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There are many tough things that game developers do right that we take for granted. The story, the characters, the way the characters interact, the gameplay, etc. are all important things. Very rarely does a game actually achieve all of those things, I haven’t found a game that does since Metal Gear Solid 4. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a fine example of a game that gets so incredibly close to being an amazing game but falls short by just an inch or so.
That isn’t to say Enslaved is a bad game, not at all. It’s a fairly fantastic game at its heart. But the issue such as your character’s run animation not being suited for close quarter movement is really frustrating. Another disheartening issue is the frame rate. It’s probably the biggest flaw in the game. During the frequent intense combat encounters, the frame rate will chug. It’s not just the combat encounters though as sometimes it will chug when you’re just barely moving. Throughout most of the game, it’s nothing debilitating but once you get near the more crazy parts at the end, it’s very noticeable and very disappointing. Thankfully, when Enslaved’s frame-rate isn’t dying, it’s a beautiful game. There are multiple times where you just want to stop and stare into the distance to see every inch of work the wonderful developers put into the game. It’s jaw-dropping at times.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s story at first seems like a fairly simple one. You’re a character named Monkey who meets a fairly pretty lady named Trip. She enslaves you with a nasty headband and says you have to help her find her settlement or you’ll be killed. But once you do finally reach the settlement, the story takes another turn and becomes extremely interesting. Extremely interesting is the way to describe the story in Enslaved. My interest and excitement for the next story situation only grew from chapter to chapter and unlike many other games, Enslaved delivered an incredibly satisfying and fitting ending. The best thing about Enslaved’s story (though it may not seem like it) is its originality. It’s a story I’ve never seen before and it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a game, movie, or book in the past few years.
The characters within the story are equally fantastic. They’re charming, lovable, and voiced perfectly. The bond that grows between Monkey and Trip throughout the game is something I’ve never seen before. Within only a few minutes, I was in love with the duo of Monkey and Trip. Not only was it their writing that was impressive but also the voice work and character design. Trip manages to be beautiful yet feminine but also tough in her own little way while Monkey is just a straight up hardass. The game introduces another character later on. At first, he was fine, but after a while, his writing became cringe worthy and I just wanted him to go away.
His writing is the only bad writing in Enslaved. Monkey and Trip’s dialogue grows more and more friendly as the story progresses. It’s impressive how fantastic Monkey and Trip are though the other companion is just an annoying tiny man that needs to be smacked around a bit.
The aforementioned headband concept is fairly straightforward. The person that places the headband on you controls you. If the person that controls you dies, you die. The controller can pretty much kill you any time he/she wants to with a simple command. At first I found this concept to be fairly interesting but they don’t use the idea for much throughout most of the game, except for giving an excuse to kill you when you wander too far away from Trip. It makes no sense why she would kill you because you stepped a few feet out of where you were supposed to go but I digress. At the very end of the game, the headband concept is finally used for something and it is quite fantastic.
Platforming in Enslaved manages to be very accessible while still being fun to use and a beauty to watch. Watching Monkey sling himself across a huge gap then just barely grasping onto the edge is a delight mainly because of the near flawless animation system in the platforming. It’s simple platforming that you’ve seen in games like Assassins Creed where you hold the stick in a certain direction, press A, and Monkey flies. To add to the forgivingness of it is the fact that it doesn’t allow you to jump to a place where there isn’t a handhold. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a great feature or because I’m terrible at video games but I loved this. It eliminated the issues I had with games such as Uncharted 2 where I thought the animation was great but I never really had any idea of where I could and could not jump.
To mix up the platforming sections is the combat, which is similar to many other games in a sense that you earn orbs and can then use them to upgrade your character. The upgrades are normally pretty impressive and by the end, you really feel like a badass pulling off constant ridiculous combos. Once you do reach the final few levels, Enslaved likes to do the thing that many games like to do and decide to randomly just hurl a ton of enemies at you. It’s annoying and frustrating and at that point, I wanted the game to be over. The fact that almost every enemy looks the same (they’re mechs) didn’t help. Despite the bad ending of combat, it’s fairly solid throughout. Combos look really great when you finally pull them off and it, similar to platforming, is very accessible.
There aren’t many boss fighting sections in Enslaved but the ones that are there are very intense. Sadly, this is one of the times when the frame-rate goes down. But when it doesn’t, the boss battles are original and never feature repetitive actions you see in many other boss battles these days. It’s clear that the developers wanted to utilize the many positives of the game by placing certain aspects of them in the boss fights.
In closing, Enslaved is a sleeper hit. It has its flaws, yes, but they’re all very minuscule when compared to the excellence of everything else in Enslaved. If you like video games, Enslaved is for you. It’s an incredible experience that you will not soon forget.