Review – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

BUY IT!!! Enough said…. Well, I guess I should tell you the reasons why you should purchase this gem.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is published by Namco Bandai and developed by Ninja Theory.

Enslaved is a third-person action-adventure game with a fairly simple combat mechanic. You dispatch of enemies with quick and heavy attacks, some area attacks, and a long range weapon. A secondary companion assists you by being able to distract enemies so you can take them out strategically. The game also has the typical upgrade system. You can add some new moves to your aresenal, but most of the upgrades add to your shield, your health gauge, and long range weapon stats. Your character traverses areas by scalling walls a la the Uncharted series. The game does not give you the option to fall to your death because you cannot jump anywhere that the developers don’t want you to. An interesting decision and something that I was happy it did when looking at the sum of its parts. The camera is the only thing I had an issue with while playing. I have never been a fan of a static camera, but Enslaved could have used some kind of arena-style camera that focuses on the action. The game does this in some small non-combat areas, but I think my frustrations could have been averted if this was applied to some combat areas. There were multiple times I was fighting an enemy off-screen because I didn’t have time to move my camera.

The ‘game’ of Enslaved is solid; however the star of the game is its story. The game follows the ‘Odyssey’ of Trip, a tech savy girl trying to make it back to her home town, and Monkey, the acrobatic brawn of the game just trying to live. Enslaved is set in New York City 150 years after a war with mechs has dessimated human lives and the world as a whole. Any humans left have to either survive the slavers roaming the land or the dormant techs that can be alerted to your presence. Enslave starts on a slave airship that is going down over New York. Monkey watches as Trip somehow escapes her cell and hurries to get off the ship before it crashes. After explosions uncage Monkey from his cell, he quickly follows after Trip. When Trip makes it to the last escape pod, Monkey latches on and is flung through the sky and crashes somewhat safely on the ground. When Monkey comes to, he is told that he has been fitted with an enslaved headband she controls. If Monkey doesn’t listen to Trip’s commands she can kill him. If Monkey gets too far away from Trip the headband kills him. If Trip dies Monkey dies. Trip needs to make it 300 miles west, she can’t make it alone, and needs Monkey’s help to get there. I really don’t want to talk anymore about the story because I do not want to ruin any of the game. Just know that it’s worth it.

If you are familiar with Ninja Theory’s Heavenly Sword released for the PS3, you know that the cutscenes for Enslaved are wonderful. The cutscenes convey feeling that I’ve never seen in any game. Facial expressions and eye movements are used to give meaning to the story where other games add vocals and sharp actions (see Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Final Fantasy XIII). You can see the fear and despair in Trip’s face and the confusion and determination in Monkey’s.

You put Ninja Theory’s motion capture together with solid gameplay and a story that is based on the ancient Chinese novel Journey to the West and you have a narratively rich game that captivates the player and keeps them going from chapter to chapter. This is an expreience that you have to be a part of. My suggestion is that you purchase this game….NOW!

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