Going into their latest adventure, Ninja Theory, the promising development team that brought us the beautifully imagined Heavenly Sword for the PS3 seemed primed to offer yet another visually stunning game play experience capped with memorable moments. However, while Enslaved: Odyssey To The West does offer touches of promise, the game unfortunately suffers from repetitive game play along with an undiscovered story with too many holes.
Enslaved throws you into the role of Monkey, our male hero who finds himself taken prisoner and trapped in a tightly sealed capsule aboard a larger transport slave ship. As matter quickly get worst the transport carrier begins to malfunction as you need to desperately escape your imprisonment. This of course is where you run in to Trip, your inevitable tag team partner who seems to be one step ahead of you during this escape attempt. Once freed you eventually reach an escape pod where you find Trip with seat-belt fastened and inches away from punching the eject button.
As you might have guessed it, Trip activates the escape pod and you are both ejected from the transport ship with Monkey holding on for dear life. Once Monkey awakens from his state of temporary unconsciousness he finds himself once again a prisoner, only this time Trip has placed a slave headband on Monkeys head that gives Trip the upper hand. Monkey must escort Trip to her homeland and keep her out of harms way or else….if she dies he dies. Trip has rigged the headband to unleash a lethal dose of kill juice into Monkey if she dies and this is where the adventure begins.
Armed with an upgradeable staff and shield and forced against your will to escort a bossy yet resourceful female tech-head across troublesome terrain does seem like a recipe for great storytelling.
Early on Enslaved starts out with Monkey displaying minor signs of discomfort for his current position. Whatever Trip has trouble doing whether getting across a bridge, needing help up ledges, or needing to get across a large area filled with enemy mechs or as they are called in the game, Monkey is called upon to utilize his amazing athletic and fighting abilities to remedy Trips troubles.
For someone who is force against their will, Monkey really never shows major indications that he’s pissed off about the predicament he is now in. Monkey carries on so in line with Trips wishes that as the player you will oftentimes forget that Monkey is in fact enslaved. This does seem to be an imbalance in Monkey’s character as throughout the journey you find clear signs of intelligent human rationale mixed with obvious signs of leadership qualities. Someone with these qualities would not so easily embrace this enslavement or so we think. Yet, like a monkey our hero goes about his masters business with few rebuttals if any.
For the most part Enslaved: Odyssey To The West is an experience filled with too much of the same thing that gets a bit boring and fast. Monkey and Trip reach an area, Trip survey’s the area with her trusty dragonfly. Once the areas of danger are plotted out Monkey goes into action. This scenario is almost the case in all 14 chapters. Of course there are your occasional an interesting dialogues between Monkey and Trip, that will draw you in emotionally and even get you psyched for what’s lies ahead which unfortunately is the same ole’ thing.
The lack of enemy variety also becomes quite apparent as your odyssey to the west progresses along. Outside of the solid boss battles sprinkled throughout, most enemy mechs look the same. There were differences in how you could take out some of the mechs, this was due primarily to the decent combat system. One saving grace to the experience would have to be the combat. Not scratching the surface of Heavenly Sword, Enslaved does offer some satisfying fighting scenarios where Monkey pulls off some amazing combos with his trusted staff. Again not a real in-depth combat system but definitely an enjoyable one.
Graphically the game is nothing to brag about. Like hundreds of games before it, Enslaved is powered by the Unreal Engine which from the looks of the game was an obvious choice due to economical advantages, not graphical. That is not to say the game doesn’t look good in certain areas. On several occasions I found myself starring at the lush waterfalls and distant mountain ranges.
Enslaved while beautiful to look at in many area was just as ugly in others. Due to the games post-apocalyptic setting, Ninja Theory purposely applied this look to the environment, a look that could have worked better if more backstory drew from a pre-apocalyptic environment displaying the world as it used to be. Unfortunately, you are just thrown into this rustic hard metal Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome setting with no rime or reason of what has brought civilization to this point.
Once completed there are no worthwhile reason for retuning to enslavement unless Ninja Theory plans on gracing us with DLC which gives more back story to the setting and characters, namely Monkey.
Enslaved: Odyssey To The West while offering a solid combat experience does not quite hit the mark as an triple A adventure title. The game is plagued by repetitive game play, ugly textures and an uninspired story that needs more work in the concept department. With all the work that must have gone into this title you would think it might have been better served on a Heavenly Sword sequel and that we have no doubt.