Game: Enslaved: Odyssey To The West
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3 (reviewed on PS3)
It’s been three years since Ninja Theory developed their PS3 exclusive Heavenly Sword. That incubation time was well-spent in the development of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It’s clear that the company’s prior Playstation 3 experience bear fruit in this well-executed game.
Enslaved begins with two captive slaves. Tripp, an intelligent and curvaceous slave with a knack for all things electronic, escapes her holding pod and sets the ship on course to an explosive landing. Her desperate escape enables the agile, fierce, and intelligent Monkey to escape his slave pod. They both find their way to the sole escape pod and jettison away from the crashing ship. From here, the odyssey truly begins.
After crashing to earth in a beautifully ruined New York City, Monkey (newly free) awakes to find himself subject to Tripp’s enslavement. He is forced to keep her alive as they journey to her village camp approximately 300 miles from the crash site. Tripp can inflict massive amounts of pain on Monkey should he disobey or harm her. If Tripp’s heart stops beating, for any reason, the headband injects a lethal dose of pain. The headband has other tricks though.
The headband grants Monkey to ability to locate old war machines, communicate remotely with Tripp, conduct classic fly-over views, and make his forehead an air-free zone. While these may seem like trivial bonuses, you will need them all to survive the wasteland.
Enslaved follows Tripp and Monkey across a post-apocalyptic utopia. The nuclear war concluded 150 years earlier and society’s infrastructure is non-existent. Cities are vacant, buildings deteriorated, and it is clear that synthetic creations aided in the world’s destruction. While machines were programmed for war, they were never programmed for peace. If crumbling terraces and sketchy staircases aren’t imposing enough, entourages of agitated mechs prove problematic. Monkey can handle himself though.
Monkey also issues demands to Tripp. He can tell her to project a holographic decoy to distract enemies, run, or heal him. Monkey’s escorting of trip is very different because Tripp is actually a capable character. She can use an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) device when she gets grabbed by a mech. It works just long enough for Monkey to rescue her. The relationship forged by this unique cooperative operation is refreshing and fun (I just loved tossing her across a large ravine).
Monkey equips himself with a staff, some shielding gloves, and a cool device called a cloud. He uses his staff in a familiar melee-based fighting style and uses his shields to keep himself safe. The staff doubles as a projectile launcher and can stun enemies and remove shields. The shield is a fundamental necessity as you will often find yourself overwhelmed. Both are upgradable using Tripp’s headband and expose a wide variety of moves and attacks.
The fighting in Enslaved is just right. It follows the “easy-to-learn, hard-to-master” philosophy found in today’s fighting games. Combat contains light, heavy, and finishing attacks and are complemented with blocking and evasive maneuvers. However, the sheer volume and variety of enemies requires timing and strategy. While a combination may not gain any Stylish ratings, it will look great.
Enslaved displays the most jaw-dropping, daydream-inducing post apocalypse ever seen in a game. The lush vegetation consuming the artificial and outdated edifices of man really brings a natural feeling to the game. It feels as if Monkey and Tripp are the only two people left in the world. Ninja Theory succeeds in establishing the barren lush-land (can you call a beautiful land a waste?).
Ninja Theory excelled in storytelling. Performance acting is a rising trend in videogames and establishes a new benchmark. There is a point in the game when Tripp and Monkey delineate so much emotion with very little words. Ninja Theory so accurately replicated human mannerisms of tentativeness, fear, hopefulness, and revelation that it’s hard to imagine these characters as digital.
Andy Serkis and Lindsay Shaw deserve accolades for the quality voice-over work. Uncharted 2 was heralded for its voice-over work but Enslaved resonated with me more. I now wish to finish Heavenly Sword and eagerly await Ninja Theory’s reboot of Devil May Cry.
The issues with Enslaved are few. The game is roughly ten (10) hours long. The issue here is that the game felt like it ended before the story concluded. While I pondered the ending for a couple days, I wanted a deeper experience. Downloadable content will be incapable of fleshing out this story. Simply put, I wanted more of what Enslaved served up.
Enslaved is synergy defined. The ability to make a game greater than the sum of its excellent parts is rarely achieved in gaming. Despite your feelings toward Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory’s credibility deservingly skyrockets for successfully doing something different. That being said, comparing this game to another does it no justice. As with few games this generation, Enslaved must simply be experienced to be understood.
Verdict: 5/5 – Let’s Get It!