Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is another drama filled action title from the talented team over at Ninja Theory, you know the fine peeps that brought us the superlative Heavenly Sword. Enslaved visits a post-apocalyptic world for a retelling of a classic, 'Journey to the West.' This one's a keeper, so stick with us to find out everything you need to know about Enslaved.
It's important to reference the developer behind Enslaved. Not only do they deserve a round of applause from their tremendous work in this project, their last project was also strong in the same departments. Who might they be? Well, of course I am talking about Ninja Theory. Even from their first PS3 outing 'Heavenly Sword,' Ninja Theory accomplished an excellent level of gameplay meets story, without being too afraid to pull some emotional strings. Now the difference between a Ninja Theory game and your typical “soap opera” adventure is in the way its told. Enslaved has all the drama of a soap opera, but it's not onion slapped in your face. The tale, the characters, and their interaction within the world is all very natural, which sticks out beyond the gameplay to become the stand out feature of the game. It's all in the subtleties, they say.
What?! A Green Apocalypse?! Poison Ivy would be so Proud.
So what's it about? Well, Enslaved is set in a post-apocalyptic world... now wait, before you start to think, not another dreary grey wasteland, Enslaved is the total opposite. It's lush with greens and vibrant colours. Ninja Theory wasn't afraid to go against the grain by making a wasteland tale more colourful then most games we see. Enslaved is bursting with reds, sharp blues, along with some amazing detail to the world without everything behind a relic of it former self. Sure, it has a wasteland quality, just something that feels more substantial before.
Remember 'Journey to the West?' Naa, I didn't think so
Back to the plot, Enslaved is a loose retelling of the classic 400-year novel 'Journey to the West.' No, I haven't read this novel, but the game actually makes me interested in reading it. Set 150 years in the future, the world has been ruined by war and ecological disaster with only a small percentage of survivors remaining. You step into the role of Monkey, a solitary drifter, who is tremendously strong and agile. Monkey finds himself trapped on a machine activated slave vessel that harvest the remaining humans on earth. From the slave ship, Monkey manages to escape in a funny moment were Monkey hangs onto the escape pod of our secondary character, Trip, a tech savvy girl who instigates the escape from their captors.
After they crash land, Trip manages to modify a slave controlling helmet onto Monkey's head, conning him into helping her reach her home. The trick, she can cause him pain if he doesn't follow her command, and worse, if he strays to far, or Trip dies, he will die. After contemplating the snapping of Trip's neck, Monkey agrees and the two set out on this journey to the west. Eventually, the two start to come to turns and the once sour relationship takes some turns for the better. It's definitely not your typical setting, but the dynamics between the two characters is magically balanced and becomes the driving force of the game. Compared to titles with A.I. companions, Enslaved delicately handles their relationship without forcing the obvious.
Tactical, Umm, well Kind of
The relationship between Monkey and Trip trades off not only with the narrative, but also in the gameplay. One of the bullet points on the box states 'Tactical Gameplay' this is true, but unfortunately, the tactical aspects become somewhat repetitive. Yes, I can say something negative about Enslaved. The think on your feet part is exactly right, you will have to do a lot of that, but routine sets in a little too much. It's not horrible and Enslaved never becomes dull, the excitement and pacing is remarkable. However, you will get more then enough of your “hold on, I'll scan the area” lets kill more robots while Trip hides, or “hey, you decoy the enemies, while I flank them” spots. Almost every section has one of these “tactics” to utilize.
There is no “Trip” in Team
See, Trip and Monkey work as a team, abet it's a little one sided. Monkey does all the work while Trip barks out commands.... and the world “please” isn't a top word in her vocabulary. Monkey is the combat man, the acrobatic, and the muscle. Trip is the one with the gadgets, the thinker, and the annoying. Luckily, she has some looks on her side, and her personality can be quite charming when she is played the wounded kitten. Later in the adventure you will meet another main character, although, it's a little too late in my belief. By the time this member (who I won't spoil) is added, he is more of an annoyance, a comedic pawn who just gets in the way of the embracing tale between the two leads. Enslaved was doing just fine without the idealistic madness, and bit-characters, at least we get 10 chapters of solid narrative until the end. The ending of Enslaved feels a bit rushed and ruffled by its own ideology. Without spoiling the end all I can say is that it works as a singled out action piece, but it really doesn't fit into the game naturally.
I Monkey, Crush You!
Combat plays out like your average beat em' up action game, with a few variations on enemies and attacks. Monkey is more of a hand-to-hand basher, which is fun, but a little repetitive. His main weapon is a electrical driven staff that has the ability to crush and stun mechanical opponents, or shoot two types of projectiles that stun or do damage. Since you will be fighting more then enough mechanical enemies, stunning is important since they have shields and different abilities. They also have the ability to call in reinforcements, so you better get them quick. The same technique works for almost every enemy with a few sub-bosses and boss characters to give you the run around. Enslaved isn't too hard, but it has some awesome moments to fight through when you are outnumbered. The numbers game really gets Monkey, and that's ok, because normally he is a beast. I enjoyed the beat em' up aspects of Enslaved, my biggest gripe, they need more diverse adversaries. One machine with a new paint job and coloured glow doesn't really count. Other then that, Enslaved is pretty rewarding.