Review by bbears

"Should you let this game enslave your money and time?"

Enslaved Odyssey to the West is an action adventure game from Team Ninja supposedly based the Chinese classic Journey to West. While I'm not familiar with it myself I've have heard that this is a pretty big stretch. Anyways Enslaved is intended to be a big budget epic blending its own form of Uncharted like platforming and God of War combat all with a cinematic flair. And while it definitely achieves the cinematic part, the gameplay leaves much to be desired. This and lack of multiplayer contributed largely to its commercial failure. But that does mean that now a year after its release it can be had for $15-$20.

Both technically and artistically Enslaved is a beautiful game. The game takes place in a post apocalyptic future but unlike most this world is bright and vibrant with colors from all the overgrown plants that have taken over the city. This a refreshing change as most games these days use browns and grays almost exclusively. When you find out that Enslaved uses the Unreal 3 engine this even more of a surprise. Although that engine is very common now, I've never seen a game look this good on it. In particular the facial animations are absolutely amazing. And this is a really a defining point of the game. Enslaved tries very hard to be cinematic, but the plot itself is very thin. So instead it relies on the character development of the two main characters Monkey and Trip. Never in a game have I seen facial emotions and body language portrayed so realistically. Everything else looks great as well including the platforming animations that Monkey has. Watching him jump around all nimbly bimbly is one of the game highlights. The only beef I have with graphics are the texture pop ins. Although not a huge detriment they are more frequent than they should be and noticeable. Also top notch is the sound design. The voice acting is incredible too, which is essential for character development. But considering there are only three speaking roles in the game that part was probably easy. As far as music I really I don't really remember any at all.

Enslaved has only the single player adventure and very few options so the menus are clean and nothing special. The controls for the most part to get the job done too. Although the game's combat system has a style similar to God of War, no button combinations are needed to be memorized. You have only a light and heavy attack. Although later on in the game you have several strategies available the controls never become cumbersome and overall are pretty simplistic. The platforming is impossible to screw up so no problems there either. But camera issues and collision detections are nagging issues. The camera has the annoying habit of zooming in and out. You do have some control over it, but it springboards back into place immediately. Especially while in combat this can become troublesome. Often you will get shot or bull rushed by an opponent off screen. And while the platforming is fool proof against the camera (you can jump only in very specific places, so if you jump off camera that means its ok to do so) collision detection for climbing sometimes will miss. While you cant ever fall to your death, not jumping soon enough because of a glitch can get you killed in one of the chase sequences.

Although Enslaved is all about the narrative between Monkey and Trip, the plot itself is paper thin. The game starts off with you, Monkey, waking up in a slaver ship about to crash in an overgrown post apocalyptic New York overrun with mechs. You break out of your pod run to escape and cross paths with Trip. I wont spoil the details but you both get off safely but not in a mutually beneficial way. In fact after Monkey wakes up he realizes that he has a slaver headband on him. Trip tells him that she put it on him and that if he doesn't help her get back to her family that the collar will kill him. Of course Monkey is unhappy about this but has little choice so sets out with her. And.....the plot really stops there. Yes Trip and Monkey develop a natural feeling relationship slowly, which is the highlight of the game, but the plot doesn't go anywhere from there. About halfway through the course of the game does change but this can hardly be called a plot twist. Also the ending is just plain weird. It comes out of nowhere and doesn't resolve itself. Play this game if you want to see character progression like you've never seen before in a video game, but the lack of plot wont impress anyone.

Enslaved has basically five components; combat, platforming, puzzle, chase sequence, and boss battles. The chase sequences are probably the highlight of the game, but unfortunately are infrequent. They typically involve your hoverboard chasing after some mega baddie mech trying kill Trip. Here is where the Enslaved's cinematic flair really shows. And they are just challenging enough not to be frustrating. The puzzles are mainly just filler. They are overly drawn out lever puzzles which slow down the game, becoming a chore. The platforming as I discussed earlier is child's play easy. This is a shame because while the sequences with Monkey jumping around are impressive visually, all your doing is pressing the A button. There is not even a traditional jump button in Enslaved. You can only jump if there is something to jump too. Which means there is no challenge or exploration in it, two of the most important parts of platforming games to me. I mean my character's name is Monkey, why can't I jump when I want to? There are a total five boss battles against 3 types of enemies. Two of them repeat and the other one is the final boss which dominates the last chapter. These are also some of the better parts of the game. Very big set pieces and require different actions than the rest of the game's combat. However combat is the meat and potatoes of Enslaved. You have only two attacks with your mighty staff, light and heavy. A charged attack that stuns and disables shields. A useless sweeping attack. And your staff also doubles as gun that shoots plasma and stun ammo. With this basic skill set you are thrust out into the world. Early on you will overwhelm all enemies easily. Later on the enemies will come much higher numbers. This forces you to change your strategies, but your still basically doing the same thing. There is a light RPG element where orbs/XP upgrade your staff, combat, health, and shield which stops projectiles but not melee attacks. But very few new abilities are ever learned. After you master the intricacies of combat it's shallowness turns itself into a chore. Even though it all works very well it's not deep enough to be enjoyable after all the repetition. In combination with the story that goes nowhere Enslaved climaxes very early.

I played Enslaved over period of 2.5 weeks. So I'm not completely sure of its length, but all the claims between 8-10 hours seem just about right to my experience. Enslaved is also an easy game. My first and only play through was on hard and I very rarely died. The game has little reason to no reason to go through again either. There are two types of collectibles but neither give much reason to pursue them. Top it off that the game is very linear and that makes them not very hard to find either. Achievement wise I scored 625 on my hard play through. In fact the 200 point payoff at the end for completing the game was what kept me going long after I became bored with the game. The other achievements are fairly easy too and I went back and got all except the collectible ones on chapter select for 900 total. There is no other content besides the single player campaign and $10 DLC which is HORRIBLE.

Enslaved is a linear and easy action adventure game that happens to have one of the best character modeling engines ever to grace consoles. That does make the game unique, but not fun. For $18 like my purchase, I would still recommend if your on the fence about it. However if your gamer that craves action over presentation Enslaved is probably not for you.

Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/09/12

Game Release: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (US, 10/05/10)

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