Tameem Antoniades On Enslaved
Hooked Gamers: Hi, and thanks for participating in our interview. Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little something about what you do on the team?
Tameem Antoniades: Hi, my name is Tameem Antoniades and I am the Creative Director at Ninja Theory and also one of the co-founders of the company. My role is similar to that of Director in a movie. So day to day, I work with the immense talent both in the studio and outside of the studio to achieve a cohesive vision for the game. Basically I help steer the creative side of things.
Hooked Gamers: The game is loosely based on the old Chinese epic novel Journey to the West written over 400 years ago, which features four characters travelling from the east (China) to the west (India) in order to retrieve important Buddhist religious texts.
The main character in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is called Monkey, based on the novel’s character, Sun Wukong, who is a monkey born from a stone nourished by the Five Elements.
Apart from the name and the journey in a western direction, what are the similarities between the story of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and the book: Journey to the West?
Tameem Antoniades: The game is very loosely based on the book. The book has been adapted very many times in such diverse ways in comics, books, TV series, films and theatre. So we wanted to put our own spin on things. We set the game in the somewhat near future, making Monkey a man, replacing magic with technology, the demons with mechs, and representing Tripitaka the monk as a woman.
You don’t need to know anything about the book to enjoy the game but if you are familiar with the story, there will be lots of little nods towards it.
Hooked Gamers: Having a complete stranger attach a mind-controlling, self-destructing headband on you and then force you to do her bidding must create a very hostile work environment. At least it did the last time it happened to me.
The relationship between Monkey and Trip plays a key role in this game. She must live or he will die and that forces the player to think about keeping her safe as well as pummelling the bad guys. Some videogames have fallen into the trap of making the sidekick character more of a nuisance than an asset.
What steps have you taken to steer clear of that trap?
Tameem Antoniades: Trip doesn’t do anything dumb like run into danger unnecessarily, so you don’t have to micro-manage her. And although she cannot fight, she can scan for dangers with her robotic dragonfly, she can upgrade your equipment, administer health, detect weaknesses in enemy mechs and can decoy enemies for you. In short, you can’t survive without her anymore than she can without you. If she is forced into danger, she can activate a last resort EMP blast that will stun enemies and give you 10-15 seconds to defeat them and save her.
Hooked Gamers: Trip is Monkey’s travelling companion and follows him with a handy flying CCTV camera which she can use to scout for enemies ahead. Monkey’s main weapon is his staff, which also serves as a ranged weapon. It has been stated that the player will be able to choose whether to tear an enemies weapon off and use it against him as a finishing move, or simply stomp him to death.
What other gadgets and weapons will the couple have at their disposal during their journey?
Tameem Antoniades: Monkey’s main weapon is his staff. You can use it for combat but also it can act like a rifle if you collect ammo. There are two types of ammo: plasma which damages enemies and stun which will disable them for a few seconds and destroy any shields they may have. Monkey also has a force-field generated through his gloves that will protect him against bullet fire.
Trip’s main ability is hacking so she uses this to find weaknesses in enemies, hack security systems and control machinery to help solve puzzles. When she detects a weakness in an enemy, Monkey can attack that enemy and initiate a take-down. A take-down varies per enemy type. Some will just finish them off, one will let you hijack their gun, another will stun all surrounding enemies and another turns them into a ticking time-bomb which you can shove into other enemies.
Hooked Gamers: Most forms of entertainment, be it literature, film or videogames, have traditionally portrayed the post-apocalyptic earth as a barren wasteland devoid of all life.
Why have you chosen to make the end of mankind so gorgeous?
Tameem Antoniades: Because everyone has got it wrong! Without people in the world, nature would very quickly reclaim our cities and the world would look overgrown… I think it also gives the game a bitter-sweet aesthetic. On the one hand, it looks gorgeous but on the other, it’s very disturbing and uneasy to us. It suits the mood of the game well.
Hooked Gamers: It is our tradition to give the developers a chance to say something about their game that they desperately want to get out.
Is there something burning on your lips?
Tameem Antoniades: It’s much longer than Heavenly Sword! Better in many ways too.
Hooked Gamers: Thank you for your time.