Enslaved: Odyssey to the West First Impressions

We got a first look at the lead characters, combat, and platforming in Ninja Theory's follow-up to Heavenly Sword.

Most visions of a postapocalyptic future involve a crumbling society, decaying cities, and a colour palette that doesn't stretch beyond grey and brown. With Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Heavenly Sword developer Ninja Theory has created a third-person adventure whose futuristic world is filled with vivid colours and rich vegetation.

Enslaved is loosely based on the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West (known as Monkey in Western countries) but is set 150 years into the future. A widespread conflict has led humanity to the brink of extinction, leaving a mere 50,000 humans left alive on the planet. Robotic drones created to fight in the wars are the only remnants of the conflict and serve as futuristic mines, killing anyone who dares disturb them. With so few people left, the planet has reverted back to an almost Eden-like state, with vibrant plant life taking over the dilapidated cities. The remaining humans are split into two camps: those who live in small communities and those who choose to go it on their own, living in the wild.

The protagonist, Monkey, is one of the latter group and has learnt to survive using just his bare hands. Unfortunately for him, there are still some humans left hoping to capitalise on the misfortune of others. Mysterious slave ships have been capturing humans, fitting them with painful headbands, and transporting them to the West. Monkey is one of those captured, along with a girl called Trip from a windfarm commune. She manages to steal a slave headband, reprogram it, and fit it to Monkey, giving her complete control over his actions. She uses Monkey to escape the slave ship and orders him to take her home.

Vegetation thrives in the postapocalyptic cities.

The game focuses on the uneasy relationship between these two characters. They have incredibly different views about life, with Trip believing in the safety that comes from living with others and Monkey believing in the solitary life. Though Monkey is forced to help Trip, he eventually learns to care for her over the course of the game. Ninja Theory has gone to great lengths to ensure that the story and the relationship between Monkey and Trip are at the heart of the game. 28 Days Later writer Alex Garland has been brought on board to help pen the script, and Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis has been brought in to voice and motion-capture Monkey.

Our demo began shortly after Monkey and Trip had managed to escape the slave ship as it crashed into New York. You take control of Monkey, while the AI takes control of Trip. She automatically follows you around, but you're also able to pick her up and carry her, as well as tell her to hide while you scout ahead to take on enemies. What immediately struck us was the organic look of the city. Huge green trees sprouted out of the tops of tall skyscrapers, dense foliage carpeted the roads, and the overall vibrancy of the world was beautiful to behold. The duo were trying to make their way to the crash site, passing by piles of rusted crates and a huge ravine that ran through the centre of the city. They soon came across an impassable gap, which required a spot of platforming. Trip wasn't as physically able as Monkey and required help when passing through certain areas. Monkey was able to climb up some crates but had to pull Trip up behind him afterwards. In another section he had to throw Trip across large gaps, which she was unable to cross by jumping. The platforming reminded us of Assassin's Creed, as there was a lot of swinging from poles, clambering up the sides of buildings, and shimmying across ledges.

Trip is helpless when cornered by a mech.

The next section showed off combat in the game. Because most of the human race is extinct, the majority of enemy encounters are against mechs. We saw several different types: some that resembled humans, complete with robotic arms and legs, and others that were more specialised, taking the form of weapons, such as turrets. The mechs were inactive until disturbed by a human presence, and a circular line around them indicated their area of detection. Because of the circular line, it was entirely possible to skip around enemy encounters or sneak up on enemies and use Trip to weaken them first. She's able to scout areas using a dragonfly-like drone that lives in her hair, project decoys to distract enemies, and read enemy blueprints to identify weaknesses. One example we were shown saw Trip distract a group of mechs with a decoy, which allowed Monkey to sneak around them via a set of platforms and climbable walls. Once behind them, he was able to use knowledge gained from blueprints to rip off their minigun-powered arms and finish them off in a blaze of bullets.

You can also choose the direct approach and face mechs head-on. Monkey carries a staff, which can be used both in melee combat or as a long-range weapon. He has four types of moves: block, standard attack, heavy attack, and clearance attack. Each of these can be chained together, though Ninja Theory was keen to stress that the combat system was simple to pick up and was not combo-heavy. We were impressed with what we saw: Monkey pounded mechs into the ground with an overhead smash and looked incredibly powerful thanks to some fluid character animation. We also saw some God of War-inspired quick-time sequences, where Monkey tore into a demolition-ball-wielding berserker, leaping onto its back and ripping out its circuitry. There are other God of War-style touches, such as the collectible red orbs that can be used to upgrade Monkey's weaponry.

Feel my fists of fury, mechanised madman!

Ninja Theory likened the relationship of Monkey and Trip to that of Nariko and Kai from Heavenly Sword and promised that the game would conjure up the same complex emotions and character development that feature in a good drama. Unfortunately, we were unable to see much of this in our demo, as it still had placeholder animations and slightly amusing computer synthesised voice-overs. Enslaved is due out towards the end of 2010, but Namco Bandai has promised that more on the game will be revealed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.

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Discussion

103 comments
hrothgar99
hrothgar99

@yoda101280 monkey is a pretty common name in Japanese anime ....monkey d. luffy from one piece ....and their was another guy called monkey somthin in a show i cant remember ....they r not being racist ....dese guys are the funny ...but loyal and brave leads of most anime s

ClaytonOnCall
ClaytonOnCall

The male character design reminds me of Jak from Jak and Daxter. I'm not digging it either.

Twin-Blade
Twin-Blade

Looks alright. First thing I thought after reading that was how much I'm going to hate the chick. Not only are we going to have to escort her around, we're being forced to. I'm interested in how they'll try to get the audience to like her. I just hope it isn't short.

Heavenly_King
Heavenly_King

the male character designs sucks, everything else looks cool.

Mar28jw
Mar28jw

heavenly sword was about the only reason i stole the occasional jealous glance at PS3 owners from my 360,they should make a multiformat sequel or buy out the rights from sony and release the original on the 360 where i think it would do much better than it done on the PS3

itchyflop
itchyflop

guys can you make this game a little longer than the last, though heavenly sword was probably one of the best looking and well designed games ever!!! too short though!!!

yoda101280
yoda101280

Yes, I watched the video and I heard what he said it was based on, I'm not actually trying to say that it is racist but these days just the simblance or a hint at it is enough to spark the flame. I'll be honest, i'm a black guy and even I think it's ridiculous these days. I mean honestly they were saying transformers was racist and avatar, gimme a break heh. But yeah, I wasn't saying it was racist just that the coincidence of the naming could lead to trouble for them. :)

armedvigilante
armedvigilante

looks nice even though there were no gameplay reals the way he described it seemed thorough it almost seemed like he was describing something real, hopefully this will be good

armedvigilante
armedvigilante

haha he is the cheif creative ninja lol i bet he made that name up

il-capitani
il-capitani

@yoda101280, the story of monkey is an actual ancient chinese legend about when the chinese monkey god finally got into heaven and started causing trouble, as a result Buddah sent him back to earth to help guide a priest called TRIPitaka to nirvana. Nothing racist about it. There used to be a TV show called "Monkey Magic" that was on in the 1980's, you tube it.

monkeyspoon
monkeyspoon

Is the PS3 the lead platform for this?

johny300
johny300

monkey? hahaha.looks interesting.

DEATH775
DEATH775

I hope I can pull off some sick moves with monkey like I did with Noriko.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

Heavenly Sword is still the only game so far that is in the same genre as God of War, and also actually competes with it. For sheer cinematics and an unforgettable experience, Heavenly Sword was unmatched until God of War III came. Really looking forward to this sequel :)

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

Heavenly Sword was an outstanding game and well done. But I have my doubts about this one. Time will only tell as we see more on its development.

ginop73
ginop73

@yoda101280 it would be all over oprah the day it came out

yoda101280
yoda101280

Hmm, so the games is called Enslaved and the lead character is named Monkey? I guess they should count themselves lucky they didn't make him black because I already see the racial implications of those choices, heh.

Claidheamb_mor
Claidheamb_mor

Ninja Theory is an interesting developer. Their games make me want a PS3 even more.

DFBTG
DFBTG

Maybe if HS was longer and had more replay value it'd have made more profit. The game's good, but even now is selling for way more than it's worth. Clocking in at 6 hours long at best (without any multiplayer), of course it's not going to sell well, especially because it came out when so few people had a PS3. Better games are out now, they made a good game but not that good of a game. All being said, I'm not too ruffled by this being multiplatform. Sure exclusives are nice, but so long as this is longer and has more replay value, I don't care.

dalym3n
dalym3n

trip is sexy but very similar to HS hero female... they must have some sort of fetish with red head girls... i have HS and i like the game a lot, was fun to play with the little girl and her "gun"

DaGhOsT187
DaGhOsT187

So i figure this game will be solid also~ Ill buy ,Heavenly sword and Metal gear solid 4 where the first games i bought when i got my PS3 slim

DaGhOsT187
DaGhOsT187

Heavenly sword was a badd ass game with a killer fighting system to me ~whole game was solid !! i pray for HS2 , reason the first one did not do so awesome was it came out at ps3 launch almost when like 2 people had the system.Ok maybee 3 and ps3 where still like 500$

roganth
roganth

@WarPrime some of the images are screenshots, they have a primitive build working now as stated in the article, but I agree with your scepticism about a 2010 release as for why some ask its multiplatform, because they didn't make a profit on HS which only sold 1.5M copies on single platform

Ares360
Ares360

Trip looks exactly like Nariko from Heavenly Sword. Hopefully they can make another great game just over 5 hours long.

Rahnyc4
Rahnyc4

bloath cant really make a lot of money as ps3 exclusive. you want to make money or a decent amount, you have to go multi platform. anyway this game looks horrible and that character trip is basically Nariko. there not fooling anybody.

bloath
bloath

I wonder what made them switch from ps3 exclusive developer to multi platform developer...

WarPrime
WarPrime

If all they are showing is Concept art, it feels unlikely that they will be releasing this game at the end of the year.

newhighscore
newhighscore

i didnt even bother to read this or even look at the pictures. the first thing i saw was that it was multi plat and knew immediately it wasnt going to be anywhere near as good as Heavenly Sword. hopefully they will get another crack at HS and keep it exclusive. That game still has the best use of the sixaxis to date and a really fun and fluid fighting engine too.

oajlu
oajlu

it's not going to be as good as heavenly sword in terms of "graphics". cuz it's multi-platform...7GB DVD vs. 50GB blue-ray...sigh

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

i agree, i don't like the look of the main character either. (but Tekken were great games)

OniRaitei
OniRaitei

Everything looks great except the main character. I have to say that Monkey is visually boring. A shirtless guy in some pants with the overused Namco Tekken hair just doesn't stand out to me.

BelovedSpear
BelovedSpear

Ah. Monkey being Hanuman, the Monkey God. And "Trip" is short for Tripitaka, the bodhisatva who Monkey escorts. But...will we get Sandy and Pigsy as well? This use of eastern mythology reminds me of Okami. Could be really good, so long as the gameplay isn't as button-mashy as Heavenly Sword. Even the most beautiful and well-acted game gets old when your thumbs hurt.

AIthalus
AIthalus

Trip really reminds me of Nariko.. lol Hopefully this game takes more than one day to play through.

ruythalacker
ruythalacker

I liked Heavenly Sword, but it was too short. This one looks interesting, and hopefully longer than Heavenly Sword.

theexlaw999
theexlaw999

kinda hoping for a sequel or prequel to heavenly sword....this had better deliver

Gen007
Gen007

interesting im getting a jak and daxter vibe from this. Its def looking like one of those games that can either go very right or very wrong.

F-14-D_TOMCAT
F-14-D_TOMCAT

like @ cadahnic1 said, I also hope this game will be longer than hevenly sword. Heavenly sword was a nice ps3 game but its major flaw was the short campaign.

morgonstjarnan
morgonstjarnan

What I loved about Heavenly Sword was the great acting, cool world, and even better story. I am SO F¤#+ing tired of "dark" antiheroes. Bayonette, Darksiders, God of War, Dante's Infero. Fine, you're emo and like black eyeliner, we get it. Nariko had a genuinely good heart, but that didn't stop her from cutting down an entire army plotting to enslave her people. More of that!!

cadahnic1
cadahnic1

hopefully this game is longer than that 5hr Heavenly Sword they put out years ago. Ninja Theory does good work, but I need some length to my 60 dollar investments. Elian2530 you are right he looks like Goku, Jin, and Paul had some type of gene spliced kid.

smoman5000
smoman5000

i liked heavenly sword, it had lackluster combat but amazing production values, Enslaved looks even better.

Elian2530
Elian2530

Cool premise, as I dont mind another post-apocalyptic game to my collection but I'm heavily turned off by the character design. Monkey, terribly named, looks like a mix of Dragonball Z with Tekken. His head looks like a tip of an asparagus. How they let this pass is dumbfounded. Trip on the other hand, looks pretty cool. Like Nariko's other half or something to that effect. I extremely hate the character design for monkey, and Im serious when I say I will not be buying the game because of him. It's so important that you like the character you are controlling, especially when you know how he or she looks like. It's just sad.. I loved Heavenly Sword, but this is just ridiculous.

Swindleton
Swindleton

Alex Garland! Consider me interested, should add some depth to an already charming idea. Anyone remember the Monkey T.V. series?

johny300
johny300

well ninja theory made HS.so this game will be good i hope.

GWA17
GWA17

sounds interesting