September 23, 2010

Demo Report – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
On the chance you’re not familiar with Ninja Theory, the recently revealed developer for Capcom’s freshening of Devil May Cry, most of the sound bites and two-second headlines attached to the team involve an emphasis on story. Since it has been awhile since Heavenly Sword, the burden of expectation and elaboration those words create is on their upcoming title Enslaved, which currently has a demo available for PS3 owners, and hits retail shelves for the PS3 and 360 in two weeks.

The push is that Enslaved has an epic story to tell, which probably means to tap our expectations of the scale and drama. All I can say is that the last epic I remember reading also had the word Odyssey in the title, and for some reason remains rather respected to this day, but my eagerness to read it again is on par with my willingness to sit and watch a game rather than play it – which is nil by the way.

Traditionally when developers emphasize story, we are left watching rather than playing, in an environment that creates two separate experiences, failing to take advantage of the medium – expertly demonstrated by Metroid: Other M recently. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good story, rather that my enjoyment of one doesn’t blind me to there being a very bad sort of old-school out there.

My interest in Enslaved is short and sweet in trying to discover which side of this it comes down on. After giving the demo a try, I’m earnestly still not certain.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Picking up at the beginning, this short taste of game shows us the meeting that brings Monkey and Trip together into a tense partnership of necessity. Escaping from a slave ship, Monkey is freed by chance after Trip manages to free herself, and the entirety of the demo involves guiding him through the ship as it explodes and he pursues Trip in hopes of catching one of the last escape pods.

There’s a cold sweat on my back where it reminds me of 2008’s Prince of Persia – jumping from shiny grab point to shiny grab point with nothing more than an analog stick and a button tap. The advantage to this simplicity is that there can be a great deal of action going on without fear that it distracts or contributes to the player’s demise, and the exploding ship herein qualifies. The question remains however, how is that going to continue through the game? Will it find the means to be more than a light distraction void of challenge, really just allowing more players to feel empowered with little effort?

With that in mind I fall to the combat, which offers a few options – a light and heavy attack, a charged attack, a sweeping attack, a shield, and evasion. Monkey is more prone to ground based evasion than dramatic jumps.

There is an aggressive edge to the attack strikes, primitive blows tearing into the patchwork steel that makes everything in the game look like it was recycled from the wasted cities rotting around the player. The game also comes with a familiar pattern, the player entering a room to have X amount of enemies deploy and come to take their beating – move on to the next room and repeat. But this is based on just the two connected rooms where robots wait to strike in this demo.

The simplicity of actions required from the player offers the chance for Ninja Theory to do more around the player while battles are being fought. If I’m coming up a bit inconclusive here, it’s because the demo really does focus on the story and the environment, about how much can explode while the player is moving.

And admittedly there’s more than a few bits of artistic fantastic for an apocalyptic science-fiction lovechild like myself. But I need a bit more, need to tear into that environment and feel like I’m leaving a footprint on it, and I’m not quite there yet, needing the world the game takes place within to act as more than just a backdrop to a very familiar experience.

Assuming you have a PS3 handy you can check the demo out for yourself. And if you don’t, Namco-Bandai says an Xbox 360 demo is coming soon.

Update – The Demo is now available on 360.

1 Comment »

  1. 2008’s Prince of Persia = One of the worst gaming experiences in recent memory for me. So this doesn’t sound good. Also… when you say “Ninja Theory, the recently revealed developer for Capcom’s freshening of Devil May Cry”, do you mean like a douche freshens? ;)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — September 24, 2010 @ 11:19 am

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