Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

October 18, 2010

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West might possibly hold the distinction of being the only video game in existence that is based, albeit loosely, on a novel. Journey to the West is considered to be one of the great novels of Chinese literature and Enslaved takes it, places it in a post-apocalyptic America, and succeeds beyond what you might ever have believed it would. 

Being based on a book, one would think that the story would be one of the focal points of the game, and you’d be right. The game follows Monkey, the main character, and Trip on their escape from slavery to freedom. Unfortunately for Monkey, his journey takes longer than Trip’s, as upon escaping from the slave ship, he is outfitted with a slave headband by Trip and forced to help her return to her home, 300 kilometers west of their location. Despite his initial resistance, Monkey soon employs all of his prodigious power and leaping abilities to assist Trip in her journey to the west. The story is very compelling and is assisting greatly by the action and atmosphere.

The combat in the game has a fairly visceral feel to it. Throughout the game you’ll fight against mechs of varying types and sizes. Leftovers of a long-ago war, they are simply fulfilling their programming-kill any humans they see. Utilizing a nifty staff weapon that has both melee and ranged attack modes, you’ll find yourself hacking, and blasting, your way through all sorts of mechs. You have the ability to block as well, but you’ll rarely use it except when you are surrounded by a bunch of mechs. You’ll also be able to upgrade yourself and your staff with new and improved abilities throughout the game by collecting tech orbs. By itself, the action would get stale over the course of this 10 hour game, but Ninja Theory did a great job of breaking up and pacing the action. Breaking up the action is tons of platforming and scaling of buildings, crevasses, and all sorts of towering environments. It has very rigid platforming, it isn’t possible to miss a handhold, but I quite enjoyed that about the game. Rather than needlessly making the platforming difficult, they decided to make it into more of a puzzle where you have to find the right path up or down and then moving on to more story and action. There are also many set-piece sequences, fast-paced chase and rescue sequences and various other experiences to break up the combat. All of it is thrilling, and all of it is very well paced.

Visually, Enslaved is stunning. Sprawling, open world environments are beautifully and colorfully rendered on your screen, while the animations used for the characters are all believable and add to the attachment you’ll begin feeling for them.

The sound design is also very well done. The soundtrack is great, adding to the atmosphere and feel of the game. The voice acting is also very well done. The script is great and the voice actors genuinely make you feel an attachment to Trip and Monkey. The cutscenes really shine as well. The banter and emotions displayed during them complete the feeling of being part of the story and relationship between Trip and Monkey.

The only real complaints I have with Enslaved are the camera and the controls. Sometimes the controls get finicky, and while the camera does a good job most of the time, sometimes it gets in the way of the action. Overall though, these are fairly minor complaints during the scope of the game.

There are very few action adventure type games that I can remember feeling the desire to continue playing even after having beat them, the last one being Uncharted. Enslaved, despite its 10 hour play time, is another one that I would play through again. The story, the sounds, the script, the visuals, and the action beg to be experienced again.

Pros: Visuals are stunning, soundtrack is great, voice acting is terrific, combat is satisfying, set-pieces are epic

Cons: Camera sometimes gets in the way, controls can be finicky


Score: 5/5

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