Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Ninja Theory
Release Date: 10/5/2010
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Ninja Theory has had a hard time establishing itself as a talented developer. With the major hype of Heavenly Sword, Lukewarm sales to the crappy Kinect Joy Ride, and the controversy of DMC it’s struggling. Enslaved is probably NT’s most successful game mainly commercially due to its better marketing. The story is probably the game’s strongest point, as well as character development and combat take a back seat.
You play as Monkey a guy who escapes a slave ship that’s crash landing in post-apocalyptic New York. Along the way to escape he finds himself stuck and enslaved, but a young woman named Trip needs his muscle to get her back home further west. The relationship between Trip and Monkey is what makes you keep playing, and their constant fight for freedom is heartwarming.
The combat had a lot of potential, but after the first chapter, you’ll get tired of it. It’s the same two combos over and over again with a crappy camera that can’t stay put. Sure the angles are cinematic, but if you get backed into a corner it’s nauseating. The camera can’t stay put at all, and it leads to cheap deaths, and frustration when mech after mech is beating you down. You can charge an EMP burst to disable shields and make the mechs temporarily stunned, and this is essential to defeating them due to their constant blocking and shielding. You can command Trip to use a decoy so long-range mechs shoot at that instead of you so you can climb around and get to them. Some mechs have weak points that allow faster kills, and you can use your staff as a projectile weapon equipped with plasma rounds and EMP rounds. This staff is also used for puzzles and exploring as well.
So combat is pretty finicky, but exploring can be a blast thanks to huge sprawling vistas, easy-to-see glowing handholds, and whatnot. Occasionally the camera gets in the way here or controls can be a bit touchy, but it’s not nearly as frustrating as the combat. You’ll notice orange orbs floating around everywhere and these are used for upgrades, but you can only upgrade if Trip is in the vicinity. There are some points where you can use Monkey’s Cloud hoverboard and there are a few exciting moments like chasing a giant mech, but this feels a bit tacked on.
The game also has pacing issues since the first chapter is epic the next six or seven are the same repetitive area-to-area beating mechs up, jumping around the affair. It’s a shame that Enslaved feels like it’s only 80% complete because it needed a lot more polish. Even though the game looks good technically it’s pretty bland with just lots of green everywhere. There’s no unique art style or anything and this is a shame. The mechs all look the same and the enemy variety is less than half a dozen. Boss fights sometimes feel epic, but they repeat often, so Enslaved is iffy on every subject. I do recommend this as a great weekend rental or bargain purchase.