Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, is a third person acton adventure game developed by Ninja Theory. The game takes place in a savage jungle like version of New York city which sees main character Monkey tasked with getting a young girl by the name of Trip 300 miles back to her home.
In an article in which I find myself playing a game rather late after its release, I picked up Enslaved for £10 on the cheap. I decided I would write down my thoughts having played through chapters 1 - 3 thus far. It may continue - or it may fall to the way side (It's not like my blog entries ever really get read anyway :P). My previous exposure to the game had been a few articles, a video or two and my way back when encounter with the demo which let you play through chapter 1 of the game.
The first thing that stuck me about the game was the lack of audio options regarding the character dialouge. After the first scene I found myself putting the subtitles on as I was having a hard time hearing what anyone was saying. Although well voice actted the sound design seems rather poor with both dialouge and sound effects all dumped into one universal slider on the options and with the sound effects high and the vocals seemingly low there is very little to avoid this issue beyond doing as I did and putting on the subs. Had this been tweaked a little I believe I would have had a much more enjoyable experience as I am playing this game primarily for its story.
As for the story itself - it is very enjoyable. Ninja Theory have always been good at creating unique and vibrant worlds and telling good stories. Enslaved offers strong chemistry between the two main characters Trip and Monkey - even in the early chapters of the game. It's a character chemistry that I look forward to seeing develop and evolve throughout the advancement of the plot.
The world and the characters are very unique. I like the abandoned jungle style New York that gives you something beautiful to look at in cold, hard contrast to the various rusted and violent robots that inhabit it. Another calling card of Ninja Theory is the true talent that lies in their art department to bring such robotic creatures to life from intricate robotic dragon flies to vicious mechanical dogs.
The gameplay is, okay. Sadly I believe the actual gameplay to be one of the weakest links in chain. It's not that its terrible - it's playable but combat is so far certainly lacking in depth. Monkey has a hard and light attack, a charged attack, a wide attack and block and dodge. He also has the ability to fire plasma from his staff but it's doesn't exactly make for a deep and meaingful combat system. Fighting robots can feel frustrating - especially when a timer counts down over their heads to them 'calling for backup' - they simply seem impossible to stop as they run down to 0 and more of their robotic buddies join the fray. Perhaps as i'm early in the game I've yet to really grasp how to avoid such annoyances. But if anything - my biggest concern is what this means for the future of the Devil May Cry franchise. Now called 'DMC' and left in the hands of Ninja Theory will they ever really be able to deliver a combat system befitting of one of the greatest demonic bad asses the video game world has ever seen? If Enslaved and their other game Heavenly Sword are anything to go by...well let's just say i'm worried.
On top of the combat you have Monkey doing what his name sake would imply - climbing like one. The platforming of this game with jumping from crumbling ledge to toppling metal structures borrows heavily from the mechanics mastered by Naughty Dog for the Uncharted series - even going as far as borrowing the now world renowned cinematic camera views as a set piece crumbles around a climber.
Finally you have perhaps the biggest achievement for Ninja Theory. Creating a companion character I actually care and feel protective over. There's just something about Trip that leads me to want to help her. So far presented as being very innocent she seems like a fish out of water to the violent world around her...although i have my supicions that as the story advances she might not be as innocent as i first believe. The chemistry between the two characters is certainly a staple in this healthy diet of care and protectiveness - even if she has straped a bomb to my characters head to make him do her bidding I want to see it through and get her home.