In this generation of games, you tend to find that many are set in a post apocalyptic world, either by our own hands, or demons, or robots, or zombies, and so on. Although how the world of Enslaved came to be destroyed may not be unique, what you find in the world after is beautiful.
Enslaved is a loose interpretation of the Chinese novel “Journey to the West.” Don’t worry though; there is no need to read the original work to understand the game’s story. It begins with Monkey, a man of large physique and with war paint across his eyes, waking in a cell. As he does, a young red-headed girl escapes her own cell and makes a break for it. As she makes her way out, she causes massive damage to the slave ship they are on, allowing Monkey to break free from his cage. As Monkey makes his way across the ship to reach an escape pod, the same girl constantly creates a wall for him inadvertently while at the same time making no effort to help him. The further down Monkey goes, the more severe the damage to the ship becomes. Eventually, Monkey makes his way onto a wing to find that a giant skyscraper is in the path of the ship and it’s up to fast reflexes to get up the wing to avoid the approaching skyscraper. Finally, Monkey reaches the escape pod, which just so happens to be controlled by that same little trouble maker. While on the outside of the pod, she decides to hit the release button. That is where the story begins.
Monkey wakes up to a massive headache caused by a device on his head; crafted on him by Trip, the troublesome redhead. It turns out to be a controller that can be applied by commands voiced by Trip and that if her heart stops, the device sends in a lethal dose of deadly substance killing Monkey. This is what keeps the two together during their adventure. It has to be said that the voice work is absolutely phenomenal from beginning to end. However, what really captured the characters so well was how theatrically they were played. Both Andy Serkis and Lindsey Shaw (Trip) are fantastic in their respective role. The level of effort put into them is at the same level as the Uncharted series.
I wished there had been more dialogue during the game; it sometimes felt a little empty, particularly in the second half where Monkey and Trip talk less to each other after they reached Trip’s village. Despite that, the relationships felt quite real, and there are even a couple of moments that felt so raw. I can’t say the same about the story –compared to the quality of characters, it felt lackluster, particularly once you reach the ending where you are left hoping there for more to expand on but are instead left with a few plots holes and an abrupt end that is rather cliche. On the other hand, it is hard to think of where else the story could have gone.
Visually, the game excels in vistas and colors, with strong greens and reds representing vines and flowers growing along the sides of building. It was always a marvelous treat in many levels to see how far things could be but hold such color and quality and retain good framerate. Animation of combat and platforming were also strong. There were a few issues of framerate, most notably at a boss in the middle of Trip’s village where most of it consisted of slow downs and stutters. And since Ninja Theory used the Unreal engine, there were occasional texture pop-ins, but I honestly won’t mark them off for that because they didn’t last long and the engine is known for it.
As I already mentioned, voice acting is phenomenal, and thankfully the music reaches the same level. Scored by Nitin Sawhney, who also scored Heavenly Sword, really sets the mood well at times either in a personal moment between Monkey and Trip or when things get intense. Although the sound design is fantastic all around, there were odd technical issues. At times, either sound effects or voices would fall out and an odd void is there as a cut scene unfolds. At other times, the music would drown out the voices so much, I could hardly hear what characters were saying.
The gameplay in Enslaved can be considered most similar to Uncharted, a mix of intense platforming, combat, and puzzles. Thankfully, Enslaved does a great job of mixing each one without any taking the backseat.
If there was one skill that Monkey would be known for, it would be the obvious one: climbing like a monkey. Not only is his speed impressive but also are his acrobatics in the midst of it all. Throughout the entire game, there are a great variety of directions and angles that you go about that never feels repetitive. Though it is a visual treat, platforming felt too easy for at least a good half of the game where the objective was simply to traverse it. Eventually, obstacles and dangers can overwhelm; timing becomes incredibly important.
Enslaved’s combat is made up of fast, heavy, wide, and stun attacks. On the surface it may feel like a button masher, but strategy does play a big part. Early on, you will have access to upgrades ranging from health and shield to staff and combat. The most vital upgrade I found was the identity upgrade that colored enemies in how they were acting. Blue meant defending, yellow meant vulnerable, and red meant attacking. Constantly, choices needs to be made whether to block or attack, which made combat more fun and involving.
Though platforming is fast and the combat fun, controls for these are terribly loose. Not much detail is needed other than to say that there were constant gaps and delays between jumps and attacks which led to constant awkwardness.
Despite Enslaved’s lackluster ending, sound bugs, and some horrendously sloppy controls, it comes through with fantastic presentation, engaging characters, a beautiful world and soundtrack, and some very fun combat.
Played On: Xbox 360
Developer: Ninja Theory
Released: October 5, 2010
- Fantastic presentation, visuals, and voice work
- Engaging Characters
- Fun combat and platforming
- Occasional sound glitches
- Very loose controls