Will This Game Make You It's Slave?
The majority of today's post-apocalyptic games tend to bring on images of dreary and bland environments that can make even the most die hard fans of the genre wanting more variety. Thankfully, this is not the case with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a story driven action-platformer that is encompassed by beautiful environments that, at times, will make you awe in amazement. From a lush green city to a treasure-filled junkyard, the world that Ninja Theory has created is nothing less than an impeccable one. But as beautiful as the world is, it's only the setting for the great story that will keep you pushing on through to the very end.
But what story is complete without the cast of characters that makes it so great? This game goes by quality over quantity and it does it marvelously well. The inclusion of only three speaking characters really makes you feel alone and the world feel more like a post-apocalyptic one. Thanks to motion capture extraordinaire, Andy Serkis, they were brought to life magnificently and the facial animations are some of the best I have seen. Along with the talented voice work of Andy Serkis, Lindsey Shaw, and Richard Ridings, the characters are second to none. All of this made the three characters incredibly human and made me care for them even more and how they were going to end up. To counteract the main characters, you are up against an onslaught of robots called "Mechs". Unlike most games that feature robots as enemies, these actually come in a wide variety and designs that all work in different and unique ways.
Even though the story, characters, and world are absolutely stunning, the combat, although stylish, leaves something to be desired. It's your typical God of War-style combat with one button for light attacks and one button for strong attacks. Monkey's weapon of choice is his trusty staff which he uses to not only melee his enemies but also to shoot them from a distance. He has two types of ammunition at his disposal which are stun blasts and plasma blasts (which deal damage). When facing certain enemies you may be prompted to push a button to perform a "take down". These take downs are accompanied by a fantastic cinematic presentation of Monkey absolutely destroying the enemy.
Along with the combat, there is also a platforming aspect to the game too. The platforming, not unlike Prince of Persia and the Uncharted series, is simplistic with a clear path set out by shiny, glowing objects you can jump, swing, and climb on. As you get closer to the end of the game it does get trickier but nothing that can't be handled if you are used to this generation's platformers. Along with all of this, there is a short delay between pushing the button and the action actually happening on the screen which forces you to be a little more precise with your jumps, swings, and attacks.
One of the best parts of the gameplay are the segments where Monkey's "Cloud" is activated. The "Cloud" is Monkey's "hover board" and it usually becomes available during boss battles and parts with more water than land. There are also a few chase segments where you have to catch up to an enemy on the "Cloud" and take them down. Although the gameplay may not be Enslaved's strongest point but it mixes it up enough to keep everything feeling fresh for a majority of the game.
One thing I was expecting when I first heard about this game was there would be a lot of baby sitting the "damsel in distress" (see Resident Evil 4) but there is little to none of it. Trip is resourceful enough to hide, stun your enemies, and even create a decoy to help you get closer to your enemies without being the brunt of the damage. She can also use the "Tech Orbs" you find along your journey to improve Monkey's powers and attributes.
"Tech Orbs" is the experience or currency used in this game and these orbs can be collected by defeating enemies, and traversing the landscape. You can spend the orbs you've collected on upgrades such as Health, Combat, Staff, and Shield. The Health section allows you to extend your max health, along with gaining health regeneration powers which comes incredibly handy for the parts where you're up against a lot of Mechs with turrets. Combat lets you buy new attacks and a "Combat Awareness" which turns your enemies a certain colour based on their combat status (blocking, attacking, vulnerable). The staff upgrades pertain only to the ranged attacks such as the increase of your ammo, the stun time of your stun blasts, and the damage and penetration of your plasma blasts. When upgrading your shield's stats, you can obtain attributes such as speeding up the recharge time, and the strength of the shield itself. For anyone wanting to play through the game again, you can bring all of the upgrades you've already unlocked over and start the game with each and every one of them. These upgrades make the game, but especially the combat, a more enjoyable experience.
Ninja Theory's latest game is a great one but there's no denying it has flaws. It definitely makes me look forward to Ninja Theory's next game, in hopes they can learn from their mistakes and make a masterpiece! Saying that though, I want to remind you this is in no way a bad game. Thankfully, the pros heavily outweigh the cons making this a game worth playing and a story worth seeing. Anyone who wants to enjoy a great story and can look past minor gameplay flaws will definitely want to give this one a shot.