Enslaved: Odyssey To The West Playtest – A Beautiful End

By Spencer . October 4, 2010 . 11:15pm

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West starts with a bang. While escaping from a slave ship, Trip also frees Monkey, the character you control in Enslaved. Loosely inspired by the ancient Journey to the West legend, Monkey is strong, agile, and attacks with a staff. He chases Trip through the ship as it crumbles in the air. You have to jump outside, on the ship’s wings, to progress through the intro level while punching through mechs. Combat is spiced up with slow motion finishers so players can see Monkey tear robots apart.

 

Then, after all of the explosions, Enslaved calms down. Monkey and Trip land in an arborous, vivacious, post-apocalyptic New York. The concrete jungle of the East has been replaced with a real jungle without animals. Plant life, mechs, and ruins of iconic buildings are all that remain. The mechs are a problem for Trip who wants to return home, but fears that without Monkey’s brawn she won’t survive the journey. Being a technowiz, Trip hotwired a slave crown to Monkey’s head linking her life to his. If she dies, Monkey dies too. Ninja Theory also used this scene to explain why players see a HUD, that’s Trip’s handy hacking work. The writers made an effort to iron out details like that in the story.

 

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Given no alternative, Monkey agrees to escort Trip through New York. Destroying killer robots is no problem for him. Mixing up light and heavy attacks are enough to turn basic enemies into scrap. Starting with a light attack makes Monkey open with a lunging punch, which quickly closes distance between Monkey and his metallic opponent. If you’re surrounded, a wide sweeping staff swipe can throw enemies off Monkey long enough to get back into a combo rhythm. When Monkey has some distance he can charge up for a stun attack and fire plasma bolts from his staff. This probably sounds like your basic 3D action game. That’s because Enslaved’s combat system is basic. Basic, but exciting. Robots break apart with each smack of the staff and camera tricks zoom in on the damage. These design decisions make each enemy encounter, no mater how small, viscerally satisfying.

 

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I’d say Monkey’s most useful ability is his bullet absorbing shield. While Trip can defend herself from robots with an EMP pulse, turret mechs often stand between them and the chapter exit. A hologram created by Trip can distract enemies for a few seconds, but Monkey, protected by a blue glowing shield, still has to dash through gunfire to defeat the mech and/or create a path for Trip. In some of these scenes, Monkey takes control of a mechs gun and Enslaved temporarily becomes a third-person sniper shooter where you shoot running robots before they reach Trip. Trip is far from a damsel in distress, though. She can keep up with Monkey as he leaps through levels. There are some gaps that Trip can’t cross and Monkey has to throw her across. Twitchy controls make these scenes more challenging than they ought to be. After tossing Trip you have to jump to the other platform and grab her before she plummets. Sounds simple enough and it is… unless Monkey faces the wrong direction after the animation. In those cases, I had to quickly orientate Monkey to make the jump because you can’t freely jump. Enslaved protects players from falling off edges and you automatically make any jump you attempt. So, jumping isn’t the problem, it’s fiddling with Monkey’s position to get there in time.

 

The escorting portion of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is platforming-lite. There are plenty of places, often highlighted for convenience, for Monkey to jump and climb, but you never have tense moments where you think for a second Monkey may miss a ledge, even if he appears to stumble. Perhaps, we can call these scenes quick-time-jumping or puzzle-platforming. Trip also scans every area with a robot dragonfly Monkey retrieves very early in the game. This identifies deadly mines, the sight radius for each robot, and even highlights the goal. Since Monkey has a path marked on screen, the only reason to explore levels is to search for red orbs which Trip can use to boost Monkey’s abilities. Paths to sneak past enemies are spoiled too. All players have to look for are blinking objects for Monkey to grab.

 

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s levels feel like they’re a track you run on to get to the next cutscene. Maybe Ninja Theory wanted that since the story and conversations between the two characters fuels the game. Alex Garland and the writing team did a fantastic job with dialogue, all of which is well acted in Enslaved. Monkey and Trip are reluctant partners. The slave crown connects them, but Trip doesn’t boss Monkey around too much. Garland left just enough room for trust to build between the duo. Trip and Monkey converse often too, usually in bursts within levels rather than a twenty minute interlude after beating a boss. All of the banter between Trip and Monkey allow their relationship to grow at a natural pace.

 

While character growth drives the odyssey forward, it’s the ending that makes Enslaved: Odyssey to the West memorable.



  • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

    The demo and this playtest reaffirms my initial and accumulative impressions so far that I will enjoy almost every part of this game except the platforming. Technical issues weren’t so pronounced on my 2nd demo run, for some reason.

    A question though: How often did you die in this game? I feel like the platforming and accessible combat are the way they are to reduce death and keep the game a continuous, cinematic experience. Also, is there any loading?

    • Aoshi00

      I tried playing the demo on hard and Monkey takes a lot more damage from the robots, also the fire from the jet engine killed me in one shot when I missed the jump. I really didn’t notice any technical shortcomings at all, the 360 demo was really smooth, didn’t realize the platforming was easy either until people mentioned it, I guess that’s a good thing though.I have never wanted a game so much (usually I just want for Amazon to ship whenever), can’t wait to get this tonight after work from Kmart w/ coupons, w/ Castlevania (which was pretty awesome too) and Layton 3.

      • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

        I tried it on normal. Wasn’t challenging. Sounds like hard might be the way to go. Yea, jet engine part is pretty scary.

        Argh, 360 is multiplatform superior, as usual. PS3 version of demo was a bit… hiccupy. Kind of broke at the moment so as much as I enjoyed it… gonna wait.

        • Aoshi00

          I played the demo on normal at first too and it was pretty easy. If there’s no difficulty related achievement I would just play on normal and enjoy the story, don’t want to get pawned by robots :) Yea, the PS3 demo seemed more hiccupy, when in doubt I stick w/ 360 for mulitplatform, and it’s weird because Heavenly Sword was on PS3…

          • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

            Thanks for the advice. Maybe they need another difficulty between normal and hard? Ah well, whatever…

            Argh, you’re making me want this game sooner. NO. Must… hold… back…

        • Aoshi00

          wow, I’m playing it on hard right now (there’s an achievement for beating the game on hard), and fighting 2nd Chapter’s boss, I’ve died like 10 times alrdy up to this point, the combat is definitely not easy (seems harder than the demo even), the robots attack and block more, you have to evade and go around them to find an opening, and they swarm you and deal a lot of damage. Maybe I should switch back to normal and experience the story first. Beautiful game though, the first two chapters alrdy look more lush and imaginative than FF13′s world.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      I didn’t keep track of an exact number, but “not often” would fit the bill. Getting in position to jump and save Trip when she was slipping was the most troublesome part for me. Sometimes Monkey would just face the wrong direction after the animation.

      I have the Xbox 360 version and there wasn’t much loading. There was a strange glitch though in Chapter two, I believe with this boss that charges at you. It charged through me and an important object and got stuck in dash mode. It kept running in place at a wall as if it were trying to break it down. The robot couldn’t and hitting it wouldn’t reset it’s pattern so I had to load from a save point.

      • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

        The Trip thing seems annoying but the glitch is ugly. Hopefully I won’t run into crazy glitches like that in the PS3 copy. Not dying often is a plus for me though.

  • Aoshi00

    Good to hear it has a satisfactory/memorable ending worthy of the journey, I would look forward to it but don’t want it to end (unlike FF13′s crappy anticlimatic ending). It’s a pity this wasn’t dubbed in Jpn as well while so many other games did like Alan Wake, Heavenly Sword, Heavy Rain, or Uncharted. Otherwise it would be interesting to play thru the story again in Jpn the 2nd time. Any trophy/achievement that is tied to the difficulty?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

    As I’ve said before, I am bothered that people are giving the gameplay a pass, simply because the story and voice acting are well done. The gameplay felt, the entire time, like there were training wheels on the game. I cannot stress how much I dislike the idea of platforming where I can’t actually fall and die.

    That said, I will pick this up when it’s $20 as the story DOES seem very cool from the demo. I just can’t believe how people are completely disregarding the lack of an actual GAME here, especially considering how many people jumped on the “Final Fantasy XIII sucks” bandwagon.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      To be fair, I don’t think I gave Enslaved or Final Fantasy XIII a pass or a fail. This playtest is just my experience, not a vote for “good” or “bad” on either game.

    • Guest

      Reminds me of that one Prince of Persia game.
      In fact, ever since then, there seems to be an abundant of “escort” games, or games with non playable female tag along characters:
      Prince of Persia
      Enslaved
      Quantum Theory
      Knights Contract
      Nier
      Neverdead
      RE5

      really strange…

    • Aoshi00

      People have different taste I suppose, FF XIII bored me to death from beginning to end both story and gameplay-wise, frustrating even (imported it at $90, took me 3 months to finish it, forced myself to before the US release), and that game was the epitome of holding hands bar none. I just gauge my like or dislike based on the overall experience, or the fun that I have playing the game, or if it is memorable afterwards, FF13 was pretty forgettable, I want to forget about it anyway, the Gooch will fill the RPG void.. I liked Heavenly Sword and Ico, and it seems like Enslaved is a combination of those and some others, so I like it. Kmart is giving a $25 coupon, for me, $35 is more than worth it. Also I’ll use that to get Vanquish, which is worth $60. I regret importing FF13 though, that should be worth $20 or below, and it’s still too much, Toriyama has to give me a refund :P

    • Aoshi00

      Just glanced at Cheapassgamer’s review, they say the game is worth $49.99 as opposed to MSRP $59.99, and these guys are CHEAP, so I’m going w/ them w/ my buying decision, usually works well :) They say Limbo was worth $10 (a $15 game) and I bought it at 800 pt w/ MS’s promotion, had to agree w/ them.

  • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

    Wow the final paragraph nearly makes me want to run out and get the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aarachnid-Malik-Davolcanese/1548060424 Aarachnid Malik Davolcanese

    Ooh, baby. UPS should be bringing this by any hour now. You got me even more excited, Spencer

  • joesz

    I WANNA KNOW THE ENDING RIGHT NOW!! spensa! tell me please!!!

  • Happy Gamer

    hmm i dunno…alot of games don’t really seem to punish u anyways so i don’t see the point of not dying by falling really. u usually start at closest check point in most games if u fall that are made recently anyways i honestly don’t see much difference from that and this.

    Now megaman..that’s a different story. it really counts if u fall and die lol.

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