Gaming Under $20: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Enslaved) is a game I don’t remember hearing much about back in October of 2010.  It was, however, only $8.99 at my friendly neighborhood Gamestop.  With little more than a glance at the back, this one was quickly in my possession.  I’m a sucker for linear platform/action games, usually to my detriment.  Much to my delight, Enslaved refused to cause me mental anguish and Carpal Tunnel in my thumbs.

The story centers around two escapees from a slave ship.  You play as Monkey, who despite his silly name is a brutish, survivalist loner.  The other member of your party is Trip, a tech-savvy girl determined to make her way across a killer-mech infested wasteland in a post-apocalyptic world to get back home.  She’s so determined that she manages to fix a slave headband to Monkey’s noggin, forcing him to bend to her will.  She knows she will need his help if she is ever going to make it back home.  If he disobeys her commands, he gets a dose of painful toxin.  If he wanders too far from her, more toxin.  If Trip dies, he gets a lethal dose.  Fun, huh?

Gameplay is mostly of the action variety, with elements of platforming, partner-based puzzle solving, collecting, staff-based combat, character leveling, and even a little cover shooting.  It may seem a little ‘all over the place’, but Enslaved manages to blend these elements together smoothly to make for interesting, diverse gameplay.

When it comes to platforming, everything is just a little too automated.  The jump button is context sensitive; Monkey won’t jump unless there is something to grab onto.  This keeps the player from a lot of untimely deaths, but feels a little too restrictive.  Jumping and climbing is merely a means to an end – no different from running or walking, but far more interesting as his character performs some really cool parkour moves in the process.

 

Combat is surprisingly complex.  You begin with basic hack & slash moves, beating your mech enemies (mechemies?) to a pulp with your retractable staff.  As you progress, you can buy upgrades to your staff and combat skills, allowing for varied and greater damage to be wielded.  Certain enemies have shields, requiring Monkey to perform a stun move to eliminate them.  This eliminates a button-mashing approach and forces the player to use a little strategy during combat.  You also acquire the ability to shoot ammunition from your staff for either a stun or direct damage shot.  The transitioning from ranged to melee combat is fluid, though ammo is scarce – yet another reason to leave button mashing behind you.


What really makes Enslaved shine are the characters and storytelling.  Monkey appears to be a big, dumb tank at first, but his dialog and writing really make him endearing.  The same goes for Trip – though she’s the constant damsel in distress, she manages to have enough remorse, quirk, and self-loathing to make her interesting and loveable.  Watching their unique relationship grow in an organic way is really a sight to see.  It doesn’t hurt that Monkey is voiced by Andy Serkis (that’s right, the voice of Gollum from LOTR), who is There are other avenues to approaching situations besides direct combat.  Trip can deploy a decoy to help focus ranged enemy attacks, allowing you to get into better position to destroy them or surpass them all together.  (Side note: sneaking past enemies earns you no currency, making the benefits of stealth gameplay exactly null, though it may be fun.)  While it doesn’t reach the heights of other games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, there are still enough ways to attack your situation to keep things interesting for a linear game.  Really, the combat and the platforming can’t stand on their own, no matter how many genres Enslaved borrows from.  It’s smart pacing that makes these elements stay fresh and fun.

one of the best voice actors of our time.  Then there’s the story, which was crafted by Alex Garland, writer of  gems like The Beach, Never Let Me Go, and 28 Days Later.  Gaming company Ninja Theory really took a bold step in creating a story and characters that are strong enough to keep gamers enthralled in a linear, mishmash escort-mission game.

It isn’t just the writing and characters that shine, the graphics are incredibly unique and visually stimulating.  The character models are top-notch for 2010, utilizing excellent CG and motion capture techniques.  The environments are quite stunning, and this is possibly the most bright and colorful post-apocalyptic game I’ve ever seen.  Enslaved is set 150 years in our future – mankind has been eradicated and nature is taking over once familiar signs of civilization.  Everything is bathed in light, and feels quite organic and believable.

However beautiful the graphics may be, your interaction with the environment is fairly limited.  Handholds are clearly lit for you to see, but on occasion you will find yourself testing walls and boxes to see if they are climbable.  It would be nice to have a little more freedom in this world, but overall it isn’t that much of a letdown.  The puzzles aren’t as intricate as I’d have liked, but they are just challenging enough to keep the gameplay fresh.  There is a general lack of challenge that seeps into all aspects of the game.  I only died twice on Normal mode, thanks to a couple of chase scenes.  But, with unmarked points of no return littered throughout the chapters, replay value is fairly high in order to get all the collectibles.

OK, Achievement Hounds, here’s how Enslaved breaks down for your all-important Gamerscore: The achievements are quite achievable!  If you are careful to pay attention to them before you begin playing, you should have no problem getting most of them on your first play-through.  That is one of the key reasons for cheap gaming, and having that combined with a pretty fun game is nothing short of a worthy buy.

Despite a few small complaints, Enslaved is one of those forgotten and hidden gems out there in the world of budget gaming.  It not only has excellent writing, characters, and graphics, but the gameplay is fun.  You become “enslaved” by the action and variety and find yourself wanting to see what happens next.  I honestly couldn’t put this one down.  For the low price of $8.99, who would want to?

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West for $8.99 is Worth a Buy!

Rachael

About Rachael

I'm here to be honest with you about where best to spend your hard-earned dollars on entertainment. Besides being a cinephile and gamer, I'm a lover of whiskey, karaoke, board games, premium TV series, and 1911's... and not necessarily in that order.

I'm always outnumbered, but never outgunned. Look for me on XBL: Lady Misfit1

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