There seems to be a sort of epidemic going on with third-person melee action games. Every one seems to have huge, long combos and enemies that require thirty hits to take down. And there always has to be some kind of air juggle. Well from what we’ve seen, it’s not the case with Enslaved. The combat is simple – Monkey has combos, but they don’t get ridiculous. Combat is also not the main focus of the game – most of the time, Monkey and Trip explore the environment and figure out how to get from A to B. It’s also not a bloody game – the only enemies we’ve seen are mechs, and although we have seen some brutal finishing animations of boss mechs, the focus isn’t on mass slaughter of fleshbags.
Above: Boss mechs are intimidating, but you won't have to memorize twenty different combos to beat them
And Monkey, actually. For a female character, Trip goes the Alyx Vance route rather than Bayonetta. She’s vulnerable, and her fear is downright palpable when danger comes her way. She’s beautiful, and maybe a little sexy, but she’s not an ogling object. She just wants to reunite with her family, and as the story unfolds, we get to see more dimensions to her character.
Above: "Those eyes, they see right into me!"
The other surprise is how likeable Monkey is. He may look and sound like the typical macho meathead, but his actions and emotions convey a certain warmth and gusto that’s admirable in a non-cocky kind of way.
Aside from the fear shown by the two main characters at their situation, it’s the world and the moments within it that provide a feeling of danger and uncertainty lacking in typical third-person action games. Monkey is a badass fighter, but he’s always freaked out and the enemies always feel cold and intimidating. The world looks so rickety and crumbling that it feels as if anything could collapse and crush, drop, or mangle poor Monkey at any time.
Above: Gigantic, sleeping mech, anyone? We don't know if we'll see anything this big actually walking around
With the ominous, oppressive presence of the slave ships hinted at as a looming threat, there’s also the mysterious sense of a horrible fate – the people running the ships are clearly overpoweringly equipped and ruthless in their pursuit of slaves. On top of that, the unknown nature of what happens when the ships take slaves west makes the threat all the more menacing and inscrutable.
Tiny glowing sparks float around everywhere in Enslaved’s world, and collecting them becomes compulsive for two reasons: they’re used to purchase upgrades to abilities, and they give the player a reason to explore and see the unique world. Since climbing all over the terrain is a big part of the game, it’s expanded upon more if you so choose. And details in the environment make it worthwhile – hints at previous human lives tucked away in secret corners add to the realism of the backstory.
Above: Just another day looking for XP sparks
All of the aspects we’ve mentioned come together in a way that makes Enslaved feel not quite like anything we’ve played before. We haven’t seen revolutionary gameplay concepts, but the melding of characterization, a world with its own history, and moments of organically created tension come together to make something that we hope turns out to be special. The beginning chapters are told brilliantly, so we’re crossing our fingers that the rest of the plot follows through in a satisfying way. Considering how powerful the initial story elements are, the ending may just be spectacular – although possibly in an understated way, if that makes sense. What we mean is that Enslaved’s strength is in quiet power, in nuance and detail, and we really want to see if it can deliver on this unusual approach.
Sep 23, 2010
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