Enslaved: Journey to the West ReviewDustin Hill
Enslaved is the newest Action/Adventure title from winning studio Ninja Theory, based loosely on the Chinese fable, Journey to the West. After a stellar introduction, your main character Monkey is paired up with a useful but generally helpless girl named Tripp. Your objective? Get Tripp home at all costs while traversing a ruined, but beautiful, landscape filled with hazards and many variations of angry machine.
The first thing you may notice upon playing this game is the stunning combination of visuals, sound effects and music. Tons of work has gone into creating a believable world for you to experience. You're not just on a bridge, you're on a bridge that is falling apart overlooking beautiful water in a lush and verdant paradise filled with mountains in the distance and massive but broken mechs. The characters look realistic with small aspects of their face bringing them to life. The music and sound effects are top notch and the voice acting if very believable. Everything here speaks to a developer who spends time on the little details.
Combat is comprised of many elements that work together to make the battlefield an engaging and dangerous place. In combat, your primary objective is to keep Tripp alive with enemies being a second priority. Your main character uses a staff that can pummel and project powerful beams so you can engage enemies at nearly any distance. As you play you gain "Tech Orbs" that allow you to upgrade your main character (with Tripp's help) to increase health and shield systems, obtain new moves and further increase the damage of your projectiles. From here you encounter battles that require cunning and swift, brute force to make sure you and Tripp survive it. Some encounters require you to command Tripp to move from cover, distract enemies and help in small ways so that you can progress. Minor, and fun, puzzles are used to break up the action. These puzzles vary but typically aren't as simple as "push the box" puzzles. You have to manipulate your environment, usually with Tripp's help, to get through.
Perhaps the best part about Enslaved is the story. The developer Ninja Theory is known for their work on Heavenly Sword, where you experience the emotional story of a woman and her little sister. In Enslaved they really have taken it a step further. The amount of powerful storytelling in Enslaved is pretty impressive. Generally, throughout the game you only have small stops between fighting for your life, so there's not a lot of time for small talk. Ninja Theory takes these small breaks and turns them into compelling events that make you want to continue playing to find out what happens to the world and its characters.
Enslaved can be beaten in roughly 13 hours if you're not admiring the scenery too much and maybe closer to 17 if you look over everything in detail. Overall, the only real issue I could find is the occasional weird camera angles where it gets stuck against a wall. The narrative, gameplay and sound come together to form such a wonderful experience that it is actually a shame that the game had to end. Enslaved is one of the most compelling and enjoyable Action/Adventure games to be released in some time.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.