Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Forget those boring desolate plains, areas that only use two tints from the entire color palette, and the slow hungry zombies that lurk around every corner. Apocalypses like these are so 2008. Devs seem to forget that when mankind isn’t around anymore, nature takes over. The world of Enslaved looks green, very green!
I like games that manage to surprise me. Games that in some mysterious way avoid the critical journalist’s radar to suddenly end up in your console. Enslaved is such a game. “Out of nowhere” the makers of the pretty average PS3 launch game Heavenly Sword arrive with a game that next to looks also has something to say.
In the world of Enslaved you control a man called Monkey who has become some sort of slave of the beautiful and nifty Trip. By means of a slave bond Monkey needs to follow Trip’s orders an if he doesn’t, the bond will explode with all kinds of naste things happening as result. The idea is to escort Trip to her home as safely as possible and you can see it coming from far away that something beautiful will grow between the two and that a third will put this in jeopardy. The game will keep you occupied for about ten hours and offers a very interesting story with perfectly cast characters.
Enslaved can best be compared with Uncharted. Especially the climbing over destroyed buildings and steep walls will feel familiar to the fans. Don’t expect difficult trails or dangerous journeys though, as these aren’t present. And don’t see this as a negative thing as nothing is harder than getting killed multiple times in a game. This “easy” approach gives the game a certain “flow” which forces you to quickly go to the next chapter.
In Enslaved you won’t be shooting in all directions with bullets as Monkey can only splice his enemies by means of a powerful cane. At the start you only have a couple of moves but as you progress Trip will offer you all kinds of upgrade possibilities that in the end make Monkey a true mech-killer. Don’t expect a deep combat and upgrade system like in God of War or Dante’s Inferno, but this game doesn’t need that. Enslaved is about the experience, the characters and the story.
Technically Ninja Theory dropped the ball here and there. You’ll encounter strange glitches or animations here and there and it will become clear quite quickly that the sound often isn’t in line with what you’re seeing or what the characters are saying. Next to that the controls bothered me a bit as well as they seemed to have some lag issues. And when Monkey has it difficult to step over a small threshold while a second later he’s climing a skyscraper of a building, you’ll start to get irritated. Enslaved is absolutely a great game, but such small problems could certainly have been resolved during development.
Sometimes I wonder if gamers today still want to play a game that doesn’t offer any (or very limited) replay value, multiplayer or headshot-violence. Games like Uncharted and Bioshock beautifully manage to combine words with deeds, but both sequels to those titles have added multiplayer. Would Enslaved have been better with multiplay? Absolutely not, but which game will you choose if you only have 60 euros?
We already said at the beginning that the apocalyptic world of Enslaved looks all but grey and dull. The game drags you through a vivid New York that’s completely bewildered. Giant skyscrapers overwhelmed by plants, streets that crack due to giant roots of trees, and cosy rivers that have found their way through all the debrie. Audiovisually everything is A-OK here.
Enslaved managed to avoid my radar during development but flashed on release. The immersive story, the interesting characters and the graphical style make it a fascinating game. Of course there are some downpoints but in which game aren’t there any these days? Enslaved is a sleeper hit, but to become game of the year it will need a bit more power.