You Should’ve Played This Game Last Year, But You Didn’t:

I don’t get a ton of time to play video games, so I have to be really selective with the games I do commit to play. Most of the time, however, it’s not the triple-A titles every one and their mom is playing, like the Assassin’s Creed’s, the Madden’s, the brand-new-shooter-that-looks-exactly-like-last-one-you-sold-back, etc. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with those games, I just couldn’t give two annual-released-shit’s about them. I tend to gravitate towards single-player games a lot of the time; I just enjoy playing games for their stories. Let’s be honest, most people don’t play triple-A games like Call of Duty for the story.

The fourth quarter of the calendar year is jam-packed with games, and it’s not hard for a gem to be buried underneath the annually rehashed blockbusters. I’ve spent my time working at a game store to know how bad this time can be, especially when deciding which game deserves your last $60 in this busy season. Last year I paid extra close attention to a game called Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, the second release from Heavenly Sword creators, Ninja Theory. The power Ninja Theory was able to convey with their facial animations had absolutely stunned me when Heavenly Sword was first released in 2007. Once I heard Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) was playing the main character, Monkey, and Alex Garland (28 Days Later) had helped pen the story loosely based on the old Chinese lore, Odyssey to the West, I was sold.

Now, Enslaved is not a perfect game, far from it. So I’ll get this out of the way: the game’s 8-10 hours long, it hold’s your hand a lot of the way in difficulty, and the ending to the game feels a bit like it came out of nowhere. If you feel like vomiting already, then by all means, you can stop reading my review. On the other hand, Enslaved delivers an incredible story that truly comes to life thanks to the great dialogue and exceptional performances of the characters involved.

Enslaved takes place in the distant future. Humanity is far from the dominant species on the earth, and more or less populates the planet in small tribes. Wars have killed most of the people, destroyed much of the landscapes, and left behind thousands of man hunting mechs that still kill everything since no one told them the wars ended. You play as Monkey, a brute, animalistic warrior that’s been captured by a slave ship of an organization named Pyramid. The same slave ship has also captured a woman named Trip, whose hacking skills are used to free her from her cage and ultimately brings the slave ship out of the sky. After a rocky crash landing, Trip takes advantage of an unconscious Monkey by using one of Pyramid’s enslaving headbands to force Monkey into taking her safely home. The headband is tied directly to Monkey’s nervous system, so Trip has the ultimate hand over Monkey: if Trip dies, so will he. Monkey has to fight to protect Trip in order to stay alive.

Sounds like a pretty shitty situation to be stuck in, right? As you could probably guess, Monkey’s pretty livid at first, but soon accepts his fate in safely delivering Trip back to her home village, hundreds of miles away. A perilous journey unfolds, as the armies of mechs mentioned earlier are littered in the wastelands standing between them and home.

 

The facial animations in this game is simply stunning.

The combat system is pretty standard, with light attacks and heavy attacks, stunning attacks, and blocks, but what makes each battle unique is that Monkey’s main weapon, his staff, can extend to enormous distances.  Monkey’s also capable of shooting bursts of energy from his staff, adding a pseudo-shooter element to the game as well. In addition, certain mechs have glitches or flaws that you can exploit with a tap a button once they’re weakened. You can rip off a mech’s gatling gun with your bare hands and fire it at your enemies, toss unstable bots at others to explode, or overload certain mechs to stun the others around you.

Over the course of the game you’ll traverse through huge, beautiful landscapes, populated with tons of foliage grown over the ruins mankind left behind. Walking through the wreckage that once was New York City was quite the experience. You’ll battle armies of mechs and encounter some very charming characters. Anyone who’s played through the game knows how charming the wonderful Pigsby can be (just kidding, he’s a fucking asshole).  What’s great about all this is the believability of it all. The characters are characters in the truest sense of the word; they have personalities and traits that develop over the course of the story, traits that you can really see and sympathize with. Watching Monkey trying to console a heartbroken Trip after a shocking realization midway through the game is just eerie because of how real the emotion felt.

Overall, I walked away extremely impressed with Enslaved at the end of my play through. I felt that I witnessed an incredible journey, though it wasn’t the hardest game in the world (some of the bosses might give you trouble though) or the longest, I didn’t feel like I was cheated of anything from the overall experience. Enslaved boasted incredible graphics, especially when it came to the facial animations, a great narrative, and brought a truly unique world to life. I’d highly recommend it to fans of action or adventure games, and for anyone looking for a novel or film level of story writing.

Since the game only sold about 460K copies (not even half of its sales target), I’d highly recommend picking up a new copy of the game to support the small studio that put out this awesome game. Most retailers have it listed around $20 now, so it can’t be too hard of a feat to give it a try. Namco hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a sequel to this remarkable title, so make sure you experience this great epic in case a successor does come around. I know I’ll be picking that up day one.

-ivan.

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About Ivan Torres
http://isles-band.com More Metal Than Colossus.

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