Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

It's a game that definitely needs more polish, but still an enjoyable story-driven adventure that shouldn't be missed.

By azn_pride, Posted 21 Nov 2010

It seems the developers at Ninja Theory were striving to create one of the most technically appealing adventure titles on the Playstation 3. The reception with Heavenly Sword back in 2007 was generously received, which more or less proved that Ninja Theory was a prime contender for making good games in that genre. It feels like they've been under the radar since then, though they've recently surfaced and appear ready to make games once again. Their latest title, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West may fall short on some spots, but its story-driven atmosphere, remarkable visuals, and interesting cast of characters come together to make a solid action adventure title.

Inspired by the Chinese tale, Journey to the West, Enslaved takes ample cues--mainly with the protagonists' names and appearances--from the classic, age-old novel. The game takes place about 150 years in the future, in which a massive nuclear war has wiped out most of Earth's population. The putrefying lands, devoid of human life, are instead occupied by countless humanoid machines (or mechs as they are called), still carrying out their longstanding orders to kill the remaining survivors. After escaping the clutches of a slave ship, Monkey finds himself in a predicament when a woman named Trip installs a slaver's headband on him. The headband is programmed to follow her orders, and is also connected to Trip's heartbeat; if she dies, Monkey dies. Monkey has no choice but to comply to Trip's desperate request in accompanying her home.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Review

Enslaved is a story-driven game that definitely has its moments, though the characters take center stage from start to finish. The subtle approach to the narrative is well executed, and the various emotions portrayed by the characters amp up the human element prominent in the story. The incredible detail of the characters' facial expressions--add in excellent voice acting and dialogue--truly adds to the emotional aspect of the game's storyline. Additionally, Monkey also encounters glitches, or hallucinations that briefly show images of what life was like before the war. Through these, you actually connect with these characters and the world around them in several interesting ways.

Take Monkey for example; you have your gruff, hotheaded, rough-and-tumble vagabond who is stripped of his freedom because of one messy circumstance. Then you have the intelligent, though somewhat desperate and naïve Trip, who is the cause of that messy circumstance. At first these characters might not be very likable, much less like each other's company. But as the story progresses, certain situations force them to make mistakes as well as some difficult choices. Not only do you come to understand these characters; you find yourself sympathizing with them as well.

Monkey's combat controls consist of performing light and heavy attacks with his staff, stringing them together to perform combos to further dispose of surrounding enemies. You can also stun enemy mechs to give you a clear advantage in a fight and you also gain additional moves later on; moves that I found most effective during crowd control. You can also improve Monkey's abilities--available via Trip--which consist of shield upgrades, stronger attack damage, health extension, and more. These enhancements don't come for free though, so you'll have to stock up on Tech Orbs that are scattered throughout the game, as well as defeating enemy mechs along the way.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Review

Trip also plays a significant role in the gameplay. There are many situations where getting past a level unscathed is impractical without her help. To remedy that problem, you can issue commands to Trip in distracting enemy mech turrets, heal Monkey's wounds, or tell her to follow you when she in turn needs support. When progressing through each level, Trip can highlight points in specific locations to help the player find the right path, and there are times when Monkey must throw her up a ledge while she lowers a ladder for him. It makes the two characters' symbiotic relationship the central focus of the gameplay, exemplifying the fact that one clearly cannot survive without the other.

Platforming in Enslaved is almost painless to deal with, and you're finding yourself traversing through every level with incredible ease. The two most helpful aspects that contribute to that accessibility are the noticeable indicators (shining pipes and ledges) and the fixed camera angles that always guide you on where to go next. Enslaved is mostly a linear experience from top to bottom, so it's nearly impossible for you to lose your way.

Despite how fairly enjoyable the action can get, Enslaved is, unfortunately, a game that I feel needs a lot of polish. For the most part, controls are responsive, though movement can occasionally become tricky to the point of annoyance during the game's most dire situations. Prime examples of that include making your way up a broken bridge that's rapidly crumbling away; you somehow don't make it in time because your intended direction wasn't what you were hoping for. Another example is when you're trying so hard to evade a devastating charge attack from an enemy, only to fail miserably because Monkey didn't react fast enough or was just a little bit late in escaping its attack range. Combat can be problematic sometimes because when trying to execute a special attack, it doesn't always respond in time, and the plan ends up falling apart. Camera can also be a nuisance; most of the time it can be too close to the player, and is especially irritating when you can't readily predict the enemy's movements from your blind spots.

There are also other things in Enslaved's gameplay mechanics that could have used some improvement. Cinematic takedown kills are no doubt a sight to see, though it would've been more enjoyable if every takedown had its own unique quick time event. Every quick time event/mini-game doesn't have to be challenging, but they should at least give every battle a satisfying finish. I'm not saying that a spartan approach in gameplay is terrible, but it's definitely better to keep the player engaged than just sitting back and nonchalantly watch the cinematics unfold.

Though that is the case, Enslaved is, without a doubt, ambitious when it comes to showing off outstanding cinematic visuals. The world in Enslaved looks massive, and is reflected by how comprehensive everything about it looks. From the realistic character movements to the thrilling action sequences, the quality of the cinematic cutscenes is one that shouldn't be missed. You can clearly see an overwhelming wave of greenery growing on various derelict buildings, broken pipes, and rusting platforms throughout the game. By admiring the game's well-detailed environments, you can definitely feel the 150-year history laden in every place you come across.

Enslaved Odyssey to the West Review

Enslaved has indeed proven to be an absolute visual treat, though the game's engine--Unreal Engine III--regrettably tends to rear its ugly head. Frame rate can reach an all-time low when things get too hectic and some load times are longer than they should be. There are also minor glitches players might have to deal with, like getting stuck in tight corners and at one point in my playthrough, the camera stuck in one place and didn't follow the player at all; both situations forced me to restart checkpoints. The good news is these glitches aren't common though running into these technical problems is undeniably irritating to deal with. After all, nobody likes bugs.

Despite the game's evident shortcomings, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is still a fun action adventure game that unquestionably shines through its remarkable storyline and unforgettable characters. It's unfortunate that the game is riddled with technical problems that do more harm than good, and the gameplay could've been much more enjoyable if it was given some extra attention. But with an intricately designed post-apocalyptic world, larger-than-life cinematics, great voice acting, and well-written dialogue, this game is one that definitely deserves a try.

David Gabriel, NoobFeed

comments powered by Disqus

  • It seems like an unfinished game, still, can give us a great time playing it. 

    Posted Nov 21, 2010

  • I tried out the demo for the game, and I enjoyed it.  I like the climbing, but I could see the combat getting stale.

    Posted Dec 03, 2010

  • After some time has gone by, this game still remains surprisingly under-appreciated. Yes the combat mechanics are rough (especially horrible camera) and the platforming is stupid easy to the point of being relatively pointless, but the story, presentation, and voice acting in particular are all fantastic and some of the best from this year. I'm hoping for a sequel. If they cleaned up the technical flaws and left everything else intact, it could be a really great game.

    Posted Dec 28, 2010

  • Agreed. If Enslaved didn't have technical problems, it would've been a much better game than it is. As far as sequels go, I'm not sure. I prefer them making a new IP and go from there. The ending in that game didn't really leave much to go with an Enslaved 2. But that's just my opinion, though.

    Posted Jan 02, 2011

  • You make teh game sound preety good, i love the pictures too!

    Posted Jan 13, 2011


General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher(s): Namco Bandai Games
Developer(s): Ninja Theory
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2010-10-05

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