Enslaved is a vividly detailed post-apocalyptic action-adventure with an electrifying setting, expressive characters, mature storytelling and thrilling setpieces.
Most people are familiar with the story of Journey to the West in some form or another. This classic mythological novel is set in a fantastical version of China and follows three disciples (Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand) as they travel to different locations. This classic tale has been adapted several times and while Ninja Theory’s Enslaved takes some liberties with the story, this re-imagining is well worth your time.
Set in a post-apocalyptic New York City, Enslaved puts you in the shoes of Monkey, after he escapes captivity in a flying ship. He’s accompanied by a red-haired girl known as Trip who he has to protect and obey at all times because should anything happen to her, the bandana on Monkey’s head will kill him. Monkey agrees to take Trip to her hometown which is 300 miles from where they start their journey and once she returns to her farm, the girl promises to set Monkey free. But in this post-apocalyptic world not only is New York completely in ruins, there are also mechanized robots that eradicate anyone that’s still alive. Luckily, Monkey practices a form of parkour and he can perform a combination attacks to dispatch anyone who poses a threat.
As the story progresses so does the relationship between Monkey and Trip and that’s one of the game’s most enchanting aspects. In a way, the protagonist are stuck with each other, but it’s really touching to see how they become warm and accustomed to one another as they have adventures together. There are some surprises when it comes to the story and while I won’t reveal anything about the game’s plot, there’s more to Enslaved than meets the eye.
Apart from the usual light and heavy attacks, you also have a shield-breaking and sweep attacks. Believe it or not, that’s more than enough to keep the combat fresh for the ten-hour campaign, though you’ll be doing much more than engage in combat in Enslaved. For one, not only can you control Monkey, but also Trip, though not directly. You can enter a separate menu and give her commands, such as “distract enemies” or “move in Monkey’s direction” which is helpful in different situations. She can also use an EMP discharge that will paralyze mechs for a limited time which is usually more than enough time to defeat them. Apart from getting to places Monkey can’t reach, Trip can also upgrade your equipment, scan your surroundings for enemies, fix and activate machinery and more.
Traversing through the different environments is also important and for the most part, the parkour-based platforming is both eye-catching and a competent way of moving from point A to point B. There’s certain weight to the way in which the protagonist moves and this makes both the combat and the platforming sequences convincing. Monkey grabs to the edges of platforms, he clumsily stumbles when he’s about to fall and he gracefully executes attacks. This also helps bring some of the bombastic setpieces to life, such as the introductory chapter that puts you in the middle of a falling ship and you see engines explode, wings torn apart and towers collapse. Also, while I enjoyed the platforming sequences, they also felt incredibly contrived because you can only grab to certain platforms and it was almost impossible to just fall and die.
Enslaved looks terrific, but at a price. Although most characters and setting are outstanding from a visual standpoint, look a little deeper and you’ll notice blurry textures that pop up here and there and there were definitely instances in my playthrough when the framerate dropped to a crawl for an instant.
Enslaved is a vividly detailed post-apocalyptic action-adventure game with an electrifying setting, expressive characters, mature storytelling and thrilling setpieces. There are some issues here and there, such as the simplistic combat, basic JRPG elements and some technical missteps. For the most part though, Ninja Theory has crafted another memorable adventure that feels mature, human, well-paced and stunning to look at.