Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Review
By -- Richard J.
For the first time in quite a while, I've gone into an Xbox 360 game without any pre conceived notions. In a world with the internet, gaming podcasts, and video game previews, this is a nearly impossible occurrence. Without knowing what to expect, Enslaved definitely surprised me. After completing the game, I knew it was a good surprise. Enslaved is one of those games that despite some big flaws, I can still highly recommend.
As soon as Enslaved starts, it ropes you in with its story. The narrative is easily the best part of Enslaved, and that's a great thing for me to type. Too many games are focused solely on gameplay, so it is great to review a game that is so story driven.
The basic plot is that you play a character named Monkey who is taken prisoner on a slave ship. There is also another prisoner named Trip. When Trip attempts to escape, Monkey finds his way out too and tries to get off of the ship. Trip leaves on the last escape pod, so Monkey jumps onto the top of it as it takes off. The escape pod crash lands into the post-apocolyptic world below, which leaves Monkey unconscious and Trip without a scratch. While Monkey is passed out, Trip fits him with a modified slave crown. With the modified crown, Trip is able to inflict pain on Monkey using her voice. It is also modified so that if Trip dies, Monkey dies too. Trip does this so that Monkey will be her protector, whether he wants to or not. After some further events, it is up to Trip and Monkey to defeat the slaves.
What makes the narrative great in Enslaved is the way it keeps you wanting more, thanks to surprising twists, intense atmosphere and lovable characters. If through playing Enslaved you don't feel emotionally attached to at least one character, then you must not be paying attention.
Interlaced between pieces of story is some great gameplay. Most of the gameplay is focused on the acrobatics of Monkey. In the plantation infested, post-apocolyptic setting, walking a straight path is nearly impossible. In order to get from point A to point B, monkey must shimmy up and swing across poles, climb ladders, and jump between crumbling walls. Trip on the other hand, is not nearly as acrobatic. So that you don't leave Trip behind and die, you must either carry Trip on your back, or throw her up to less wild terrain. Monkey also has a special "Cloud" he uses to travel on the water. It's kind of like a circular hoverboard that only Monkey can use. I found it really easy to travel with the Cloud, and was surprised by how tight the controls with it are. Despite it being simple control, I still prefer climbing through the environments.
While climbing through the environment, you will encounter enemies called mechs on more than one occasion. These enemies engage mostly in close-combat, where Monkey must defeat them through melee combat with his staff. The melee combat is controlled with two buttons, which works well. When an enemy is yellow, you know that you are hitting it, and if it is red, you know to throw up your shield in order to protect yourself from the impending attack. Monkey can also evade, which is necessary when certain mechs have attacks that can't be blocked with Monkey's shield. The melee combat works well, but can get pretty frustrating when a group of mechs swarm around Monkey.
Certain mechs operate as gun turrets, which creates some long-range combat for Monkey. Since Trip can't fight, it becomes her time to shine when long-range combat comes into play. In order for monkey to sneak behind these techs and defeat them melee style, Trip has create a decoy. On command, Trip will throw a decoy into the air which will cath the attention of the mechs and allow for Monkey to sneak in. Sometimes Monkey is unable to sneak up on techs. When this happens, you must use Monkeys staff like a gun. Monkey has two different kinds of ammunition for his staff: orange attack ammunition, and blue stun ammunition. Ammunition is spread thinly throughout the levels, so you will always have enough to fight with, but never a surplus. Aiming the staff works just like an over-the-shoulder shooter and works quite well. I found the reticle to be a bit jumpy and hard to aim, but overall not bad.
Enslaved also brings to the table a credit system where you can buy upgrades. For every mech you defeat, you are awarded some credits. Often these credits are glowing, orange, spherical balls that give out 1000 credit denominations. Apart from defeating mechs, you can also collect these balls throughout the environment by running over them. Once you have enough credits, you can access an upgrade menu and select to upgrade your long-range staff, melee staff, shield, and health. These upgrades work great, but the method of collecting credits is a bit frustrating. All of the credit balls in the environment hug the edges, instead of appearing right in your path. I can see how the developers put them near the edges to make them slightly difficult to get, but having to hug the walls gives a dated feel.
Other than running through terrain and fighting mechs, there is one more gameplay element to discuss. This element is puzzles, which are plentiful in the world of Enslaved. None of the puzzles are intense brain teasers, but most of them are slightly difficult and take advantage of the great environments. I usually found myself satisfied with what the puzzles did, opposed to how difficult it was to solve them. Some may consider this a downfall, but I enjoyed it. Difficult puzzles would have been fine, but for a game like Enslaved, grand environment changing puzzles are much better.
While running through the environments, you will likely stop a couple of times to look at the breath taking graphics. It is amazing to see what the developers did with this highly detailed and intricate world they have created. The visuals may not be the best I've seen in a game, but what they have done with this much more complex world than worlds found in other games, is fantastic. The environments may be stunning, but the faces on the characters are even better. The faces in Enslaved are some of the best I have ever seen in a game, and adds a lot to the emotions of the characters. Unfortunately, along with this complex world and stunning faces comes some graphical faults. Enslaved suffers from some terrible graphical hitches that can really slowdown the pace. Constantly while playing I would enter a part of an area, and it would take more than a few seconds for the textures to pop-in. During climbing in some areas the framerate slowed down, along with some slowdown during cutscenes. Even worse was during one scene, Monkey disappeared. Trip continued to talk to monkey and interact with him, but he wasn't there. I feel that if the developers had delayed the game for a few more months, they could have gotten it a lot more polished.
Sound wise, Enslaved hits is out of the park again. Some feint music plays in back while you are travelling through the levels, but none of it is very memorable. The best audio comes from the voice-over work. Each and every voice-actor does such a great job conveying each characters emotions through their voice, and it is another key part that makes up Enslaved. If the voice-overs hadn't come together with the great story and stunning visuals of the characters, it would not have come together quite right. The audio is a key part of Enslaved that shouldn't be overshadowed by the rest of the great things that make up Enslaved.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a great single-player experience, but doesn't have any multiplayer. Personally, I think that this is a good thing. Many probably think that co-op would be great considering the game revolves around two characters, but Monkey goes through all of the gameplay. If they were to bring in co-op, it would be Monkey doing all of the important stuff, and Trip doing barely anything. There is another character that is introduced later in the game that could possibly serve as a good co-op character, but he comes in too late for an entire mode to be added. If you are desperately seeking some replay value, the main game is good enough to warrant another playthrough.
Overall, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a fantastic gem that came out of no where, but shouldn't be missed by anyone. The story is the strongest aspect of this game, and carries everything else on its shoulders. The gameplay sprinkled throughout the story is pretty good, but you can tell that it isn't the game's main focus. The visuals are fantastic, especially the faces of the characters, but the game suffers from some harsh graphical problems. The audio in Enslaved is also of high quality, and the game doesn't falter from a lack of replay value. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a game that is easy to recommend to most gamers. The story is the main focus, but everything else is wrapped together in a nice package. If story isn't your thing, then you may want to skip Enslaved until it hits a lower price, but every gamer should pick it up when it hits a price they are comfortable with.
- Incredible story
- Good gameplay
- Fantastic graphics
- Best facial animations I have seen in a game
- Great audio
- Gameplay could be better
- Lots of graphical faults
- Needed some more polish