NB - suffice to say as I discuss the game there may be what some would consider a couple of minor spoilers.
There's something incredibly satisfying about a game that takes such great pride in its story telling. A prime example in my opinion would be the Uncharted series which has such great characters and plot lines that help you feel really invested in the world laid out before and invested in the task at hand. I would be very happy to put Enslaved up on that list of games that really cares about its story and its characters.
I sat down this morning and played through chapters 4 -6 of the game. I was eager to continue but decided I would sit down and write out my thoughts of what i've seen thus far. I'm pleased to say that the game has stepped it up a notch since my run down of chapters 1-3. Firstly I've found myself enjoying the combat system a bit more. Although still limited there is a modicum of depth to Monkey's combat. There is certainly a strong feeling of brutality to it, with the big man monkey almost actting as a spartan from 300 with his plasma staff. The combat has real weight to its animation and sound - i just wish however there was more to do beyond the usual line up of stun, light attack, heavy attack. Even just some more animations would have made it that much more enjoyable - especially since you will find yourself hitting many a robot over the course of the game.
Another way in which the combat has been improved is via the upgrades system. The game features bright glowing orange orbs scattered throughout the environment - there's no real explination for their apperance but they act as points for you to place in various skill trees from health and shields to combat and Monkey's trusty staff. To begin with I found myself putting the points into the health and health regeneration - favouring more health should i be hit over anything offered in the combat skill trees. With some points to spend however - I did purchase a combat upgrade that does infact help greatly when battling. It's a colour based system in which attacking robots glow red, blocking glow blue and stunned glow yellow. Consider it much like you would the combat system of Batman Arkham Asylum / City and you're on the right track. It's a big help and allows you to manage your fights a bit better - giving you a strong insentive to know when to block. The one fault however is at times the camera does tend to push in too close to Monkey making it hard to see would be attackers that may be approaching from behind - although thinking about it - it is true we don't all have eyes in the back of our heads.
Another new gameplay mechanic appeared in the form of a 'cloud'. Not to be confused with cloud gaming and game saves being housed online as opposed to your hard drive. Monkey has a blue floating disc which he can ride much like a hoverboard. It was fun to glide over the water based environment and get strong vibes of the good old days of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise...I just wish Monkey could have done a couple of tricks as opposed to simply being able to ride and a jump - a welcome and fun addition to the mechanic's of the game though - one that I wonder if it will show up again in the later stages of the game.
The relationship between Monkey and Trip continues to develop as the story progresses, the role of protector constantly strengthened thus far with Trip even pleaing with Monkey during an intense climbing scene 'Please carry me' as a bridge crumbles around them. As I said in my thoughts of chapters 1 - 3 the role of protector is very easy to slip into and you want to be their for the companion character. I think the interaction between the pair and the fact that they are rather believeable characters in both their roles of lone wolf tough guy and valunerable fish out of water really strengthens this sentiment.
Chapter 5 offered a showdown between Monkey and an enemy that thus far had been the boogey man of the game - all the better to run from it then even consider taking it head on. The boss fight had some great weight to it and really felt like an epic man vs beast moment. I was surprised to see the vicious beast stop as i aimed my staff at it, almost a stare down...sadly as I slowly drew closer to it i realised that it had got stuck on a piece of scenery and was infact a glitch - it would of been a nice sentiment had it been actually by design and not error...i enjoyed it all the same though - and thankful after a quick stun attack and a bit of a beat down I freed the beast from it glitchy confines and the fight continued in its epic fashion.
Chapter 6 sees the game's duo escape the jungles of New York and head out (to my surprise) direct to Trip's homeland - something that I thought wouldn't occur till very much later in the game. The character development within the story continued to impress me with Trip awkwardly trying to offer Monkey a home should he want it the night before they travel to her town. Upon arrival it was apparent that things were not as they seemed - Trip continued to explore the deserted environment simply wondering where everyone was.
The facial animation really impressed here with Monkey reading very apprarent that he was fearing the worst and having a very good idea in his mind why no one was there to let them into the now closed off community. With Trip and Monkey splitting up after she too realises the truth - you are left with a combat scene in which Monkey tries frantically to rejoin Trip. The feeling of urgency is high thanks to the greatly actted cutscene's and strong lead characters that push everything along. It leaves you wanting to keep playing and I find as I write this that I'd be more then happy to fire up the xbox and play through the next few chapters before again putting my thoughts to key stroke.
All in all - I find i'm growing continually impressed with Enslaved - what it offers is a vibrant and unique world, interesting characters and a great story - and for the price I paid - a glitch or two isn't really going to hold it back. I find myself wondering where the game will go now that what I thought would be a finale is actually only the end what feels like a first act. Hopefully it doesn't disappoint.