Published on April 7th, 2013 | by Dembonez192
Review: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Systems: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Imagine post-apocalyptic America: lonely and desolate. Imagine being one of the last people living in what is currently one of the most powerful countries in the world. It would be tough to survive, even without having to physically fight for your life. This is what Monkey and Trip have to do in order to reach their ultimate goal.
Based after one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature Journey to the West, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has made a smooth and welcome transition into the gaming universe.
It really is a shame that this game wasn’t reviewed sooner because it is one of the most underrated games of recent times. The story revolves around Monkey, a primitive yet sociable man with the strength to take on the army of mechs sent to destroy him throughout the game, and Trip, a brilliant rebel who uses her brain to solve problems and navigate the now barren United States. In the game’s beginning, it is clear that the two need each other to survive, and their interactions with each other are incredible. Watching Monkey’s relationship with Trip unfold is just as entertaining as the game itself. For such a cutscene-heavy, story-driven game, this point is very important.
The voice acting is phenomenal. Andy Serkis, Lindsey Shaw, and Richard Ridings give so much dimension to the characters they each portray. Since the game focuses on the same characters time and time again, it is important for the developers to find a group of actors who they know won’t fall flat. Neither of these actors have done that. Instead, they help the story come to life in a big way.
Phenomenal voice acting is nothing without phenomenal motion capture. Each emotion and facial expression is captured brilliantly from cutscene to cutscene. The body language is easy to read, and the combat and other quick movements are also surprisingly fluid and believable.
The music and the scenery are equally as captivating. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a visual treat, but no one could expect anything less from Ninja Theory, the developers that brought you Heavenly Sword and the more recent DmC: Devil May Cry and whose art direction will be present in the upcoming Naughty Dog title The Last of Us. The soundtrack is beautiful and transitions nicely between combat sequences and regular exploration.
There are a few sound glitches that you may or may not run across. Deaths during gameplay and having to start a section over could result in the sound bugging out. What happens in this instance is that the gameplay music transitions into the cutscenes which could be problematic while struggling to hear what the characters have to say. This isn’t frequent though, but it could happen depending on where you are in the game.
The checkpoint system is logical, so that whenever you die, the place you return isn’t too far away from where you were at your time of death. However, do not mistake checkpoints for somewhere you will go if you wish to redo a short section manually. Choosing to reset a mission from the start menu will take you all the way back to the beginning of a specific mission and not to a checkpoint. If you ever get lost playing the game, there is always a way out without having to reset completely.
A mech is a broad term for the enemies that Monkey and Trip face along the way of their adventure. These foes come in a wide variety but are, for the most part, fought the same way. Some of the larger mechs require more strategy, but the basic ones that appear the most require the same type of combat to be used. This can make fighting mechs redundant, however there are many different sections of gameplay that do not even involve combat at all. The game really pushes what Monkey can do and provides tests in some areas to train you before you have to use a specific skill later on. On top of fighting mechs, the game also features basic puzzles and sections that require precise timing to navigate. Therefore, while combat as a whole is repetitive, there are enough breaks in between to switch the game up. Plus, the more Monkey’s weaponry is upgraded, the more things he can do! You’ll be surprised by what his bo staff can pull off.
There are a couple of items that can be collected along the way: orbs and masks. Orbs allow Monkey to upgrade his weapons while masks are random goodies scattered throughout the game that show you something special whenever you find them. Since masks are so few in number, they are much easier to search for and find than orbs. The main menu shows you the percentage of orbs you have collected per level, but if you are missing only a couple, it could be frustrating to find them all. Even though finding all of the orbs is only beneficial for those going for the trophy or the achievement, those who enjoy completing games 100% may have difficulty finding all of these. On top of this, starting a new game carries over your orbs and masks. Whether you play on the easiest or the hardest difficulty, the orbs and masks will show as being obtained.
Some of the mechanics can be a little off at times, especially when it comes to jumping. Even if Monkey is the slightest bit off of his mark, it is possible that he won’t be able to jump onto the next platform. If the jump button is unresponsive during parts where timing is key, it could be a little frustrating. It could be a make or break during the heat of battle especially, so the jumping mechanics are a little picky at times.
The camera takes some getting used to as well, but if you are used to 360 cameras then it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Every once in a while, the camera could turn at an odd angle causing you to be unable to view what’s going on. This is especially true while riding on Monkey’s cloud which is a hovercraft he uses mostly on water. It’s fast moving, so it is possible to become disoriented because of the camera angle at times. Still, this is something that you get used to over time, and it isn’t a difficult adjustment to make. It is just something you should prepare for before playing.
Finally, there are the upgrades! They were touched on a little before, but they are both a blessing and a curse with this game because having so many could cause you to forget some of the controls! The basic actions are obviously going to be used the most, and the power of Monkey’s bo staff can never be increased. Therefore, whenever you approach basic combat mechs, you will end up killing them the exact same way at the end of the game as you did in the beginning. Everything else can be upgraded including the types of attacks Monkey can use.
One thing that should be addressed also is that this is NOT a co-op game. The player can control Monkey and no one else. The reason for this is that while Trip is an extremely important character in the story, what she does is not as active. Therefore, there is no need for anyone to play as her. Single player is how it is meant to be played, and it is great as it is.
For anyone looking for an inexpensive game that is honestly worth the original price, then I would definitely suggest picking up Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The issues listed are very minor and do not take much away from the actual gameplay. The bottom line is that the game is beautiful, the voice acting is amazing, and it is just all-around great fun. Give it a try if you can!
+ Beautiful scenery
+ Phenomenal voice acting
+ Good spacing between combat and exploration
+ Immersive storyline
– Jumping is occasionally picky
– Orbs and masks do not reappear in new files
Final score: 4.5 out of 5