rainvillain's Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PlayStation 3) review

The Hits and Misses: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

The HITS
 
  • Beautiful world. Enslaved is, if nothing else, one of the more memorable game worlds I have visited in a long time. Adding green to the now derivative "post-apocalyptic" setting was one of its strongest ideas and really helped keep a stagnating genre alive. Oftentimes, you are given Uncharted 2-like levels of beauty when staring off into the distance. For a multiplatform game, this is nothing to be scoffed at. 
  • Fantastic characters and storyline. With a game focusing almost exclusively on three characters, it's a good thing Ninja Theory nailed their personalities, expressions and motivations down! Trip and Monkey are some of the most believable characters I have come across in a video. Their story is worth experiencing just to see their interactions. Again, the game's animation are as subtle and expressive as Uncharted 2.
  • Solid soundtrack. The game is surrounded by a fantastic score worth listening to on its own, but is made even greater when experienced in game. I hadn't heard of this composer before but I'm keeping an eye on Nitin Sawhney`s discograpy from now on.
 
The MISSES
 
  • If only I could explore this world... As much as I love to look at the game's world, it is extremely linear. This isn't an inherently pejorative concept, but had I been given the opportunity to really explore it at my own pace, climbing the abandoned buildings as if I was Ezio from Assassin's Creed 2, I can't help but think this would have been a much more dynamic and interesting game. As it stands, collectibles aside, I feel no motivation of playing through the same game again.
  • Ninja, eh? Coming from the developers of Heavenly Sword, and having recently been chosen to create the next Devil May Cry game, I had high hopes for Enslaved's combat. I found it rather simple and dry. As wave after wave of enemies show up, I found the combat to be the worst part in the game. By no means "bad", but when something comes out the same year as Bayonetta, it really has a lot to prove if it wants me to believe there is still life in the DMC license.
  • A dry third quarter.. Pigsy is a fantastic character. However, the second you meet him, the locations you visit change from lush environments to generic sewers and mechanical factories. Drab drab drab. Until a pivotal moment near the game's conclusion, a lot of the game's environmental beauty is lost. Ironically, it's only about half way through the game that the subtitle of "journey to the west" begins to apply, which happens to be when the environments begin to look less inspired.
 
BUT IN THE END
 
I had a real rollercoaster experience with this game. 
On the one hand, I loved the characters, setting and score, on the other hand, I found the actual gameplay elements tiring and uninspired. Ninja Theory claimed to have pitched Enslaved as a movie in the Unreal engine. As someone who strongly believes in the validity of games as a viable art form for telling a captivating and unique story, I was initially offended by this news. After having finished the game however, I can't help but wish this had been turned into a movie. As decent as the gameplay is, it consistently felt like a hurdle to get to another cutscene to advance the storyline.   

I enjoyed this game but I'm disappointed for what it could have been. Considering how poorly it sold, it seems like the chances for Enslaved 2: Odyssey to the Wester are slim. This is unfortunate since Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a fumbled first step into a fantastic world which deserves a second chance.
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