Review by Bkstunt_31
"Go west, young Monkey!"
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West looks like an interesting game from the box. The giant mech thing looks pretty cool and any sort of enslavement and odyssey sounds like it could be an interesting story. You must be thinking the same thing if you're reading this review. After recently beating the game let me tell you exactly what you can expect out of this enslavement odyssey.
The story is easily the most interesting thing about the game. And not just the story that is in the game, but the inspiration for the story. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West draws heavily from the ancient Chinese story "Journey to the West", which is one of the four greatest classical Chinese novels. The novel features a Buddhist monk traveling to India to bring back sutras while being protected by various bodyguards as he was constantly in danger by demons. The main bodyguard was Sun Wukong, better known as The Monkey King, who was immensely powerful.
While the game takes inspiration from the story it definitely tells its own tale. As you may expect, you take on the role of Monkey, who is essentially a nomad with nothing to tie him down. At the beginning of the game you have been captured by some sort of slaver ship and are being transported to who knows where. From your prison you see a girl who is clearly not one of your captors head to a console and do something that makes the ship malfunction. The resulting chaos actually frees you but unfortunately the ship is coming down and you are still weaponless. You'll go on to recover your equipment and head to the escape pods but will be beaten to the last one by the girl, who jettisons off with you holding on. After you wake up, you'll find that she has put a hacked slavers headband on you. With this she can make you perform simple commands and also ensures that you can't hurt her as if she dies, YOU die. With that kind of leverage she makes you a deal: escort her to her village in the west in return for your freedom.
The story isn't based on the mythical elements you'd find in the source material and drops the Buddhism but focuses on a very interesting premise: a helpless girl enslaving you (a tough wanderer) to further her own goals. The story is also set in a futuristic world that is really a shell of what it is now, with most humans wiped out from an unknown war and very dangerous battle mechs roaming around as a result. You'll get to know your captor better as the game goes on (naturally) which leads to some interesting dialog. The amount of human interaction in the story is extremely limited, however, as the game's story is essentially the girl's story with you tagging along for the ride. Still, the dialog and pacing of the story are interesting and the ending is definitely one worth thinking about.
The game play is definitely an action platformer. Monkey basically personifies his namesake and so you can expect there to be quite a bit of platforming. The platforming is pretty easy, to be honest. Everything you can grab is always highlighted by a light shine. You will occasionally have platforms that crumble, forcing you to find the next handhold fast but those are never really challenging. Later on in the game your platforms will start to become more dangerous as fire and other dangers force you to time your jumps. At times your climbing sections will have multiple paths but the "variety" is always an illusion. Nothing really special about the platforming here.
The combat is also rather plain. Monkey attacks with a staff that enlarges when he is in combat and shrinks for portability when he's not fighting. In combat you have weak and strong attacks, as well as a wide attack. You can string some weak and strong attacks together but there isn't anything close to what you would call a "deep combat system" here. Monkey's staff is also a ranged weapon as you can fire plasma and stun bolts As you defeat enemies and explore your surroundings you will collect tech points that you can use to upgrade Monkey in a variety of ways. Your combat upgrades are pretty limited (in fact you only really have one new attack you can learn) but you can buff up your health, shields and ranged attacks. Monkey can also block and evade during a fight, which gives you some good protection options but I still yearned for a deeper, upgrade-able combat system.
Thankfully fighting enemies was usually an interesting experience nonetheless. You often had to use platforming to get to certain enemies or turrets. Or you may need to use stun bolts to take out distant shielded enemies. Or you may encounter enemies that you can do special take down moves on to turn the tables. So while the platforming is easy and the combat isn't deep there is quite a bit of variety to be found in the game play which helps a ton.
The graphics in the game are pretty darn good! Sure, the world is essentially a shell of what humanity has left behind but Ninja Theory did a good job at making it easy on the eyes. True, the level structures are very linear but they look good and have plenty of detail. There is also a smattering of wide-open areas that provide nice panoramic scenes. Exploring your surroundings is also encouraged by putting random tech points in out of the way places. Character designs are VERY well done. Each of the main characters looks fantastic. Monkey in particular is cleverly designed as he has a flesh-colored sash that is meant to be his "tail" and his face has monkey-like markings on it. In fact his motion capture was done by the same guy that did the motion capture for Gollum from Lord of the Rings (Andy Serkis). The only fault I can even find in the game is that the enemy designs are very basic. There isn't a very big variety of enemy mechs and so you'll be finding yourself fighting the same-looking enemies throughout the entire game. Still, the graphics in the game were well done.
The audio in the game is mostly atmospheric pieces. Lots of light and airy music. Most of the tracks are fairly forgettable, but they fit nicely into the game. One track called "Catch the Dragonspy" stands out however and became my favorite track in the game. The voice acting in the game was well done, even though Monkey can be hard to understand with his New York accent. Not too much to say about the audio as a whole: it was all pretty much average and did its job well but failed to leave any real memorable performance.
The game is exactly 14 chapters long with an epilogue for good measure. You can likely beat it in a couple of afternoons if you tried. The game does have trophies and multiple difficulties you can try out. There's also these peculiar mask objects that the developers do their best to hide that you can collect, although you have no way of knowing how many are in any given chapter. The game also has DLC available to it called "Pigsy's Perfect 10" that you could check out if the game catches your fancy, although I personally haven't tried it.
Overall, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an enjoyable action adventure game. While the story can definitely be sparse at times, I believe it and the graphics are the highlights of the game. The audio and game play do their jobs but don't do anything too special while the game doesn't really have any lasting re-playability. Still, if you're itching to do some fighting and platforming you could do worse. Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/07/13
Game Release: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (US, 10/05/10)
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