Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Demo Impressions

Ninja Theroy’s Heavenly Sword didn’t exactly turn out to be the smash PlayStation 3 exclusive everyone hoped it would be. While I didn’t play Heavenly Sword myself, the gaming community and critics made it pretty clear that the hype wasn’t worth it. Ninja’s Theory’s upcoming title, Enslaved, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 shows some promise. But from my quick playthrough of the demo, there seems to be some potential issues with the title.

Enslaved takes place 150 years in the future where mankind is almost completely wiped out. Most of what’s left are robots who are programmed to kill humans. Monkey, the main character of the title, has spent most of his life fighting these bots. Eventually, Monkey is captured and put onto a slave ship. After a hacker causes the ship to start self destructing, Monkey tries to escape in the confusion, which is exactly where the demo begins.

The demo was actually fairly short on gameplay, making it kind of hard to tell exactly what kind of game Enslaved is. From what I can tell, it is an action adventure title with a heavy focus on hack and slash gameplay and a light focus on platforming. Players take control of Monkey, who uses an energy pole to defeat enemies. Players have access to basic light hits and heavy hits. Comboing these can make quick work of the bots found in the demo. Monkey also has  a variety of special moves he can use for both combat and traversing landscapes. In the demo, the only move available was a wide slash that hits multiple enemies at once while knocking them back.

The combat is solid and is what you would expect in most games in the genre. But the demo also featured platforming segments… if you could call them that. Basically, Monkey can climb up pipes, ledges, and other objects on the walls. This is pretty much all automated though. Enslaved won’t allow players to jump freely to platforms or ledges, basically making it impossible for you to fall while platforming. There are very specific ledges or platforms you have to hit. These ledges are indicated by a shiny overlay on the object. But the walls in the demo were a bit too convoluted to easily spot these objects even when they were marked. So, it pretty much turns into a game of spin the analog stick around and smash the X button until you jump onto the ledge you want.

Technically, the game looks good with some fancy lighting effects and impressive character models. Animations are smooth, along with facial animations seem particularly expressive and fit the voice acting well. The environment the demo took place in looked good, but the walls were too busy, making it difficult to figure out what ledges, pipes, or platforms were usable. Camera issues seem to pop up as well with it constantly swinging around the action. Sometimes, it seems like it was confused on what it should be looking at. Although, this may have been since the area the demo took place in was fairly confined, at least compared to other levels I’ve seen in trailers for the game.

The short demo ended right before players teamed up with Trip, a second character who is supposed to play a big role in the gameplay. The level chosen for the demo, while probably the first level in the game, didn’t exactly do a good job representing the game. The demo completely left out Trip from a gameplay perspective, which is supposed to be one of the big features of the game. The visuals, while good, were convoluted and messy for the particular area in the demo, which made it difficult to make out platforms. Although, the platforming itself seemed designed with this in mind as it is insanely forgiving, basically ensuring the player’s safety almost all the time.

Most of the problems from the demo probably fall on the fact that it was too short and too early in the game to show any of the game’s unique features. The demo gave the vibe that it is a generic hack and slasher mixed in with Prince of Persia 2008’s platforming. The game is launching October 5th in North America and October 8th in Europe. If you aren’t interested in the game thanks to the demo, go around and watch some trailers and read some previews from sections later in the game to get a better feeling as to what the game actually is.

If the demo is representative of the whole game, we are in for another lack luster release from Ninja Theory. That would be a bit concerning since Capcom just announced that Ninja Theory is working on the upcoming Devil May Cry…

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