When I was living in Ontario a few years back (Canadian! Go Polar Bears!) I was in a bit of a gaming rut. My best friend and I had outgrown GTA IV and nothing was hitting that sweet spot of gaming, that one game that makes you forget all the other games you were playing or owned. So we went to the local video game rental store and rented Red Dead Redemption. While there though I remembered hearing about a neat game called Enslaved and I sort of remember watching a review about it, hell the game was even available to rent. My friend said it didn’t look that great to him, so we passed and went on our merry way. A couple months later we were back to the same store and the game was now for sale with multiple copies available to buy, which is usually a sign that the game didn’t do well.
How would I have known that once I played the demo, I would curse the fact that I didn’t pick up the game that day and that I would have spent the next year or so trying to buy the game from my local stores back home, only for it to always be out of stock.
Now that I am the proud owner of a copy and have completed the game once, I feel that, as a gamer, I need to spread the love and let the world know about this overlooked gem.
1) Graphically Gorgeous
Even thought the game is well over two years old now the graphics still manage to hold up. The colour scheme used throughout the game is vibrant and just so beautiful. It’s a great counterpart to the sad, somber story that game eventually unfolds. Characters look great. Combat is explosive and epic at times. Then there is the free running, Prince of Persia style of platforming. A feast for the eyes you might say.
2) Well-balanced Gameplay
What is interesting about the gameplay in Enslaved is that you never really spend too much time doing only one thing. Sometimes you need to do a bunch of platforming/climbing or sometimes you just need to smack the shit out of some robots (*cough* mechs *cough*.) There will be shooting sections and escort missions or even hoverboard style sections where you get to ride on Monkey’s hover disc, called a cloud. Yes, there are repeat sections too, but between mixing up the gameplay and the locals, I feel that it doesn’t diminish the gameplay at all and, in fact, helps reinforce the fact that you are always on the run from these mechs. They may go down, but they’ll be back.
3) Colorful Cast of Characters
Let’s see you have a main character called Monkey, a supportive role named Trip and her friend named Pigsy. That is all. No NPC townies. No sub-boss style character taunting you in between fights. It is just you, a girl and a fat pervert guy trying to survive in the world. Did I mention your character’s name is Monkey? How awesome is that?
4) Believable Character Development
I don’t want to spoil too much by saying that the two main characters grow closer together by the end of the game, because, let’s face it, that is just how things go nowadays, but the important thing is it feels believable. You and Trip escape a slave ship and crash land somewhere in the world. When you awaken, you discover that Trip placed a mind control headband on you, not because she fears for her safety, but to guarantee that you’ll help her get home. She is smart, but you are strong and agile and she needs your skills to make it safely. To make matters worse, she also programmed it to kill you if she dies. Whoops. Around the midway point in the story you discover that Monkey actually begins to care for her safety, and near the end, after you recover a giant mech of your very own, she offers to disable your headband only for you to tell her to turn it back on. Aww.
5) Superb Voice Acting
You know that feeling when you hear a voice in a game and after you listen to it for a few hours, it hits you that the voice was perfect and could never ever be replaced? That is how I felt with the voice acting in Enslaved.
Monkey is voiced by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame and wonderfully portrays a gruff yet lovable hero who has lived in the wild his whole life. He is strong, a bit temperamental and kind of sarcastic. He is also not afraid of using the occasional curse word, which I feel makes him feel a bit more human. He doesn’t curse up a storm but he does use those words to really punch up a scene.
Trip is voiced by Lindsey Shaw, who I am sad to say I have never heard of, but whose voice fits perfectly. Trip is a strong woman who uses her intellect to help her get by in this dangerous war torn world. She is caring, funny and just wants to make it home to her father and her village. She also has no trouble making fun of Monkey every now and again.
Pigsy is voiced by a fellow named Richard Ridings who I also have no clue is. His voice perfectly fits with Pigsy; a funny charmer with a foul sense of humor and perverted nature. His belt has a pair of lips on it for crying out loud. Always quick with a joke or dirty quip about whatever is going on, he literally can lighten the mood at times when things get a bit too serious. There is this one scene with all three of them in an escape pod that actually made me lough at loud, which is a rare occurrence for me.
6) Epic Set Pieces
Even if you’ve just played the demo, you’ll get a taste of the epic scale of some of these set pieces. Sometimes you’ll scale a tumbling tower or maybe you’ll need to protect your friends by defending the outside of a giant mech though climbing all around it. Even though there is only a small handful of boss battles, they all have some kind of epicness to them. The one that gets repeated the most (which is of course both awesome and troubling) is running/chasing the dog. A giant dog-like mech will either chase you through a linear path or you’ll chase it because it is after Trip. These sequences are frantic fun and another great example of how great the game looks.
7) The Story is the Focus
No multiplayer. No stupid collectibles (which to be fair I really do love collecting things in games.) No side-quests. No backtracking. It is just you and your friends on a mission to protect the world and also survive. Everything in the game has a purpose. Ammo for your staff floats around waiting for you to collect it. Tech orbs are everywhere and are used for upgrading your skills. Health packs are used for healing, duh.
This minimalist approach to game design allows the main story to always be in focus and to never be forgotten. Some might view it as a bare bones game, but I view it as a great game with a great story to tell without any filler. All killer no filler you might say.
Bonus: You want another reason to pick up Enslaved? It is freaking cheap now. I’ve seen it as low as $14 where I live and come on, seriously, it’s $14 which is almost the cost of a 12 inch sub at Subway, but far more satisfying.
[Submitted by contributor Shane Peltzer]