Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Eyes-on Preview
What is it?
Born from the creative mind of Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine), Enslaved is a third person action-adventure title developed by Ninja Theory. Unlike its previous title, Heavenly Sword, Enslaved is launching on both 360 and PS3, and puts a far greater emphasis on story and character development. Set in a post apocalyptic future where nature has reclaimed the Earth, the game draws much of its inspiration from an ancient Chinese novel called ‘Journey to the West’. Players are given control of a character called Monkey; one of the few remaining humans left on Earth.
What was shown?
It wasn’t that long ago that we saw Enslaved back in the UK – our preview can be read here – but gamescom has given us the opportunity to check out a previously unseen level and a grotesque (but thoroughly entertaining) new character known as Pigsy. The chapter being shown was the eleventh, which is around halfway through the game. Taking the action out of the decaying city of New York, the level takes place in lush green wilderness, juxtaposed with a peppering of odd machinery, pipes and enemy mechs.
Before the actual gameplay got under way, a short cutscene played out in which we were introduced to the aforementioned Pigsy. Quite how Monkey and his female companion Trip became acquainted with such a character remains to be seen, but he’s based on a character from the same Chinese novel that the game draws inspiration from. Pigsy is short, fat and unjustifiably self assured. Although he appears to have fallen from the ugly tree hitting every branch on the way down, he also seems to think he stands a chance with the lovely Trip, which is the source of much of the level’s humour. His obsession with her gives rise to a lot of tension between him and Monkey, and although the trio are working co-operatively, Pigsy will take every opportunity to put him down, show him up and generally piss him off.
It transpires that Pigsy’s ship is broken, and the power cell that will get it working again is somewhere in the vicinity. After dispatching of some mechs and witnessing Pigsy dart about the area using his grapple hook (which is incredibly entertaining given his un-athletic figure), the trio eventually find the item they are looking for. Floating ominously in the palm of a gigantic mechanical hand protruding out of the ground, it was clear that something big was about to go down. An oversized and more than slightly disgruntled mechanical rhino confirmed my suspicions, charging at Monkey with blind rage.
I won’t ruin the exact tactics required to down the boss, but suffice to say an attack pattern must be learnt and all of Monkey’s acrobatic prowess will be needed to keep out of the beast’s way. After some time, the rhino is eventually defeated, and while Monkey and Pigsy are arguing (Pigsy was the one that unleashed the beast on Monkey in the first place) Trip tries to salvage what she can from the mechanical carcass.
In a last minute twist at the end of the level, the Rhino regains consciousness (if robotic rhinoceroses are indeed capable of such things) and with Trip on his back, flees into the wilderness. Hopping onto a holographic hover disc, Monkey takes pursuit, expertly navigating the narrow trenches of the wilderness and dodging pieces of rubble that are dislodged by the charging rhino. Within just one level, three very different types of gameplay were shown, suggesting the game has enough ideas to remain refreshing throughout.
I’m not going to try and disguise my enthusiasm for this game; it looks abso-bloody-lutely fantastic. The voice acting and character development is up there with the best of them, and I’m very keen to experience the narrative in its entirety. The introduction of Pigsy adds another layer to the character interaction, as well as adding some much needed comic relief to a game that might otherwise teeter a little on the serious side. The gameplay itself draws its influences from many different sources, and while the resulting blend could never be described as unique, it’s accomplished and suitably varied. The more I see of Enslaved, the more I feel that it could be one of the year’s best action-adventures.