights, a colorful world to explore, and a good story to tell. Enslaved was a breath of fresh air for me, a game that focuses more on presentation and story. From the likable characters, a colorful post-apocalyptic setting, to a well written story, this game will suck you in from start to finish but with a few bumps along the way. A game developed by Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, new Devil May Cry), Enslaved: Odyssey to the West shows us what Ninja Theory aims to achieve with their games, and that is story telling.
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Played on: Playstation 3
Published by: Namco Bandai Games
Developed by: Ninja Theory
Release Date: Oct 5, 2010
Story and Presentation
Its 150 years into the future and Humans are close to extinct, and robots rule the land once again. The game revolves around Monkey and Trip. It starts off with both of them escaping a Slaver ship, Without Monkey knowing, Trip enslaves Monkey with a slave headband that makes trip command him, if he resists, the headband will release a deadly dose that will kill him instantly. Trip gives Monkey a deal, she will remove the headband if he brings her home safely. Now Monkey bonded with Trip, is left with no choice. With them bonded, if trip dies, so does Monkey. And that’s where everything starts, Sounds simple enough? Hardly since Monkey and Trip will have to deal with mechs that kills anything alive. The key element in their story was how their relationship evolved as you progress. They expressed the bond between Monkey and Trip well enough to care about them.
It’s a great story, not the most original story since it’s almost identical to the classic chinese novel journey to the West. Trip is Tripitaka for short and she is a small petite red-head chick that can’t stay alive for at least a day, while Monkey, well Monkey is obviously like the Monkey King with him having a staff as a weapon that by the way shortens when not needed. He also has this yellow belt that dangles in the back making it look like he has a tail when he runs. He looks similar to a human guerilla that’s ready to pound the ground at any minute. I guess it makes sense to why he climbs the way he does. Alex Garland (28 weeks later, the beach, sunshine), wrote the story and took the concept of Journey to the west and dumped it on a post-apocalyptic world. It was well written and didn’t feel like the typical unbearable story and dialogue that games usually have.
Monkey was easily likeable. Monkey is very straight forward and when enslaved by Trip, he accepted his fate and didn’t dwell on it and quickly focused on getting trip home as soon as possible. He’s hot tempered and you’d think he won’t have much of a brain by his looks but as you progress you get a deeper sense of who he is. Trip on the other hand at the start was annoying because she screams half the time and is scared all throughout. She tones down midway into the game and both of them sooner or later develop a level of trust that makes their bond interesting. Trip is very resourceful with her tech skills and while you think she’s selfish, she’s just trying everything to get home. You will hear Trip’s story as you play but they don’t expand much on where Monkey came from. As you hit the halfway mark on Enslaved you’ll meet the Pigsy, the 3rd and last Character you’ll meet as you go through the game. Just like his name, the guy is a fat pig looking guy with a grappling hook as his right arm. He helps Monkey and Trip out and is a good addition to the group if somehow you get tired of seeing just Monkey and Trip. He gets on Monkey’s nerve most of the time and has a thing for Trip, poor Trip.
The game did a good job bringing out the personality of the Characters visually. Ninja Theory brought in Andy Serkis(Played king Kong, Gollum) to direct, motion capture and assist in writing. With him on board, I already knew the motion capture will be fantastic…..and it was. The emotions in the characters faces were impressive and the movements of the Characters weren’t clunky and dull plus the game had great voice acting. As Monkey and Trip press on getting closer to Trip’s home, Monkey gets hallucinations from the headband. As Monkey tries to keep it in you can tell he’s freaked and Trip notices and gets worried for Monkey. These emotions can be seen in the characters. Good motion capture, great voice acting, and a story worth knowing? You don’t see that every day in gaming.
Enslaved did great with their story and presentation but gameplay is different and you can’t run with just pure story. Fighting in Enslaved is very simple and only gets slightly interesting midway into the game when you have unlocked upgrades for monkey. The game has finishing moves that can be done on mechs that have an abnormality in them, Trip scans the enemies ahead to see if there’s anything that monkey can take advantage on. These finishers make monkey do cool looking moves to rip the enemy apart. Monkey’s normal attacks can often trigger a slow motion close up of Monkey’s final blow to that mech. Looks cool the first couple of times, but gets pointless midway into the game.
Monkey is a brute that does all the fighting while trip helps by using her computer skills to hack doors, upgrade monkeys gear and distract turrets and mechs. While I do appreciate the Prince of Persia style of play, the game doesn’t give us anything new to the table. With simple gameplay mechanics, enslaved at first glance would look repetitive during fights but the game had good pacing to keep you interested. The climbing in Enslaved may look great but is very simple as well. All climbable ledges and pipes will be shiny, so finding where to climb isn’t that hard. If you have an idea where to go, just keep pressing the jump while directing which way to jump with the stick till you reach your target.
As you progress, Monkey will soon have the ability to shoot beams out of his staff. Yea weird I know. This gives the gameplay some variety during fights. Ammo is limited so you better aim well. Let’s not forget about trip, she’s not just baggage that you must carry around to the finish line. You can give her commands to help you out. Usually when there’s a turret in the area or mechs shooting you, pinning you down, you can ask trip to create a distraction so that you can slip through and take them out. Aside from making distractions, trip can heal Monkey, use a mini EMP when mechs get close to her and can upgrade Monkey’s gear.
The upgrades are the usual improvements seen in a game like this. On my first play through I was able to get 90% of the upgrades so it’s not very deep. The upgrades give new moves but the rest are mostly improving stuff you already have. Like more ammo for your staff, a longer charge move, more life, more shields, wider sweep, etc. One more thing you can do in enslaved is that Monkey has this device called the cloud which works like a floating disc for him to ride. It works only in some areas in the game and is mostly used for open areas and chase scenes that involve monkey saving trip. A good touch and pretty cool to play around with.
The boss fights in Enslaved were forgettable, nothing epic about them. There isn’t that much boss fights to begin with really, I can only count a handful of them and are easy to take out. So yes you’ve guessed it, it’s a very easy game and take note I started the game on hard difficulty and still felt easy. The one thing that bothered me the most was The Camera angles, during the whole game I was literally going against the camera. The Camera is too close to Monkey! When I start attacking or do some takedown move I always find myself moving the camera left or right after the attack to get a better angle.
Graphics and Sound
The game provides top-notch graphics. No problems here, the game looks fantastic from start to end. This is the first time I’ve seen a post-apocalyptic setting that isn’t all sand and junk, thank god! The world is colorful and vibrant. You can sense the age of the area and can tell that nature has taken over. The game brings you to all different kinds of local, from the old and dying New York City to a wasteland that inhabits old junk and water mixed with mech fuel that are deadly when touched. The sound score of this game is also well made, it fits perfectly to the setting they were trying to present. There were occasional parts though that I encountered were the dialogue didn’t sync with the lips of the characters and I’ve experienced sound disappearing in a chase scene.
By now, we know that the game has horrible camera angles. Aside from the camera making the fights a pain, you have a hard time looking around to appreciate how well they developed this game. There are parts of the game where you get a chance to look on how great the game looks but with how well they created this world, I wish I could enjoy it anytime with ease. I literally paused one time and said “wow…pretttyyy…..”. I paused for a minute and took in that awesome view. You can tell they took a lot of time and effort into creating this world. If only there were better camera angles….
It’s been awhile since we’ve been blessed with a game that pulls you in with their story and their Characters, providing a good pace that keeps you hooked till the end. You play it, think its tons fun and when you’re done with, it gives you this lasting satisfaction that you gave it a chance. Ninja Theory should stick to the story-driven concept for their games and improve on it, they have a good thing going here and soon they will give us a game that might just blow us away. I was hoping this game would be it but sadly it wasn’t. This game is 11 hours long only and doesn’t provide any Multiplayer feature or anything after you’ve finished the game. Is it worth the buy? I say yes, it’s worth the experience and everybody should give it a go. but sadly with only the single player and no replay value (unless you’re an achievement junkie) People will have a hard time paying full price for this title.