Enslaved Odyssey to the West Demo Impressions

Perhaps it’s the conditioning set by previous post apocalyptic titles–which favor dull gray and brown blooms–but the world presented to me in Enslaved seems deliciously alien. Make no mistake, the world has ended here–but nature has taken its course too, like it invariably always does. In case you didn’t know, the setting of Enslaved is Earth…after most humankind has been eradicated. And, as a result, there are few humans left to fuck around with anything. There are, however, robots roaming the land with bygone military orders to eliminate humans.

This idea was not immediately apparent, because of a tutorial that overstayed its welcome. Admittedly, this ‘tutorial’ almost turned me off from the game completely: is the strength of the design so shoddy that Ninja Theory felt the need to tell me that I should jump with A from one ledge to the other? Did I really need to be tested on that concept for ten minutes? Learning how to play is important, but not as important for getting an overall feel for the game, no? The focus on the basics seemed out of place in a product meant to sell me on the game–and if there’s one thing this game has going for it, it’s the atmosphere and narrative.

And, that’s the clincher. I did not feel swooned by Enslaved for the majority of the demo, since it seemed more concerned with taking care of a chore than it did with showing me what it was really all about.

Other minor gripes came with noticing the lack of ‘weight’ felt when the protagonist starts undertaking treacherous platforming. He’s a big guy…shouldn’t I feel some minor weight shift? The character on the screen performed amazing vaults and tricks, but honestly, I didn’t believe it. How could I? I didn’t feel it. That wasn’t me. It was a disembodied experience which took a liking to acknowledging the dichotomy between the avatar on screen and the person sitting in a room controlling it. I was aware of my controller prosthetic, and that makes for a jarring experience.

I wasn’t impressed, to say the least…until Ninja Theory decided to take the gloves off for the last couple of minutes of the demo. Suddenly, I was catching glimpses of the world around me, took notice of the underutilized aesthetic. Lush, lush greens and brighter palettes as far as the eye can see. Make no mistake about it: reviews will be making many comparisons to Uncharted because of this.

The similarities go beyond the aesthetic, though…the platforming is extremely reminiscent of Uncharted, too. Platforming design felt tight and engrossing, despite being heavily directed: there’s only one way to go. In the last minute or so of the demo, the protagonist vaults across a large airborne structure in an attempt to save his life before the vehicle hits a skyscraper. Suddenly the platforming becomes less of a chore and more of a fast paced cinematic adventure. Some people claim that they didn’t realize they could move around during cutscenes in Uncharted, but something like that didn’t happen to me until I played Enslaved. The first time the game showed me that the aircraft was about to hit the skyscraper, I thought that it was just a cinematic. Imagine my surprise when the game tells me I’ve died–I had no idea I was supposed to be playing that entire time! The best part about that is, the game promises to showcase things usually reserved for QTEs–things that are cool, if you were capable of focusing on the action and not on the buttons you’re supposed to be pressing. Also like Uncharted! During these sequences, I could just…feel it. They weren’t there to lacklusterly drive a point home, like the tutorial was, they there were there to be played, to get lost in.

These last few minutes of Enslaved alone were impressive enough to put the title on my radar. You should definitely check out the demo on PSN or XBL and give it a whirl yourself. Until then, treat yourself to this trailer: