Every year among the cluttered holiday season a few great games get missed and brushed under the rug. They end up in bargain bins months later or not in stores all together. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was one of those games. It was released in one of the biggest and hottest holiday seasons for video games in years. Enslaved released for PS3 and Xbox 360 in October 2010 right in the middle of the pandemonium. Here are just the AAA titles that were released alongside Enslaved during the same time period. Fallout: New Vegas, Medal of Honor, FIFA 11, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gran Turismo 5 and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. It was still impressive that Enslaved managed to sell almost 500,000 copies during that holiday season.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an action adventure game set 150 years in the future in a post-apocalyptic world. The story revolves around two people, a strong and lonely nomad known simply as Monkey and Trip, a young and seemingly innocent girl on a mission to get back to her village. They meet under awkward circumstances and little innocent Trip enslaves Monkey with a lethal headband that she controls. She has the power to hurt him and even kill him if he disobeys her. On top of that if Monkey tries to kill her he dies, since her life signs are linked to the headband. The setting of the game is set in a post-apocalyptic North America including a substantial part of the beginning of the game in a desolate New York City. The story is thin and not explored much leaving the player to make his assumptions about the story.
The main idea of the story is that there had been massive wars, economic turmoils and eventually a war with machines against humans. The humans are all but extinct with tiny communities scattered throughout North America. Humans are hunted by machines and enslaved similar to the story in the Terminator films. Throughout the game players come across collectibles that flashback to what the world looked like prior to the war. The story seems to be more centered on the relationship between Trip and Monkey and how they help each other under the difficult circumstances. The story although miniscule has a lot of potential to be something very interesting and could be explored much more in a prequel or even sequel.
The gameplay in Enslaved is simple yet deep enough to keep avid gamers entertained. A mix of platforming, fighting and puzzles makes for some pretty good gameplay for a 10-12 hour story. Monkey has the strength and ability to climb relatively anything that is necessary gameplay wise. Similar to Assassin’s Creed and its style of climbing, Monkey is a master climber and does it with finesse. The combat involves standard button mashing and combos with Monkey’s fists and futuristic staff weapon. There are even some shooter style elements with Monkey’s staff weapon that add some more variety. The gratifying finishers performed on enemies are entertaining and very satisfying. It reminded me of the intense finishers from the God of War games. Boss battles are surprisingly well done and executed. They are challenging and each boss is unique and surprisingly memorable, especially the final boss.
There are also puzzle elements throughout the entire game like lowering and raising specific pathways to get to a switch. There is a range of enemies to fight from turrets to shielded enemies to your standard grunt style enemies. All are machines and they all look pretty similar and do not change much other than the bosses. Throughout the entire game there are orbs to be picked up like the bolts in Ratchet in Clank or the coins in the Mario games. They can also be earned by destroying enemies along with searching for them throughout open and hidden areas. The reason to collect these orbs throughout levels is that they act as currency to upgrade your characters abilities. Upgrades range from increased health and new staff weapon combos to greater shield strength to combat enemies easier. This adds some replayability, since during a player’s first playthrough they will probably not find all the orbs and upgrade all their gear and attributes. Also searching for all 100% of orbs that are well hidden adds up to a semi-satisfying trophy.
Enslaved’s visuals are very pretty and interesting. The colorful mix of nature and the urban environment of New York is really something special. The vibrant colors of the the weeds and grass growing through deteriorated buildings and streets is visually a treat. There is a lot of detail in the environment, mold growing on hundred year old walls, anti-mech graffiti, the light shining on Monkey. It all looks cool and eyegrabbing. The beautiful blue sky contrasts the green, red and gray urban areas. As you progress in the game the visuals become more diverse, dark swamp, pond areas and cool machinery filled enemy locations come into play. There are some visual hiccups, some textures are a little blurry, but it does not pull players away from the beautiful visuals. The colorful environment reminded me of environments in Final fantasy X and Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. The sound and music in the game are solid, voice acting is average. The script could of used some more work to create more personality for each character. The ominous and climactic orchestral music does its part for combat filled sequences and intense boss battles.
Overall Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a great and sadly very overlooked and forgotten game. I went into this game the same way I did into Infamous. No expectations and a desire to play it and I got the same result, a great experience. Even with some slight flaws like occasional camera problems and a very light story, it is still a great game. The unique characters, beautiful visuals and fun combat make up for its flaws and make this a great purchase. If you do decide to buy this game, get it new. It is typically less than $20 new and buying it new may persuade developer Ninja Theory to make another game exploring the awesome world of Enslaved.