LateView – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Games with structure traversal are all the craze these days, and it is all but a given for any top tier action-platformer. And while every game won’t be on par with an Uncharted, many have come along and surprised fans of the genre with an new and exciting take on what now has become an industry standard. Enter Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

The odyssey begins with our main protagonist, Monkey, escaping from his holding module and attempting to flee a crashing enslavement ship. With all empty escape pods gone, he clings onto a young woman’s escape pod as it is launched from the crashing ship. After awaking on a post apocalyptic New York, Monkey finds the young woman, whose name is Trip, has placed a head band on him that will cause him to die if she is killed, or if he gets too far away from her. She tells Monkey that she will remove the band once he takes her to her home settlement. With little choice, Monkey reluctantly agrees to her terms and they are off on their adventure.

Developed by Ninja Theory and published by Namco Bandai Games, Enslaved falls in the genre of adventure platformer, aimed at fans of Uncharted or even the Assassins Creed series. Said fans should feel right at home with the traversal elements that are present in Enslaved, as you grab, climb, swing, and jump your way across various structures to get our main protagonist and en-slaver through their long and eventful journey.

The journey starts in a post-apocalyptic jungle over-run New York City that humans have long since abandoned. Machines are now in control, and the human race is forced to live in seclusion to survive the imprisonment that the machines have imposed following a global war.

I often found myself just stopping and observing the environments

Having the game begin in New York City is one of the best design decisions of the game, as it sets up the stage for game designers to deliver on very realistic and beautiful environments that are not often seen in the post-apocalyptic genre. I often found myself just stopping and observing the environments as traversal of structures opened up into breath-taking vistas overlooking various parts of a once bustling city. One of the advantages of having the story start in the east is that there is much more greenery present here as opposed to post apocalyptic environments in other games. This obviously takes a turn to more to what we have come to think of as a post-apocalyptic world as they move further west, but was kinda cool to see more of the “I am Legend” stylization for much of the first quarter of the game.

Most of the time, the environment is traversed on foot, but there are times when vehicles are utilized. On one level you obtain cloud, which is a energy hover device that is used to fly over water or land at a very fast past. This device is used more than a few time to complete various stages, which gives the game a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, there are only designated areas where can uses it. Also, there is a stage where you are a gunner on a boat run. Nothing really groundbreaking here, but still, and added nice change of pace to the game.

For the most part, the combat of Enslaved is fairly simple. There are quite a few types of machines you fight against, with some having a few variations. The machine melee attacks consists of basic three and four hit combo moves. With good timing, you can catch machines at the beginning of combos and take them out. If you don’t catch them, you have two basic modes of defense, dodge and block. While blocking may be the easiest to do, it won’t always be your best option as the shield used for blocking doesn’t last forever, and takes time to recharge.

After a few battles, you should have most of the enemy patterns down pat. As the game goes on, you are met with more variations of enemies ranging from machines with projectiles, to machines with stunning abilities, to machines with the ability to summon more troops if you don’t take them out in time. Other machine types include a giant mechanic dog, as well as a boulder whiling machine.

Monkey’s moves consist of a charge attack, a wide attack, and a basic combo attack. As the game progresses, he gets the ability for increased charge, a breaker wide attack, and the ability to shoot stun and plasma projectiles. The abilities are obtained with the collection of orbs that are placed everywhere in the environment throughout the game which you constantly collect. You also receive these orbs when you defeat enemies. With the acquisition of orbs, you are able to upgrade to more powerful shield, projective, melee, and health abilities, with Trip’s help. Trip also has the ability to give you health when you are close to her.

The simplicity of the combat, along with the added variation in enemy types makes for an enjoyable journey through the game. Although enemies get more difficult as the game progresses, the ability to upgrade Monkey’s abilities keeps you on par with enemies for the most part, as I can only remember a few times where it was particularly hard to get past a section of the game.

There are also various puzzles throughout Enslaved. Most are simple and intuitive. When you finally reach Trip’s home settlement there are a few bridge puzzles there that must be completed to advance. Also there is one point when you must activate a windmill and you are presented with a puzzle in order to get it up and running. All are fun and a welcome.

The controls of Enslaved as fluid and responsive. Traversal is resigned to one button. While traversal is fun, i do have to point out that it’s not dynamic in any way. Paths that must be taken are highlighted by slightly glowing markers, which signify your next move. For some, this may feel a bit repetitive and scripted That being said, often times the makers are so obscure that you still really need to pay attention to know what’s your next move.

Melee / beat ‘em up combat controls are mostly done with two buttons, while using a third to block and roll. Pretty much standard fair and works as expected. Projectile combat, with the use of Monkey’s staff weapon, is done with the view being switched to first-person, which feels like you would expect from any first-person shooter.

I do have to take a bit of an issue with the cloud surfing though. As aforementioned, Money receives a cloud disk to ride on designated stages. Although fun, controlling the cloud felt very floaty and lacked a certain amount of precision. There are points in the game where you must use cloud to track down a boss within a allotted amount of time, and if you make one small mistake, your pretty much screwed. Tighter controls here would have been nice.

As you would expect, your journey to the west is long and adventurous. The narrative of the story is not so bad either, as we see a tale of friendship formed from the bounds of enslavement. Also, when a third character is introduced, Pig (yep, he looks like a pig), the game take on a bit of a hilarious departure, as Pig feels threatened in his desire to befriend Trip. Also, I have to say that the story didn’t end at all as I expected. I’ll leave it at that.

In closing, I would have to recommend this game. It can be had on Amazon for less than twenty bucks, as it has been out for a while now. This game somehow flew beneath my radar when it first came out, but I’m definitely glad I picked it up and gave it a try. Enslaved is a hidden gem that you don’t want to miss.

Techpedition Approved