Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Preview
Sometimes it only takes one glance to know how good a game is going to be, it doesn’t happen very often but when it does you just know.
The first time I knew this about Enslaved, was when I heard Tameem Antoniades talking about the game at Develop in July, and following a recent hands-on with the game, my instincts were well and truly justified.
Developed by Heavenly Sword creators Ninja Theory, Enslaved tells the story of two characters who are trying to survive in a land which has been torn apart by war. Set 150 years in the future, almost the entire human race has been wiped out, with only a few survivors and robots from a bygone era left over.
So, to the opening level, which sets the scene for the entire game, you meet Monkey and get to understand straight away just how epic Enslaved is going to be. Taking place in a flying craft which is fast approaching disaster and Monkey’s certain doom, your mission here is to get to an escape pod before they are all gone.
Throughout this level you are introduced to the controls, allowing you to learn how to jump, fight and block, all while being thoroughly immersed in the experience, which sucks you in and doesn’t let up for even a second.
As well as meeting Monkey, you are also introduced to Trip in the opening scenes. The way which the two characters meet is quite clever as she seems to have the same purpose as Monkey; to get to one of the seven escape pods while they are still available. This results in both characters racing through the ship trying to beat each other to the punch.
On your way through the level with Monkey, you’ll find yourself climbing and running through the craft amidst explosions and falling debris as it falls to pieces around him. To make things more challenging, you will also be tasked with taking out mechs who seem hell bent on destroying Monkey – no matter if they go down with him or not.
The beauty and thought that has went into Enslaved is there to see throughout the entire first level. A swift look to the left when you find yourself on the wing of the craft, will see you staring at the once bustling city of New York, which now lies in ruins. In fact, at one point you will find yourself having to dodge the Statue of Liberty as it crashes through the craft.
Once Monkey finally reaches the pod at the end of the level, you soon find that Trip got there first and after a quick press of the eject button, the story begins.
Monkey and Trip are an odd pair, although this does work to the games advantage. Trip is a gentle, fragile character who you couldn’t imagine taking down anyone, however she is very good with technology, meaning if something can be hacked, then she is the one to do it.
Monkey meanwhile, is the brawn, he may not have the technical knowledge of Trip, but he makes up for this in agility, muscle and his ability to spot danger and take care of it.
Even though Monkey and Trip don’t introduce themselves by name to each other for quite a while into the story, as you play through Enslaved you will begin to realise what a good pairing these two really are. At first it seems there is a lot of mistrust between them, however as the game goes on you see them starting to grow fond of each other and at the same time, you grow fond of them.
When they first meet face to face, Monkey discovers Trip has installed a slave band on his head, which basically means he has to follow her commands and keep her alive. If Trip dies, Monkey dies, so this is quite a large part of the story. Through the headband, Trip and Monkey can work together, by issuing commands; therefore you can ask her to distract enemies, run, heal you and even upgrade your skills.
The pair work together in other ways, for example: Monkey can pick Trip up and throw her to reach higher places or to get her over gaps her otherwise small legs would not allow her to jump.
As you progress through the game, you are introduced to more of Monkey’s skills, such as his staff, his ability to takeover turrets and the neat trick he has of ripping the weapons arm off robots and using it against them. Monkey is also a fairly nifty climber, using the subtle (Uncharted like) hints within the game, you can get across some fairly tricky environments. He is certainly quick on his feet considering his size.
The enemies you encounter do have some sort of intelligence to them, some will appear from nowhere, breathing threateningly down your neck and prompting you to take action, while others will lye dormant, waiting for you to activate them by tripping their alarm. Although to begin with they don’t provide too much of a challenge, as the game goes on, things get tougher, with some even calling for back-up unless you take care of them before the timer runs out.
As if the action and wonderfully crafted story weren’t enough, Enslaved is also a beautiful game. Every time there is a close up of a character, the quality of the motion capture shines through and whenever you walk into a new area, you can’t fail to be impressed with the sheer detail of it all. Everything about the game screams “epic”, so much so, I had to stop playing at chapter three as I didn’t want to ruin the game for myself.
There are some parts of the game which I noticed that I have deliberately left out of this preview, as I would like people to discover these for themselves, but lets just say I get the feeling there is a huge twist within this game, though you won’t understand what I’m talking about until you try it out for yourselves.
Ninja Theory did well with Heavenly Sword, however with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, it has stepped its game up tenfold. Like I said, it’s not often you see a game and know straight away how good it’s going to be, but I can say this now: Enslaved is incredible and if you miss it, your missing out on something quite special.