Enslaved: Odyssey to The West
Genre: Action, Adventure
Developer: Ninja Theory
I Never thought, “chemistry” would be the word to describe the motivating factor in completing a game, but there is a first for everything. Enslaved: Odyssey to The West is the opportunity to play as the knight in shinning armor, but set in post-apocalyptic America with blood thirsty robots running amok. Developed by Ninja Theory, the studio paid close attention to telling a story of two characters as great resources were spent creating it. This is shown not only through cut scenes effectively, but even the other important elements of a video game. There is a point of which Enslaved crosses the line of video game to interactive entertainment that is uncommon, and might be a turn-off if Monkey’s tight pants didn’t do that already.
Bearing the weight of Enslaved are it’s characters, especially it’s stars Monkey and Trip , that were fleshed out from the writing to the voice acting. No character feels unnecessary or out of place in world, as the cast is kept lean making every character valuable. Monkey is the brute, and while being portrayed as powerful being, the poor sap looks like a Russian cyberpunk stripper. Trip is the brains, as she is a technical wiz, and providing other intellectual strengths that Monkey lacks. Pigsy is the tension breaker. Providing comedy, help, and even chaos to even out the serious tones in the game. While all of these characters are not new; the delivery was done with care. Cut scenes are the main vehicle for this, as actors performed scenes in motion capture studios providing emotive body and facial movements. Andy Serkis is even on board, Golem from Lord of The Rings films, as Monkey and brings out much more to the character. Creating an attitude that is purely Monkey with simple gestures and even the touch of primal movement is evident. The character of Trip (Lindsey Shaw) was also developed with the same care and even more important than Monkey. What sells the chase in Enslaved is not letting her get hurt. From the start what drives my male instincts to victory was seeing the fear in Trip’s face. Executed perfectly to make my male mind want to save the damsel in distress. Pigsy’s performance is also one of note, as this character is the ice breaker. For one he looks like a pig man and acts like one giving players an honest laugh. If not by seeing the chubby guy run around, but the few quips him and Monkey trade. Though all of these characters are common rolls not once do they seem flat or redundant. Rich characters need a rich environment and Ninja Theory did not hold back.
The game takes place 400 years into the future, and the future never looked so good. Again Ninja Theory has a setting that is common and then they turn it on it’s head. Most media featuring post-apocalyptic anything creates a wasteland of rust and sandy lands. Enslaved covers all the bases and displays a few versions of post-apocalyptic America. From nature taking the land back, rusted mechanical ruins, and even deserts round out all the areas one could go with the end of society. The end of it all couldn’t look any better with all the beautiful sights to take in. The vast amount a detail in every chapter almost makes me want an image capturing mini game, so I would be force to see every sight Enslaved has to offer. Playing the game one can look for what seems like hundreds of mile of space around the character and that the play area is only a fraction of the world available. Because of the fidelity of the graphics periods of slow down occur when too many enemies are on screen. Though never a recurring problem and forgivable compared to the sights.
Even with a wonderful world to play in, and a stellar cast of characters to use, the story may not be the tightest in the world. From the beginning the player knows little about what is occurring around them except that they are confined. It’s discovered that Monkey had been captured by a slave ship and it is about to crash into New York of the future. Narrowing escaping with out the help the the other escapee Trip who wouldn’t even let Monkey into her escape pod. After awaking from the crash Monkey discovers the slave head band and is told that he will help trip through a mech filled land, or she will end him. While not the typical boy meets girl start, but refreshing as the woman has great power over the male. Trip needs to get home and Monkey has to take her there if he wishes to live. Easily this set up could have turned to an immature S&M setup, but the relationship between Trip and Monkey is not treated casually. Their chemistry makes the game worth while, as they have romantic tension laced through out the game. At the same time the game doesn’t cheapen it. The characters stay true to themselves and don’t break their molds just because a solitary moment is given to the couple. The connect is built over time as the two characters work together to achieve Trip’s goal and survive. Even with the subjection the two are equal and complement each others skills. Making this less of a long escort mission, but a strange partnership. This is same when Pigsy is brought in and starts to crush on Trip and starts jabbing at Monkey. Which leads to great conversation and the start of interesting events as Pigsy either attempts to show up Monkey, or get him killed. The weakest part of the story is the state of the world. From interviews, the game, and other literature say that the slavers and mechs are separate, yet at times the game combine the two or even contradict it self as the story progresses. This confusion leads to an ending that fails to provide an exciting reward. Though the feeling of emptiness is not without merit as the end seems to want to make the player feel that way. The feeling of being lost and unsure. Very untypical for a video game ending, but not bad either.
Playing Enslaved is also half the fun if the story ends up being a downer. As a fan of brawlers I greatly appreciated the combat in the game and they way movement was handled. Fight and movement controls are made to be simple to the point of zen like motion. Rarely did I have to plan out a move as attacks are natural to delver a powerful attack. Combat if always fun in Enslaved because situations change up and scale the difficultly up at a nice pace. At times close combat is needed, it turns into a 3rd person shooter that isn’t annoying, or air surfing that is used sparing to keep it’s excitement. This is also applied to enemies and bosses as battles use some same patterns, or methods for victory. Yet as the game progresses new types of enemies appear and provide new challenges while building on what player is accustom to . Making a new enemy easy to jump in a fight, but also making to player do something different to freshen up the combat. Platforming is also available and made to be fun. Yes, the player cannot fall and this doesn’t hurt the game. If the player could fall I would end up throwing this game in the trash; as this keeps the camera from being a problem, allows a player look beyond the next ledge, and keeps the movement fast. There are moments where game play can become sluggish, but those are few and far between. Game play in Enslaved does seem like it serves the story and this only helps.
This a fast game to breeze though and I wouldn’t want it any other way. When a video game lasts too long repetition is the greatest enemy, and Enslaved kept me coming back to see what was going to happen next. A creative formula has been used here that seems to be missing in most big budget games and it is a shame is this the case. Now that this title can be found for a cheap price I suggest this to everyone. Though, more importantly for players who want more from a AAA game in terms of maturity and character interaction. Give this a try, if might be your Potion no. 9.