Many PS3 owners will know of Ninja Theory and should have played their first exclusive launch title Heavenly Sword. Now with their second game going multi platform, bringing us a new adventure story. Can Enslaved: Odyssey to the West do what Heavenly Sword did and touch our hearts with a gripping story? Taking us through a rough road to freedom and should we care?
Here’s a little fact that I didn’t know about the game, that Enslaved was originally pitched to studios as an idea for a Unreal Engine 3 powered feature film. At first Enslaved might seem doomed with minor control issues and the lack of a major first party push behind it. However, while Enslaved lacks some of the polish of its blockbuster competition, a strong script, great level design, and a unique look help Enslaved bring something different and interesting to the table.
Enslaved’s story is set in a future after most of humanity has been destroyed. This is never really explained, but clues in the environment and off handed bits of conversation imply that there was a war involving mechs, and humans lost, sending humans into hiding. You play as Monkey, who grew up alone in the wilds of the post-apocalypse. After being captured by a group of slavers, Monkey is freed in the midst of another prisoner’s escape. After crashing to the ground, Monkey finds himself enslaved yet again. A young woman named Trip has bound Monkey to her will using a control headband from the ship, which the guards were enslaved with, demanding that he help her find her home. If her heart stops, he dies and so their journey begins together.
Although the setting of the game is in a post-apocalyptic world, Ninja Theory have managed to bring some fantastic colour to this world. Bright greens and reds bring this tale to life and really bring a sense of a world moving past the end of humanity. The environments are eye popping to look at and the character designs really fit the part. Your character Monkey, though looking rather monkey like, still portrays our strong human hero well. Trip has a striking resemblance with our heroin from Heavenly Sword, except here she has a hair cut and a more futuristic look to her. She’s a hottie. Simply put this game looks absolutely great.
The game is not without it’s flaws, strange graphical issues, screen tears, sporadic framerate issues and sticky controls throughout the game. These pop up at various places but never interfere with the gameplay as most happen during the cut-scenes or oddly enough when you are simply running around.
The two of you will have to cover vast amounts of land and for the majority of the game you will always be close to Trip. It is almost always up to Monkey to find a way across anywhere in the game, to find a clearance to a new area or be the muscle and deal with the mechs. A lot of the travels will include plat-forming and some simple puzzle solving.
The platforming is great at times and watching Monkey jump and swing around the environment is cool and exciting. there are the odd occasions where you will have to throw or launch Trip somewhere so that you can continue on in the level, but for the most part you will be jumping around by your self. The platforming is easy and you will not get lost as all the ledges are highlighted for you to find the path. Every so often you get to a level where you can use a very cool hover board called a cloud, these levels offer a nice pace change as the platforming is speeded up with the board. There were a few control issues where the controls could feel sticky and unresponsive at times, but nothing that hindered the experience.
The sticky unresponsive controls move across to the combat section of the game. Monkey has some melee combat moves which can be upgraded but the system isn’t very deep at all. There is no combat system to mix and experiment with, but even with this the combat never gets old. With your energy charged staff you can also use it to shoot plasma bolts and shock waves, though this is only used if needed. The only real difference that rears its head in standard battles is the number and type of enemies you fight and even those don’t change up much, but it never becomes to repetitive and stays enjoyable.
From beginning to end well orchestrated moments and events are never far away. This is where Enslaved manages a steady pace of interesting experiences for approximately 11 hours and will keep you captivated and wanting more of the story. Through the cut scenes or incidental dialogue as Monkey and Trip navigate from place to place, Enslaved builds its characters methodically and organically as they struggle to survive and understand each other. The dialogue and facial expressions are simply superb! Perhaps some of the best this year? Characters emote convincingly, and allow Enslaved to explore their discovery, loss, and revelation effectively as a result.
While the voice acting in Enslaved is excellent, so too are the sounds and score. Actor Andy Serkis delivers yet another truly excellent voice over and the same can be said for Lindsey Shaw, the actress behind Trip. The music is distinctive and memorable, peaking and becoming intense as it needs to. The ambient sounds of the world are great and if you have a decent 5.1 system, crank it up.
True it has flaws, from dodgy controls and limited combat, to some graphical issues. As a trip through an interesting, beautiful world covering ground that hasn’t been effectively tread in games, with a strong narrative and engaging story, believable characters, beautiful graphics and brilliant voice acting it provides something unique and different. Enslaved will surprise you many times and will take you through an enjoyable adventure ride. A definite must play.
A Huge thanks to Megarom for supplying the game for review.