Developer(s) – Ninja Theory
Publisher(s) – Namco Bandai Games
Writer – Alex Garland
PEGI – 16
Released in the holiday season of 2010, amidst many mainstream releases, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was one of a handful of games that fell through the cracks within one of the most critically successful years in video gaming in my opinion. Unlike Vanquish, which was released around the same time, I believe Enslaved was a very unfairly overlooked game since it was one of the best to have been released during the 2010 Christmas period, easily surpassing the quality of such as games Call of Duty: Black Ops, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II and even Fallout: New Vegas.
Graphics – 8/10
Among some of the game’s greatest strengths are not only in the technical side of the visuals, which were rendered with the help of motion capture technology, similar to Ninja Theory’s previous effort Heavenly Sword but also in its extremely rich conceptual design, which is particularly varied, ranging from crashing ships to city ruins overgrown with moss and murky swampland. Looking at the game, it’s clear to see that the developers this time chose to put more of their time and effort into the conceptual design as opposed to the technical design, and because of that, I think it looks ten times better than Heavenly Sword.
Gameplay – 8/10
Another way in which this game is ten times better than Heavenly Sword is in the gameplay. Playing out more similarly to God of War, it involves hack and slash combat, along with a certain degree of exploration, encouraging players to look around for the many secret items and collectibles that can be found throughout each level. The combat was extremely well-executed, and there is also some basis in puzzle solving too, which can become particularly elaborate at times. The only thing I wish the developers would have added was more wide-open spaces like some of the places that encourage the player to ride around on the portable skateboard since I think that would have added a lot more basis in variety; especially if there were more situations that utilized that particular mechanic.
Controls – 10/10
Since this kind of game had been done a fair few times prior to this, there shouldn’t have been any real issues, and so there are none. In fact, Heavenly Sword plays out similarly to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, but in this case, the combat has been handled a lot better, and thus feels more intense and exciting than the latter. The movement and puzzle-solving in the game also give it somewhat of an Assassin’s Creed feel, which more a hack and slash title, was particularly interesting too.
Lifespan – 6/10
The biggest gripe I have with this game, however, is the fact that it lasts so short when I believe it could easily have been made to last many times longer than it does, which is around 5 to 6 hours. I can’t help but feel that if the portable skateboard mechanic had been used to engage the player a lot more, and that the journey in the game could have been a bit more drawn out, it could easily have lasted 20, maybe 30 hours.
Storyline – 9/10
A re-imagining of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West, and set 150 years in a post-apocalyptic Earth, two slaves called Monkey and Trip escape a slave vessel and are rendered unconscious after a fall. When Monkey awakes, he finds that Trip has fitted him with a slave headband, which she can use to control him. This also means that their lives are symbiotically bound, meaning that if one dies, so does the other. Monkey and Trip soon learn that they are both dependants on one another to survive their journey riddled with hostile mechs, and they soon develop a strong bond with each other. People talk to me about The Last of Us, saying that it is one of the most powerful stories in video gaming, but in all honesty, I believe this is even better.
Originality – 7/10
Though there’s not a great of uniqueness about the overall structure of gameplay, or even the puzzle-solving elements, there aren’t many games released in this day and age-based that cover the same themes and issues that Enslaved does, and not in such a realistic manner in the process. The gameplay is varied enough to differentiate it from others to a good enough extent, but I believe the developers could have done so much more with it and could do so much more with it if they ever decide to develop a sequel.
Overall, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West to me, is one of the most impressive titles of the seventh generation of gaming, and nowadays, an overlooked diamond in the rough. I think it will only be a few short years before this game becomes particularly hard to find, so I would advocate that anyone with an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 should most definitely pick this title up.