Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Boaz

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I finished Enslaved the other day and since then I've been wondering about the story.

I've never really played a combat oriented and puzzle solving RPG before. I've played the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series on XBox. These were the first games I've played on a console since Tetris on the NES back in the nineties. Oh, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, too. But this was my first game on the PS3.

I tell you that to let you know that I'm not an action, shooter, slasher fan. I've played plenty of City of Heroes, Guild Wars, and WoW on my PC. I also played waaaaay too much Warlords and Warlords 2, Diablo 2, Dungeon Siege, Warcraft 1 & 2, Starcraft, the Age of Empires series, Civ 2 & 3 & 4, Alpha Centauri, the Total War series, NBA 2K & 2K1, Zeus: Master of Olympus, and the Paypyrus NASCAR series. And how could I neglect to mention Knights of the Old Republic and SWKOTOR: The Sith Lords.

I loved the story of SWKOTOR. I did not see the plot twist coming. Yes, you can call me obtuse, but I was stunned in that first play through. I also thought the stories from Dragon Age: Origins and the Mass Effect series were outstanding. All of these titles happen to be from Bioware. I'm not saying that Bioware is always awesome... in fact, I never got into Baldur's Gate and I never liked the Neverwinter Nights' game play... and I thought the premise for Dragon Age II was stupid after the first game. All that is to say... I like a decent story.

And Enslaved came highly recommended from a friend... because of the story.

So here is where I insert the SPOILER ALERT for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

The premise for the story is tremendous. In a post-apoc NYC, Monkey and Trip have both just independently escaped a slave ship (yet landed in the same spot). In her fear and desperation to get home, Trip enslaves Monkey (a super hero) with a psychic headband while he lies unconscious. The band is linked to Trip so that she can send pain to Monkey's brain if he defies her. The band is also linked to her health so that if she dies, the band will deliver a lethal shock to Monkey. Monkey is forced to make a decision either make Trip kill him now or else be her bodyguard to see her home... where she swears she'll free him. Obviously, Monkey chooses the latter.

So instead of a damsel in distress and a knight in shining armor, Ninja Theory (the developer) gives us an evil enchantress and her minion.

After being kidnapped by slavers, the first thing Trip does after freeing herself is to..... enslave someone else. Wow! She came from a peaceful settlement. She had a fine education in science and cultural ethics from her father, but she casts aside her morals and uses her knowledge for deny another person of his free will as soon as she gets the chance. Shocking.

To Trip's amazement, Monkey is not just a hero... nor even a super hero... No, his feats are semi-divine. He proves to be miraculous in agility and leaping... no obstacles can stop him. He also possesses a wondrous staff that shoots long distances with devastating power. And finally, he is the greatest melee combatant on the planet. (How Monkey was ever captured by slavers is beyond me.)

Furthermore, Trip is continually grateful that Monkey repeatedly saves her from falling off ledges and from murderous mechs. No matter the situation or her desperation, Monkey always comes back for her and preserves her life. She begins to see him as a companion... a friend... a savior... a man's man... her man.

She halfway forgets that she holds the power of life and death over Monkey. She forgets that she has usurped his free will and threatened him with death if he defies her will.

My friend was sucked in by Trip's shapely form and her batting eyes. And this was just as Ninja Theory desired. The player is supposed to find compassion for Trip's predicament... without Monkey's help, she'll be dead within an hour. The player is supposed to forgive her giving him a headband because she's cute (and she may be one of the few women left in North America). From repeated rescues of Trip and from the side glances she gives Monkey, the player is supposed to find her attractive and in need of protection. The player is supposed to forget what she has done to him.

But Monkey has not forgotten. And neither did I.

In the Bioware games I mentioned previously, there were some romance options. But they were always open ended... i.e. the results were up to the player. If Revan, the Exile, the Warden, or Shepard wanted to start, stop, or begin a new romance, it was up to the player to make it happen. This was not the case with Enslaved.

I could make Monkey jump, fight, shoot, pull levers, move objects, and ride the cloud, but the relationship was out of my control.

In the sixty levels (or thereabout) Monky probably died three dozen times. Rougly fifteen were from chasing mechs while riding the cloud. Four were from mines. Seven were from being beaten in combat. And probably four were from Trip dying.

And three were because Trip decided to zap Monkey's brain.

After the first time Trip killed Monkey, I could not wait to kill her. And the game never let me. I could not overlook what Trip did.

I did like the fact that Trip did repent before she achieved her goal. She showed she finally understood what she'd done and that she was apologetic. She was willing to deny herself to allow Monkey to do what he wanted. Finally.

Monkey stayed with her. But that's where I'd have either strangled her or just left her to go alone with Pigsy on her suicide mission.
 

biodroid

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I tried this game but found that killing the robots with a pipe from behind very annoying because one shot from the bot kills you. I stopped playing due to frustration.
 

Boaz

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bio, you have to switch the difficulty to easy. I always do that for console games. Especially for my first PS3 game... I was constantly looking down at the controller wondering, "Which button switches ammo? Is the right trigger for blocking or for firing?" and all the while Monkey was taking damage!

And regarding the gameplay... almost every level is a puzzle. I'm so used to CoH and WoW where I can go do something different if a level or area is too hard... then I can come back after leveling or gearing up. The puzzles almost always require an exact method to solve them... and the game provides or denies your tools to do so.

For example, in some levels you can ride the cloud while in others you cannot. But... in at least five levels you must ride the cloud to win. During some levels you can use Trip to distract the mechs and upgrade Monkey's gear, but in other levels she's unavailable.

I'm used to games where my entire tool bag is available all the time. So when I'm really good with a wrench, then I can beat every level using only my wrench. But some levels of Enslaved take away my wrench and force me to win with tweezers and chicken wire. I'm just saying that it was not what I'm accustomed to doing.
 

Cayal

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It's not an RPG so the dynamics are different where you are not in control of the story or the character.

Anyway, I would not say she was an evil enchantress, because she was not evil. She did what was necessary to get back home and if she didn't, she would have died.
 

biodroid

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Boaz, i mostly play my console games on medium or hard, I developed a style with my controller for FPS games that actually makes it easier than keyboard and mouse. Third person shooters are similar. I liked the puzzle ideas of not straying far from the chick that enslaved you but some places the controls were lacking in the response section. One of the worst controls in a game for me was Dead Space. The main character in that game could not run or turn fast no matter how sensitive you made the controls. How long you been playing on the PS 3 Boaz?
 

Boaz

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Thanks for the comments! I sort of like arguing the ethics of characters in stories...

Cayal, she did get home. But to do so, she enslaved another human being. I don't know that what she did was necessary... maybe if she'd done what was necessary back home, they'd never had taken her captive in the first place.

bio, that was my first and only game on any PS platform. I'm a total noob.
 

Cayal

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Thanks for the comments! I sort of like arguing the ethics of characters in stories...

Cayal, she did get home. But to do so, she enslaved another human being. I don't know that what she did was necessary... maybe if she'd done what was necessary back home, they'd never had taken her captive in the first place.

I don't remember the reason she was captured (or if it was ever discussed). It was necessary to enslave Monkey to get home because it was clear she did not have the skills to fight the mechs.
 

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