In today’s video game industry it takes a very large leap of faith to produce a new non-first person shooter IP. As of late the industry has become so diluted by sequels and first person shooters that it has become a rarity for a company to invest into an original title. Namco and Ninja Theory did just that with their action adventure title Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, the result is an enjoyable but repetitive and very linear game with some outstanding writing and visuals.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting after a global war where few humans remain and the mechs used in the war scatter the land searching and killing any reaming humans. It’s a dangerous but beautiful world, with crumbled skyscrapers being engulfed in heavy foliage and not a single living human being to be seen.
The game thrusts you into action immediately when Monkey, the main character, escapes his cell on board a flying slave ship thanks to a mysterious girl who escapes her pod and hacks a nearby terminal. After being released you gain control of Monkey and are task with chasing after the mysterious girl through the now self-destructing ship.
Failing to catch up with the girl and board an escape pod Monkey is knocked out from the ensuing crash. When he awakens the mysterious girl, who we learn is named Tripitaka A.K.A Trip, is sitting across from him. Trip informs Monkey that her settlement is 300 miles away and that she has put a mechanism on his head that will cause him severe pain if he disobeys any of her biddings, and will kill him if her heart stops beating. Monkey has no choice but to escort Trip to her village.
The story is simple but intriguing and is brought to life by the two solid main characters, Trip and Monkey. Both are genuinely interesting and make you eager to learn more about them. Monkey is a badass loner and Trip is an intelligent and friendly individual making for an interesting pair that will keep you entertained for the entire game.
The writing is magnificent allowing the two characters to play off one another in peculiar ways making for some rather enjoyable moments of dialogue. At times the scropt can give off the feeling of a romantic comedy and you can’t help but smile. Trip is genuinely trying to befriend and get to know Monkey; while Monkey knows he is her slave and has no option but to endure her.
Some of the best moments in the entire game are brought by way of short cut scenes. These scenes allow the dialogue between Monkey and Trip to shine with no distractions, and can result in some smile inducing moments.
Unfortunately these cut scenes are never very long and when finished you are thrust right back into fighting mechs and climbing obstacle, which gives these scenes a feeling of a quick break rather than a story propelling moment. I couldn’t help but feel cheated after spending forty five plus minutes completing a chapter to be rewarded with nothing more than a one minute cut scene.
The cut scenes are also where the animation and graphics really shine. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is graced with some of the best facial animations of any game. When both Trip and Monkey are talking their words aren’t the only things conveying their emotions, it’s easy to read their facial expressions which in return adds more depth to the dialogue. Add in the outstanding voice acting and it’s easy to see and feel the emotions behind the words. This aspect of the game is done so well that you can’t stop yourself from realizing how lacking other games are in this area. While the story will keep you pushing forward the game play at times will have you shaking your head.
Controlling Monkey is never difficult or too frustrating, and for the first half of the game fighting off mech after mech is enjoyable. Unfortunately Enslaved: Odyssey to the West doesn’t do a great job of hiding its repetition or how linear it is.
Climbing is nothing more than finding the next anchor to jump to and fighting becomes repetitive executing the same combo over and over again, and the game doesn’t present many choices in how to approach the obstacles at hand. It never feels like your actions are affecting how the game plays out feeling more like you are racing towards a checkpoint in order to move the story forward. The world is not open and doesn’t give many chances to explore off path, giving the game a very linear feeling that is badly masked.
The game has a leveling system which allows you to buy upgrades for Monkey ranging from increased health to extra moves. Unfortunately these upgrades never make Monkey feel any stronger and don’t add much variety to the fighting. There isn’t a strong desire to fully upgrade Monkey since you can easily fight through the game without them.
You will be introduced to all gameplay mechanics the game has to offer within the first section of the game which makes the middle section feel very long and unnecessary. The story takes a quick detour from the main plot line causing a loss of interest and with no new gameplay mechanics introduced the section starts to feel like a grind. By the time the ending rolls around you will have grown tired of the gameplay and are ready for the game to be over.
The middle section adds no depth to the story making it feel like it was added just for the sole purpose of adding playing time. This section could have been trimmed severely or removed all together and the game would have been better off, but with this section in the game it felt as though Enslaved: Odyssey to the West overstayed its welcome by about one level.
Gameplay: Very enjoyable for the first half but doesn’t introduce too much variety afterwards, making it feel rather repetitive towards the end.
Graphics: Gorgeous! The world is beautiful to look at and the character models and animations are some of the best in any game.
Sound: The sound effects of the world are great, the voice acting is top notch and the music does a great job of conveying the tone.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West does a lot of things right. The game’s characters are some of the most interesting and enjoyable characters I have ever experienced in gaming, and the world is gorgeous and amazingly crafted. The writing and animations of the characters are delightful but after six hours of Enslaved’s gameplay it will start to feel a like a grind, but it’s a grind that is worth pushing through as Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is one of the more promising original titles released in recent memory.