Enslaved is a rarity in this day and age. It’s a new IP, it completely leaves out any form of multiplayer, and it’s strictly a linear experience. This all results in one of the best single player games out there thanks to a masterfully crafted story, beautiful cinematics and atmosphere, some really exciting sequences of gameplay, and some well developed combat.
You play as Monkey, and you have a sidekick whose abilities you can control named Trip. In the beginning, it seems like it is going to be an elaborate escort game, after all Trip has placed a mechanical headband on you after you both make a daring escape from a ship, and this headband makes you her slave essentially. If she dies, you die. Simple enough. But as you progress through the wonderfully designed levels, the story evolves.
As the story of Monkey and Trip, and the world in which they inhabit, evolves, you bear witness to some of the best character development in any game. You’ll also be treated to some of the best writing, voice acting, and cut-scenes ever seen in a video game. You’ll become attached to these two completely opposite characters and will finish the game for no other reason than wanting to see how the story ends. In this sense, the actual gameplay can take a backseat where you just want to rush through the level to get to the next cinematic, something I definitely wouldn’t say for the vast majority of games that rely way too much on cut-scenes. Don’t let that last sentence fool you though; Enslaved’s gameplay is quite good and you will definitely enjoy, most of the time, working your way to the next cut-scene.
The post-apocalyptic world provides a stunning backdrop and allows for some good platforming sequences in the spirit of the Uncharted franchise. The key series of words in that sentence is “in the spirit of,” however. Where Uncharted excels, Enslaved holds your hand and becomes frustrating. Enslaved is very strict in what you can do; they’ve created a set path and that is the only way you’re going. This means jumping down to a platform to back track isn’t going to happen unless the game wants you to. To this end, the impressive looking platforming set-pieces fail to create a sense of urgency, simply because the game will not allow you to fall to your death. Where Uncharted requires precise camera control and timed jumps, Enslaved grabs your hand and guides you along as if the game is afraid you might die otherwise.
It doesn’t help that the camera control can sometimes get awkward and frustrating, but these are almost entirely limited to forced camera changes that try to make a cinematic experience. In these instances, it’s as if the developers could care less that you’re trying to do something in the game, and are instead more concerned about making it look like you’re controlling the main character in a movie. I don’t count off much for this, only because it isn’t like these awkward camera angles are going to lead to your death.
Thankfully, Enslaved isn’t so controlling of the combat which feels fluid and smooth. Your main attack is going to be up close melee, bashing your robot enemies with your staff. You can also shoot using your staff, which adds some cover based third person shooter mechanics. All the combat is surprisingly deep, and the world is littered with orbs that serve as the in-game currency, allowing you to upgrade weapons, attacks, health, shields, etc. This actually adds some strategy, allowing you to customize Monkey according to your play style. If you’re defensive you’ll boost your shields, your defensive skills, and your health. If you’re offensive, you only need to boost shields and your weapons. You’ll be able to do whatever you want here really, orbs are plentiful after all.
One of the things that surprised me most about Enslaved is that it actually has some really good boss fights, that can be surprisingly difficult. These easily provide the best gameplay/combat sequences, as you’re having to use Trips’s abilities, timing is critical, and there’s actually a sense of danger. In a lot of these battles, you’ll have the cloud boost, which is like a energy surfboard that allows you to travel fast. These boss battles and chase sequences is really Enslaved at its absolute best in terms of the gameplay, and without spoiling anything, the final battle really is quite epic. And that’s a wonderful thing, because a game with this good of a story would really be disappointing if it suffered from a lackluster ending.
Enslaved has its issues, all of which have been touched on, but these flaws don’t detract from the experience of the game. It’s something all gamers should play if they enjoy a great story/cutscenes/acting in video games and third person action-adventure games with some platforming. It’ll probably take around 9 hours, give or take a couple either way, to beat it on normal difficulty, and at the price now is really a bargain for the entertainment that you get. Enslaved is a beautiful game with a great story that is acted brilliantly, and it has some really fun gaming sequences too which makes this a no-brainer purchase.
Enslaved: Odyssey To The West gets a three out of five: GOOD.