If there’s one thing that plagues Enslaved Odyssey to the West above all else it is the fact that it’s release-date sits squarely between such big budget titles as Halo Reach, Call of Duty Black Ops, Need For Speed Shift and Fallout New Vegas. So if I can give you one piece of advice: don’t let this little gem sneak under your radar as it is well worth checking out.
That’s not to say Enslaved is a masterpiece. It has some rough edges here and there. For example while the gameplay is very reminiscent of Prince of Persia it doesn’t feel as fluid. Some awkward animations, a few invisible walls and a camera that needs some manual input to stay on track don’t help either. But you’ll easily forget about these minor issues once you start playing the game.
The highlight of the game isn’t so much in it’s gameplay, but rather in its storytelling, pacing, character development and voice-acting which all set new standards for games as a whole. By the time you’re a few chapters in you’ll really grow fond of Monkey and his companion Trip (or is it the other way round?). You’ll laugh with their small quirks and genuinely care about the peril they’re in. Seldom does a game achieve these goals with such ease.
But don’t let me give you the impression gameplay is bad, because it isn’t. While playing as monkey you’ll really feel like an agile, powerful beast of a man as he’ll climb, roll, and fight his way through rough terrain and troops of mechs, the enemies for this game. His weapon of choice, a staff, is really powerful and can even be upgraded in many ways, as can his shield and combatmoves. Shame however there aren’t as many combo’s as you’d like and it mostly boils down to hitting X a couple of times before finishing off with a more powerful Y-button attack. Still, blocking, stunning, evading and countering can be done and sure have their uses. Even more exciting is Monkey’s ability to rip enemies apart and to use their limbs as weapons! There’s even some strategy involved as Trip can mark different kind of enemies for you and the order in which you take them on can really make your life easier of harder.
Trip comes in handy in other area's too. She’s smaller and lighter than you, which means she can sometimes climb under roadblocks to open new ways for you. She can also divert enemy’s fire, allowing you to sneak by and plan a flanking attack. However initiating her abilities is a bit cumbersome as you’ll need to press LB, which is fine, but it pans the camera towards her. Useful if you’ve lost her for a moment in the richly detailed and lush scenery (truly this post-apocalyptic New York is a marvel to behold), but in a combat situation I’d rather keep my eye on the blade-wielding mech that’s rushing in to make my acquaintance!
At about 10 hours the campaign isn't exactly short, but you'll still get the feeling it's over way to quick. On the bright side the game never really repeats itself. It keeps things fresh and interesting, which I always prefer to games that seem to drag things out just so they can put “80 hours of gameplay!” on the back of the box. The replay-value of the game depends entirely on your obsessive compulsive disorder to collect things. Getting all the collectables and achievements will probably take 2 or 3 playthroughs, but inevitably you'll be threading the same ground as the first time.
All things considered Enslaved is one of the surprises of the year for me. It might not be perfect, it's spectacular story-telling; pacing and quality acting is second to none and even for that reason alone it is well worth playing!