This is how the world will look after the war. The buildings still stand, but they are in a state of ruin. Walls, ceilings, and floors have crumbled away, and the healthy foliage that covers every surface gives the appearance of a thriving ecosystem, though no humans are around to enjoy this taste of nature. Pools of water mixed with toxic chemicals provide a deadly oasis that can be admired by sight but not touch. Mechs travel in small groups, attacking anything that moves, and the turrets that perch on higher ground shred anyone unfortunate enough to wander into their path. In this bleak tableau, two escaped slaves named Monkey and Trip must travel through this decrepit wasteland to find a hidden village that offers the only glimmer of hope. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a memorable adventure that uses a strong sense of place and excellently crafted characters to lure you into its postapocalyptic world. You have to put up with rigid platforming, slow-starting combat, and a camera that zooms in too close to the action, but these problems are just small pieces of a big picture. What Enslaved lacks in refinement, it more than makes up for in beauty, heart, and thrills.
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Trip is either incredibly selfish or has a taste for irony. After her village is raided by slavers, she finds herself trapped on a ship headed for a bleak future in which strict rules and swift punishment define her waking hours. Luckily for Trip, she has the technical knowledge to initiate an escape, which triggers an explosion that causes the entire ship to crash into Earth. But she doesn't survive her break toward freedom alone. After the crash, Trip comes upon Monkey, a fellow captive onboard the ship. His raw strength and athleticism provide a sharp contrast to the lithe Trip, who relies on her intelligence rather than her physical prowess to survive. She affixes a headband to his unconscious body and informs Monkey when he awakes that he is now her slave. He must obey every order she dishes out or else he will experience unthinkable pain. If he strays too far away or her heart stops beating, he dies. It is through this unlikely pairing that Enslaved establishes a strong emotional connection. This delicate relationship is the foundation upon which this great game has been built and serves as the driving force for your adventure.
The cutscenes in which these characters grow and develop are superbly produced. This is a story that is told through movement as much as dialogue, and the subtle facial features make these digital characters feel like real human beings. There is a moment when Trip smiles to herself while climbing on the back of Monkey's motorcycle, and that brief flash tells you all you need to know about the thoughts swirling through her head. In another scene, Monkey is haunted by visions he can't explain. When his eyes bulge and his muscles flex, you understand the fear he's experiencing. These elements breathe life into the heroes and provide a strong emotional link for your journey. And it's this attachment that makes the game so engrossing. There are times when Trip finds herself in grave danger and you must rescue her from imminent death. The fast action in these parts could certainly stand on its own, but when it's mixed with your protective feelings toward the heroine, it makes your duty carry that much more weight.
It's easy to be distracted by the enticing views.
You take control of Monkey during this adventure and Trip accompanies you for the majority of your travels. There is a symbiotic relationship between these characters because neither could survive this treacherous world alone. Monkey does the bulk of the grunt work. He can take down mechs and other assorted enemies by using his trusty staff, which excels in either close-quarters or long-range combat. He can also climb sheer walls, leap across perilous pits, and swing from protruding pipes. Trip is his cerebral counterpart. Her eyes shine when a technical barrier halts their progress, and she can conjure a decoy to divert enemy fire away from Monkey, but her usefulness doesn't extend much further. Because Trip is so limited, you assume the role of her protector. It's an interesting juxtaposition considering that she has actually enslaved Monkey, but it works surprisingly well. Monkey has to continually make sure that Trip can pass the obstacles in her path--sometimes carrying her or even throwing her to safety--and this protective relationship helps develop the connection between the characters.
Monkey has no qualms with getting his hands dirty. You start the game with two attacks, as well as block and dodge commands, and you unlock more moves as you get deeper into the journey. The combat is basic in Enslaved. Many fights can be won by alternating your attacks with the occasional defensive maneuver tossed in when your health gets low, but the brutality of combat and enticing rhythm overshadow the button-mashing nature. The camera is zoomed in ultratight, which limits your ability to see enemies sneaking up behind you, but it adds extra impact to all of your offensive blows. Enemies recoil as you whack them with your staff, and you can see the reverberations flow through their bodies with every strike. Some fights culminate in a slow-motion shot that shows Monkey's staff slicing clean through these mechanical monsters, with a feral look etched on his face. Despite the brutal pleasure of taking out your unrelenting foes, the combat in Enslaved takes a while to get going. The confrontations you find yourself in from the onset can be won with little thought; it isn't until your enemies become more numerous and powerful that the depth is revealed. And it's satisfying to dodge and block against the tougher opponents until you can land a deadly counterblow.