10 things you need to know about Enslaved

We got excited about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West when we finally got our hands on it recently. We're worried that this possible sleeper may just get ignored by the public since it's not obvious what the game's really about, and it's hard to tell why it's different from anything we've played in quite some time. So here are the ten things that make Enslaved so much more than just another fall action game in a fall choked with action games.

1) It’s a sci-fi take on a beloved Chinese myth

Journey to the West is a tale about the Monkey King, who was granted magical powers by the gods. He met a monk who commanded him with a magic crown, and together they had all kinds of adventures. The Monkey King used a magic staff that expanded in length so he could kick every variety of ass. In Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Monkey is the name of a normal man instead of an actual monkey. He does climb on the scenery in monkey-like fashion, and his outfit has a subtle touch – a sash that dangles from his belt and looks suspiciously like a tail as he runs and leaps about.

Above: The word is still out on the source of Monkey's cyber-ish scars

Instead of a monk trapping him in a magic crown, Monkey is enslaved by Trip, a beautiful scarlet-haired girl who has a talent for hacking, and so hacks a slave headband in order to force Monkey to help her get home. It looks like the relationship will develop into a romance, as Trip clearly isn’t comfortable with enslaving Monkey and shows increasing signs of guilt about it, while Monkey learns that she’s not so bad over time. Monkey still has his expanding staff, but of course it’s sci-fi technology instead of magic.

2) It has strong, subtle storytelling details

Enslaved’s world is a mystery – an Earth long after some unnamed apocalypse, where vegetation has reclaimed the once polluted, noisy urban setting. Manhattan is a desolate but verdant wilderness, with vines, trees and bushes covering and infesting every building. Somewhere in the details of this world are clues to what’s really going on. We get hints of some ominous place out west, where slaves are taken and never return.

Above: The dynamic between Monkey and Trip, described in a few words, may sound like a cliched love/hate relationship, but it's much more interesting than that

The simple, believable dialogue conveys small moments of real emotion between Monkey and Trip, and combined with their surprisingly human expressions, gives weight and depth to their characters that’s rare in videogames. Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later as well as novel The Tesseract, flexes his literary muscles with deft touches that don't feel like the game is showing off that it has a famous writer behind it.

3) It has surprising humor

While most of the game occurs in quiet, melancholy tones, little rays of humor poke through to bring levity here and there. When Monkey and Trip first see Manhattan, they comment on whether thousands of people might have lived there, or even TENS of thousands, which while amusing, also reveals a bit about how sparse humans are in their world.

Above: Maybe even HUNDREDS of thousands

Later on, as they encounter some dirty piles of refuse, Monkey and trip have an off-hand exchange: “What is all this stuff?” Monkey says. Trip answers, “Just some ancient, redundant technology.” Panning the camera around reveals piles of boxes for 3D TVs.

4)  It has surfing on a holographic disc

It’s called the Cloud because the original Monkey King from Journey to the West could ride on a magical cloud. For Monkey of the post-apocalypse, it’s a small device he carries on his belt that is fueled by electromagnetic energy and projects a blue, glowing holographic disc that floats just above the ground or water. A click of the right stick pops it into or out of existence in certain areas. Riding it is like riding a hoverboard, but it has a squishy feel to its floatiness that only comes across through playing it yourself.

Above: Okay, we officially don't desire Marty McFly's hoverboard anymore

5) It may just have solved the “annoying AI partner” problem

Enslaved isn’t a co-op game, which means the partner AI isn’t there as a stopgap for people who can’t find a real friend to play with them. At least in the early chapters of the game, we haven’t encountered any stand-out annoying thing with Trip’s AI, which probably has a lot to do with the design – she’s not a combat partner like Sheva in Resident Evil 5. She won’t be using up ammo stupidly or wasting medpacks when you don’t want her to – nearly everything she does is controlled by you (a bit ironic considering Monkey is supposed to be the enslaved one).

Above: You can pick up Trip and have her piggyback at any time, if you don't want her wandering around

Monkey does have to save her from danger and help her climb obstacles, but these are scripted events, not the result of the AI doing dumb things. Trip is also a tool to be used – she can be commanded to heal you, create holographic distractions for enemies, and possibly other handy things. We’ve seen her get ever so slightly hung up on scenery, but we’ve never screamed at the TV “What are you doing? Follow me!” Somehow the game, which technically is one long escort mission, actually never feels like the chore that escort missions usually are.

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  • Korvak - September 27, 2010 5:34 p.m.

    NOO. This game was not supposed to be worth playing. My pocket can't take it. Well, it looks like a second job is in my future.
  • kompressorlogik - September 27, 2010 4:15 p.m.

    Still waiting on reviews for definitive answers, but this is looking very much like a first week purchase.
  • Spybreak8 - September 26, 2010 7:35 p.m.

    Reminds me of the Prince of Persia game (2008), the new one which was awesome to explore the world with Elika.
  • FauxFurry - September 25, 2010 6:24 a.m.

    @PurpleDragon-Rule 34 applies to EVERYTHING. Count on Monkey being slashed with his whoever his greatest male enemy is as often as Son Goku is slahed with Vegeta or Fox McCloud was slashed with Wolf O'Donnel. Heck, count on him being paied up with anyone and anything under the sun, including every other take on Monkey from Journey to the West. It even applies to the mystic cloud device just as it did to the Weighted Companion Cube. If it has character, it counts! Thinking of which, any word on Ki attacks? The mystic cloud being a surfing disc is a nice twist, so there might not be any aping of any other version of Monkey at all, which might make Enslaved a decidedly Kamehameha free outing.
  • slowdrum13 - September 24, 2010 11:33 p.m.

    @drewbian And that's exactly why they write articles like this. Its just advertising.
  • ChiefLethal - September 24, 2010 4:32 p.m.

    Just played the demo. Buying this day one as well. Very pretty game. Atypically high quality voice acting. It's rare to find play a demo that leaves me even slightly invested in the protagonist/s. Really looking forward to this.
  • FireTisane - September 24, 2010 4:29 p.m.

    It's always a hassle to get logged in here for me because I don't do it all the time. BUT! I had to log on and comment on this. I am completely thrilled by the prospect of this game. I really wanted it to be good but I had a nagging feeling that it would be crap so I was gonna wait for reviews, but ever since the demo came out, I have to say, I love the feel of the game and the robotics don't annoy me as much as I thought it would have. And Monkey really didn't come across as a meat head either. Getting out of that ship had me on edge and I just dig it for that. I did the same darn thing as a few others have too, I've just put in my pre-order for the game. I hope the Walmart preorder bonus works, I really want that red and gold outfit.
  • minelbp - September 24, 2010 3:54 p.m.

    Also the Show Dragon Ball is inspired by Odyssey to the West. So maybe some of your Dragon Ball fans might want to pick this up. The more people buy this game, the better the chances we get more games from Ninja Theory. Heavenly Sword was Fantastic, if not for the exciting combat, but for it's story. Great character design, beautiful art direction. And yes, I can't wait for the new DmC. I actually like the look of the new Dante. 10/5 can't come soon enough.
  • papergoon - September 24, 2010 10:08 a.m.

    孙悟空!but I hope it's not following "journey to the west" because that myth is crap imo
  • Joseyoho - December 25, 2013 11:53 p.m.

    WTF? U call one of the most classic novels ever in ancient China crap? Ur crazy and retarded
  • TheNesta - September 24, 2010 8:30 a.m.

    Trip? Is that her name? Yeah... I'm only going to be happy if you can kill her at the end of the game. No, I don't think I'm going to "warm up to her" throughout the course of the game after the bullshit in the beginning. Other than that? Yeah, surprisingly interested in this game after playing the demo. And I say that as someone who thought Heavenly Sword was a terrible game.
  • Ninjadmin - September 24, 2010 7:28 a.m.

    I wasnt interested in this to start with (F'ing HATE escort missions) but I played the demo on PS3 the other day & it completely blew me away. Now I cant wait to get it.
  • Shagnasty - September 24, 2010 6:42 a.m.

    This really reminds me of Beyond Good and Evil. God now I gotta play that game again. FUUUUU-
  • shyfonzie - September 24, 2010 5:37 a.m.

    So much excitement!
  • pollenski - September 24, 2010 3:26 a.m.

    You mention the tessaract and 28 days later but not the Beach by Alex garland? Probably one of my favourite books of all time! The film was so-so admittedly
  • JADENkOTOR - September 24, 2010 2:34 a.m.

    I have been waiting for this forever. I hope it is as fresh as it looks.
  • Mortified_Cow - September 24, 2010 12:19 a.m.

    Got this game pre-ordered and can't wait. Took a chance based on some previews/hands-on and this makes me feel even better about it.
  • reveffect - September 24, 2010 midnight

    never read the original chinese version of this story before but when you started talking about a monkey with a magic headband, extendable staff, and a magic floating cloud i instantly remembered an old ps1 game i played years ago called Monkey Magic and i swear that game was influenced by that story too even if the main story of that game was a bit different. seriously look up monkey magic on google and you will notice the similarities.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - September 23, 2010 11:27 p.m.

    The demo is fuggin' awesome, I'm interested.
  • ThePurpleDragon - September 23, 2010 10:53 p.m.

    @santaclouse37 Yep, rule 34, especially on a character as attractive as that, is inevitable. Beyond that, though, this game is looking amazing. I loved Heavenly Sword. It was one of the games that defined my first year of owning a Playstation 3. As soon as I saw the title that said you might fall in love with Trip, I KNEW that Alyx Vance was going to come up somewhere in there. She's simply the definitive 'fall in love with a video game character' girl. It would be hard not to include her there.