Review: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

SERVITUDE AND FREEDOM

Developer: Ninja Theory
Genre: Action Adventure
Platform(s): PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Compatability (PS3): 3500KB Mininum Space | DUALSHOCK 3 Vibration Function | HD 480p / 720p
Compatability (Xbox 360): 1MB Mininum Space | HDTV 720p / 1080i / 1080p
Rating: 8.8

During the course of 2010 the gaming world was introduced to several major blockbuster titles. Massive sequels to the Halo, Call of Duty, Gran Turismo, and Assassin’s Creed franchises amongst others have almost buried the chances for any new games to gain any real ground. Because of these releases, it would be easy during this time frame for any gamer to overlook some of the better original titles. Ninja Theory, with the help of Namco-Bandai, has taken on the monumental task of introducing a new game during this season with what seems to be little fear. Even with a lack of strong backing, meager advertising, and the sea of sequels to combat, Enslaved falls into the category of a relatively undiscovered gem.

Loosely based on one of the Four Great Novels of China, “Journey to the West,” Enslaved is set in post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged America. While the developers never really seem to reveal any specific dates, it is apparent that humanity is at a point where it has moved well past the turmoil that caused this total destruction. This “beat-em-up” styled game features the gamer playing in third person as Monkey, an acrobatic and strong main combatant. Soon after the opening sequence you awaken aboard a slave ship bound for an unknown destination. From there you are paired, oddly, with the second main character Tripitaka, or Trip. You quickly find out that humanity is hanging on by a thread as it battles enslavement by mechs. The bulk of the story from there focuses on our protagonists traveling to find the source of the turmoil, and learning what they can do to eliminate it. During this journey you are treated to the characters, while their relationship is initially based on service rather than friendship, growing to rely on each other for survival. Surprisingly, the story mode is strong, and the character development will keep you involved in the game throughout the twelve hours of completion time.

Monkey. Our main protagonist.

The art styling for the graphics in this game is very unique from most perspectives. The graphics rely on very good detail in a lush environment that features bold reds and greens. The sea of plants and second-tier growth all over the buildings and objects really give the player that not only has an apocalypse taken place, but its devastation is a thing of the distant past. The character design is very well thought out, and the characters match up well with the intended look based on the voice-acting. Attention to small details was very apparent in not only the human characters, but also the mechs. While many of the machines look the same, there was some attention paid in to making them look combat-hardened and well styled. While the artwork and graphics can be absolutely stunning at times, there are some very obvious flaws in the design. There are some serious chugging problems from time to time that occasionally ended with the game simply going into pause-and-load mode. There are also times when the edges of the graphics can get a little fuzzy.

In regards to the actual gameplay, Enslaved offers us a solid title to sink our teeth into. On the hardest difficulty setting, veteran gamers will see a moderate challenge that forces them to plan their fight sequences. There are also lots of upgrades that are made available through orbs that are collected and spent at the “Trip Shop,” making strategy much easier to handle. Also worthy of note are the game sequences that involve Monkey flying around on his “Cloud.” The Cloud flying disk portions are some of the most amazing game sequences that I’ve ever had the opportunity to play. On the down side, however, there is nothing more frustrating than an odd battle camera. Unfortunately, the loose controls and camera angle issues during play are very evident. When enemies hit you while you’re blocking, the camera can be sent into an angle where you can’t actually see Monkey, forcing you to rotate the camera before your next move. Also, there are several times when I found myself not being able to control combos as well as I would like, sending me into a blocking and button-mashing frenzy just to stay alive.

Lush environments and colorful textures are waiting for you in Enslaved.

Equally enticing to the gorgeous graphics is the sound design. Nitin Sawhney delivers a powerful and haunting soundtrack that is amazingly futuristic yet primitive in its sound. Andy Serkis(Monkey), most recently known for voicing Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and Lindsey Shaw(Trip), from “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” deliver powerful voice-acting performances that will completely engross the player in the motion picture aspects of the game. The game also attempts to offer gamers a few things outside the first play-through that many of the other larger titles offer. There is already a DLC available that revolves around one of the other characters named Pigsy. In addition to the DLC, players with some time on their hands can achievement hunt for all of the orbs and the flashback masks that are revealed during the game, giving Enslaved some replay value.

The future is always uncertain. This truly can be said for Enslaved. With somewhat disappointing sales of 800k copies by the end of 2010, but extremely high praises from the gaming industry, Enslaved really can be staring at becoming one of the hidden gems of the gaming world. Enslaved has a strong story and solid gameplay that, like so many other epic titles, can outweigh some of the design flaws. With fledgling rumors of a sequel to this game, one can only hope that this well thought out title can gain ground and have some staying power in an already saturated gaming market.

Reviewed by vadrummin – January 10, 2011

Graphics
Aside from some minor issues, the graphics are very solid throughout. The most obvious thing that stands out is the rare and bold use of color by the design team to immerse you in your post-apocalyptic realm.
 
Sound
When taken into account what the designers were probably looking for the strong point of this title is its soundtrack. It is not at the same level as some of the greats, but it’s good enough to stand on its own, even without the game. Gameplay and dialogue sound is very well done.
 
Fun
Unfortunately, this is where this title is little lacking. Unless you’re a huge fan of the story, once you are done with the DLC and the achievement hunting, you’re probably going to have this game on the shelf for a long time.
 
Final Score

 

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Responses

  1. tomorrow i am going to start this adventure game.. i have a feeling that it wont let me down.. thanks 4 d review!

  2. I played through the demo which seemed to be the first long level and agree that it looked great and story seemed interesting.

    My issue seemed to be the quite structured route through the game, it seemed almost impossible to go wrong. As the ship is crashing for what seems like an age, you only really have one option to jump to of move at each stage and you can’t get them wrong. There also doesn’t seem to be a time limit. It may have changed in the real game but the demo made it seem too easy. Can’t argue with the graphics though!

    • If you’re not a fan of linear games then this is not the title for you. Most of the time the routes are planned for you and the platforming, while easy, can be a little sketchy at times. The story, graphics, and soundtrack are the strongpoints of this game.


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