Enslaved: Odyssey to the West review
A journey and nothing else
We all have our predictions of what the end of the world will be like... and so do Ninja Theory, but it's not all fire and brimstone here. Instead, it's to do with our lust to advance technology... pretty much to the point where it ends up killing all of us-- Oh wait, that's Terminator. No, actually, this game is like that, except instead of sending robots into the past to prevent judgement day, the people in Enslaved's universe prefer to live in fear of these robots and not send any of their robots to the past to prevent the takeover from happening. I get why that'd be - it's obvious that all robots are against them and, given that nature has taken over, they can't really make any robot strong enough to take down that what caused all of this, nor can they can make a time machine powerful enough to send it back 151 or so years into the past to prevent that what happened...
These are all questions I constantly ask myself whenever I think of this game, because Enslaved: Odyssey To The West isn't necessarily about this situation - nope, it's centred on two characters. Monkey, he who is physically capable of kicking your butt and scaling buildings Prince Of Persia style. Trip, she who is more technologically advanced, as she can use EMPs to stun enemies if she's threatened and Monkey isn't around, or project a hologram as a distraction while Monkey runs outside of cover.
The game bases itself around their relationship, as they were once prisoners aboard a slave ship, but when they escaped, Monkey was knocked unconscious - taking advantage of this, Trip fits a headband around him that will kill him if she dies or is too far away from him. This is because she wants to head back to her home, but because there are robots roaming the fields and it's a long way there, she needs a bodyguard, and this wild man with a staff is a good candidate. So really, there isn't much in the way of story progression; it's more character driven, as the relationship between these two develops. At first, Monkey resents Trip for forcing him to be her bodyguard, and she was scared of him because he looked like he could rip her in half, but eventually, they warm up to one another, and each moment with these two is incredibly captivating. Not one moment, did I want to skip a cutscene, because I wanted to see where they're going with this. Eventually, a third character is brought into the mix, and the relationship becomes deeper as this third character is a fat slob who constantly hits on Trip while trying to shitstir Monkey, making interaction a lot more fun.
Where it seems to really fall flat on its face is at the end. I won't spoil too much, but I must say this - prepare for something that feels rushed and slapped together at the last minute to justify an ending. In a way, it does hurt the story, as it doesn't exactly feel... finished.
Who's up for a piggyback ride?
Enslaved is a hack and slash game, but not like Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry; nope, it's simpler than that, my friends. See, you're only given a few basic combos. You either mash on a button, mash another button, or press them at the same time to give yourself some space. You're also given a ranged attack in the form of plasma shots and stun shots. But that's really about it. Sure, you can buy a couple more combos from the upgrade shop, but it still doesn't really give the combat much depth. I suppose it's alright because it at least does the job, but I couldn't help but wonder what could've been if you had a few more combos...
The upgrade shop I mentioned allows you to use the orbs you collect either on the way to Point B, or from destroyed enemies, to purchase those extra couple of combos, health upgrades, more ammo for your shots, and much more, though you must have Trip by your side as she has access to the shop.
Don't screw with Monkey; it'll only end with a concussion!
It also features some platforming, but there's no trick to it. All you really do is hold the left stick in the direction you want to jump, and press A. There was never any sense of danger because you automatically jump to the next thing you can jump or hang onto, and he won't budge if he knows it'll kill him. I suppose they're doing this because there are a lot of things to hang onto and because some of the jumps would be hard to gauge properly, but then it stops being a question of “if” you'll finish the game, and more “when”. I hate frustration, but I also hate it when a game is too forgiving. It's like they couldn't find a happy medium, so they just went for forgiving, which is okay in the short run, but at the end of the day, it's just... okay, I guess.
Really, Enslaved is a game that works very well when telling a story, but when you have to play the game, it could've used more work. Not to mention, the other gameplay elements are touched upon, but are then barely used! For one thing, there are a few bosses, and while they're fun to fight, there simply aren't enough of them. Same with the puzzles – they're fun to do, but there are only like three in the entire game. Then there's the Cloud, a disc that you ride to either ride over water, or chase down bosses. It seems like it could be a lot of fun, but – you guessed it, not enough of it! Come on, this is annoying!
In saying all of that, this is probably the best escort mission I've ever played through. This is because Trip is never in the way. When there are enemies lumbering about, she hides. Already, that's more useful than what everybody else I ever had to escort in any video game can do. But then she can also distract enemies with a hologram when you need to make a run for it, because turrets can and will kill you if you don't get her to distract them. Even when she's about to be attacked, BAM, EMP! Just hurry up to where she is and kill the robots she stunned. Victory! Talk about an exception to the rule!
That's a lot of bolts!
Enslaved is a pretty game. Despite its setting, it manages to be colorful, vibrant and very serene. It really shows how much nature takes over when mankind is on the brink of extinction, with all the grass, trees and such covering buildings and surrounding our heroes. Even when dealing with other environments (which I will not describe in great detail due to this being as spoiler free as possible), it manages to be quite convincing. The character models also look fantastic, with the humans looking lifelike (and also... when was the last time a game had a fat human in it? Just asking), although the lip syncing is often all over the place. If I was to be honest though, the textures seem like they were ripped out of an early 360 game, and can sometimes take their time to load up. Ahh texture popup, we meet again. Now get out of my games.
The soundtrack has a pretty strong level of ambiance to give off the right moods during any given situation. Never all that memorable, but it doesn't really have to be, because it manages to get you in the right mood, the right frame of mind for each situation, which is all that matters to tell you all the truth. Then there's the voice acting, and oh my god, it's awesome! It's the kind of voice acting that draws you in because it's so lifelike, so real and anything else that makes fantastic voice acting... it's definitely one of those games you have to play to really get it..
Enslaved: Odyssey To The West gets a 7/10. It's a well designed game that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, although gameplay could've been given some more attention. The only real crime committed here, though, is that it doesn't have a satisfying conclusion.
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