ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West
Thank goodness this game looks good and has an alright story, otherwise it would’ve been a piece of crap. I read a couple reviews after finishing the game, both claimed the game “never frustrates”, yet that is the defining feature of the game. It pissed me off many times.
Platforming is rigid. Like Thief 4 you can only jump in predetermined areas. This means I was rolling around two-three times near ledges before I happened to hit the jump area. Sometimes your character jumps automatically, sometimes you have to press a button. There’s no consistency. At one point you’re told you can’t clamber while carrying Trip, your companion. 30 minutes later you’re required to carry her while clambering in order to progress, without the game prompting you to do so. Button assignments are nonsensical. Sometimes you press A to perform an action, sometimes B. It’s constant button mashing. It’s also glitchy. Several times I was teleported outside the hidden walls, and I had to restart the checkpoint or I died by suddenly flying up in the air. The rigid platforming was intended to make the game smooth and accessible. But instead it’s the worst thing about it. It doesn’t even signpost where you’re supposed to go properly. All platforms you can interact with flash, but because the game is so bright it’s still easy to miss. Despite how controlled the platforming is it’s possible to do buggy jumps, where you fly off past platforms to somewhere you’re not supposed to be. It’s no Tomb Raider, or even Prince of Persia. It’s more like Legacy of Kain.
Even with everything that annoyed me the game is still ok. The story was written by Alex Garland and Andy Serkis, who when they make movies tend to make very nice stuff. The same is true here. The story, setting and characters are great. But because they came from film, the story feels a lot like a movie script. The big important moments are there, but all the stuff around it, the “game” bits, don’t fit naturally into the script. It has several sections which feel like drawn out busywork. I could easily see players get bored in some of the puzzle sections and never finish the game because of it. I’m glad I powered through the slow bits and finished the game. It has its moments, and the ending is good. I’m now more impressed by the quality of Ninja Theory’s work in DmC. They made huge steps forward in that game compared to Enslaved. Unlike SCE Santa Monica who make the same God of War game over and over, Ninja Theory saw what went wrong, and had the ambition to do better next time. Who knows, maybe by their next game they’ll be able to match Platinum Games.