ENSLAVED: ODYSSEY TO THE WEST REVIEW
Theory have a thing for red-heads. After Heavenly Sword, the UK action maestros are at it again, but this time with some Hollywood help. Does it pay off for them?
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Nov 3, 2010 16:53 (Nov 3, 2010 16:53)
Written by: Ian
Odyssey or Iliad-vised?
Ninja Theory have a thing for red-heads. After Heavenly Sword, the UK action maestros are at it again, but this time with some Hollywood help. Does it pay off for them? Hiring Serkis and Garland can’t be cheap, so the team are obviously expecting "Enslaved: Odyssey to the West" to pay off.
Single-player only games are increasingly rare, so let’s see how this one pans out...
Written by Alex Garland (creator of several Hollywood screenplays, mainly with Danny Boyle), Enslaved is loosely based on the Chinese epic, Journey to the West. It’s been thoroughly updated, though, and is now a beautiful tale of slavery, love, finding home, and finding yourself.
There’s plenty of action, though, and moments that are far funnier than in most games that describe themselves as funny, whilst at its most touching, I was moved more than any game I’ve played with the exception of Lost Odyssey.
Ensalved is an interesting one, gameplay-wise. The closest comparison, I guess, would be Prince of Persia, but there are certainly some differences. But, the third person platforming and melee combat are certainly reminiscent of Ubisoft’s games.
However, I much prefer the combat in Enslaved. It’s still relatively simple, with a light and a heavy attack, but the enemy AI is far superior, and the upgrades that you can buy for yourself add a far greater variety and depth to the combat. Additionally, there are several enemy types of mech, including some ranged ones, and ones that you can exploit to your own advantage. Some have weak cores, or can stun them when you perform a takedown, which is a simple button press, but looks fantastic. You also have limited use of the ranged abilities of your combat stick, which can be used to both stun and attack the mechs, although the ammo is normally limited to areas where ranged combat is strictly necessary.
The platforming is excellent as well, but is basically a rip-off of Prince of Persia. Even so, it shows off the beautifully designed levels with aplomb. However, there are some additional subtleties that really show off how much thought has gone into the game. You always have to look after your female companion, Trip, who is a technical genius, but very weak, and has enslaved you. If she dies, then so do you.
In practice, this sounds frustrating, but you can use LB to get Trip to use certain abilities to help out. She can heal you, distract enemies, and let off an EMP if she gets attacked. She can also upgrade your abilities as you go through the game. You have to be careful about what you choose as well, because you’ll need more than one playthrough to upgrade everything. So you could be weak in health, but powerful in combat, or vice versa. Or you can be mighty at range. It’s interesting, especially in the context of the paper, rock, scissors style of combat.
Unfortunately not all is perfect. Ninja Theory is a small team compared to many developers, and I’m sure the budget was nowhere near as much as other similarly scoring games. But still, I feel you have to point out the flaws. There is occasional slow-down, and the camera is sometimes a little wonky. The most annoying thing though is that unfortunately the platforming is not as fluid as Prince of Persia- occasionally you have to be very specific about positioning or timing, and the areas you have to hit a little too small. I also found a couple of poles were basically broken, and I was stuck on them, not letting me move up or down without reloading a checkpoint. Minor niggles, for sure, but frustrating all the same, and they crucially took away some of the otherwise totally immersive gameplay.