Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
|Enslaved: Odyssey to the West|
|Publisher(s)||Namco Bandai Games|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Release||PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
PlayStation 3 & Microsoft Windows
October 25, 2013
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an action-adventure platform video game developed by Ninja Theory and published by Namco Bandai Games. It was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 5, October 7 and October 8, 2010 in North America, Australia, Japan and Europe respectively. A premium version, featuring all DLC, was made for Microsoft Windows and Sony PlayStation 3 and was later released on October 25, 2013.
The story is a re-imagining of the novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en. Unlike the original story that was set in a fantastical version of ancient China, the game is set 150 years in a future post-apocalyptic world following a global war, with only remnants of humanity left, along with the still active war machines left over from the conflict. Like the original story however, the plot revolves around someone who forces the help and protection of a warrior, with many characters sharing the same names and roles. The game's story was written by Alex Garland, with voice talent and motion capture from Andy Serkis and Lindsey Shaw.
The player takes the role of "Monkey" in a third person perspective, using a variety of combat moves and platforming skills to overcome obstacles. In combat, Monkey utilizes a staff that doubles as both a close-combat and long range projectile weapon. The staff has two forms of long-range ammunition in the form of power cylinders: orange cylinders used for blast damage and blue cylinders used for stunning foes. Monkey can also stay stationary and charge his staff to use the same stun attack in close-combat. Enemies come in different varieties of combat mech, some of which may have shields and can only be damaged after being stunned while others cannot be stunned at all, requiring different approaches to combat. Certain mechs can also be used as weapons- Monkey can perform a finishing move on them when they are low on health, such as tearing the gun off a turret or throwing an explosive foe at other combat mechs. Other abilities of Monkey's include his force shield that can block certain amounts of damage before requiring a recharge and the "Cloud" device that manifests as a hover board that can be used to glide across the water or land at great speeds, gaining speed if it passes over blue orbs of energy littered across the area. Other than combat, the gameplay also heavily focuses on platforming where Monkey can scale and leap across the ruins throughout the game. Some areas and platforms will collapse shortly after, requiring faster scaling before potentially falling to his death.
During the game, Monkey is accompanied by Tripitaka, or simply "Trip" who is to be escorted and protected as they travel. Monkey has a device attached to his head that is linked to Trip. This device, called a slave head band in the game, requires Monkey to keep Trip alive, should she die he will as well. In some instances even just going too far away from her can result in the same fate. Trip, however, can help Monkey overcome obstacles at times by performing certain actions involving her technical skills (like hacking security doors using her wrist mounted computer), sometimes of her own accord, sometimes upon command of the player, depending on the situation. During key sections, Trip scans the surrounding area revealing hazards such as land mines or mechs on standby, allowing the player at times to attempt to avoid combat altogether. Trip can also project a temporary hologram to draw the enemy's attention away from Monkey as a decoy.
Having no combat ability of her own, Trip is very vulnerable in instances where she herself comes under attack by enemies. Her only last-ditch defense is an EMP blast, which she can use to temporarily stun mechs threatening her, but Monkey still has to defeat them before they can attack her again (since the EMP requires some time to recharge). Trip also plays a part in the platforming sections of the gameplay. While she is not as athletic as Monkey, she can crawl through small spaces and can be thrown up to platforms out of his jumping range, along with flipping switches out of his reach, making some sections of platforming more akin to puzzle-like forms of gameplay. Other instances where Monkey can make jumps/climbs, Trip instead will need to be thrown to the other side or ride on his back. Some sections of the game have Monkey and Trip separated, thus disallowing the use of her abilities for the player.
When enemies are defeated, they drop tech orbs that can be used to upgrade Monkey's abilities, allowing the player to learn new moves and abilities for combat and devices, along with increasing overall health and shields and damage that can be inflicted on enemies. Orbs can also be found littered across levels, sometimes hidden out of noticeable sight, requiring extra exploration at times.
Enslaved is a story set 150 years in the future where a global war has ravaged the Earth, destroying most of the human race and leaving the world to be plagued by robots left over from the war, known as "mechs". Although they are from a bygone era, they are still following their programming and seek to completely eradicate hostiles - in this case humanity.
The game opens with the main character, Monkey (Andy Serkis), awakening in a containment cell aboard a slave ship. He escapes and accidentally causes the vessel to crash. He manages to reach a woman named Trip (Lindsey Shaw) trying to leave the ship via escape pod, but she ejects the pod without allowing him to enter. When he regains consciousness after a fall, he discovers that she has placed a slave headband on him, which forces him to follow her orders and that if Trip dies, so does Monkey. Trip explains that she wants to return to her village, which is 300 miles away, and that she needs his help to get there. Monkey is angry, but complies when he realizes that he has no choice. The two travel across New York City toward the crash site, where Monkey hopes to recover his motorcycle. Along the way, glitches in the headband expose him to visions of what appears to be life before the war.
After visiting the crash site, the two travel the rest of the way on Monkey's motorcycle, but when they reach Trip's village, the place is deserted and overrun with mechs. After clearing the village of them, Monkey and Trip break into the safe room where they believe survivors are hiding, only to discover that Trip's father is dead and no other villagers can be found. Assuming everyone to be dead, Trip breaks her promise and refuses to remove Monkey's headband, explaining her intent to find and kill the person responsible.
Trip takes Monkey to meet up with a friend of her father's named Pigsy (Richard Ridings), who she believes can help them. Pigsy agrees to join them, and explains that a nearby mech base is currently housing an enormous and incredibly powerful weapon called the Leviathan. He gets a flying vehicle up and running, and the three follow a slave ship all the way to the base where the Leviathan is being held. They infiltrate the base, break the restraints off of the Leviathan, commandeer it and steer it in the direction of Pyramid, where the slaves are being held. Along the way, Trip apologizes to Monkey for breaking her deal and deactivates the headband, but Monkey tells her to turn it back on, hinting that they developed a romantic relationship on their journey together.
When the Leviathan reaches Pyramid, they are confronted with several giant scorpion-shaped mechs. The Leviathan's main cannon fends them off for a while, but one eventually climbs aboard and tears the cannon off, forcing Monkey to destroy the mech himself. With the Leviathan now defenseless and surrounded, Pigsy announces that the only way for them to destroy the opposing mechs is for him to overload the engines, which would blow up the Leviathan and kill Pigsy in the process. Trip frantically tries to convince him not to, but Pigsy demands that Monkey take her away from the blast radius, and Monkey complies. They make it away just in time to watch the Leviathan explode, bringing down all of Pyramid's mechs with it.
In the epilogue, Monkey and Trip enter Pyramid and discover that the slaves are under the control of a single individual. The man introduces himself as Pyramid (Andy Serkis) and explains that he lived before the war, and that he offers the slaves solace from the cruel world by sharing with them his memories of a happier era. He believes he is saving them, and pleads with Monkey and Trip not to take away what he has given them. Monkey recognizes the memories as the visions he'd been seeing with the headband on. Pyramid shows Monkey what he has given the slaves through a mask. Monkey becomes enthralled with the images, but Trip violently disconnects and kills Pyramid, shutting down the system and freeing the slaves. The scene ends with Trip asking Monkey if she did the right thing, leaving those in the pyramid and their future unknown.
Enslaved was first announced in September 2009, initially as just Enslaved for release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2010, revealing the plot, first screenshots and other details including the involved Andy Serkis and Alex Garland, the former having worked on Ninja Theory's previous title Heavenly Sword. Serkis first involved himself with the studio as motion capture was becoming more prominent in video games. The gameplay was developed to include more variety than their last projects, with multiple approaches to scenarios, such as stealth to avoid combat altogether and/or using Trip's own abilities to their advantage. The design choice behind this according to creative director Tameem Antionades was to make portions of the gameplay more "tactical", being at times "a puzzle game in disguise" outside of the actual puzzle portions of gameplay. The combat itself opted less for the combination-style of attacks in most combat-heavy action games, being more accessible/stream-lined while including the different abilities, equipment, enemy types and scenarios to not become too easy either, still requiring thought. The involvement of Trip was to not make her a "dead-weight" to the gameplay, with her abilities instead being helpful with her own unique abilities, making her the "brains" while Monkey is the "brute".
The use of motion capture was considered by Serkis to be akin to that in film where it supposedly helps craft a story in a virtual world. With the same method being carried over from their development on Heavenly Sword, the studio utilized the motion capture to benefit the story and characters, particularity with facial animations to capture better realistic emotions. The technology itself was said to be advanced, even requiring a mathematician for the more complex portions of coding. Beyond facial animation, most of the motion capture was utilized prominently during the cut-scenes as many of the actions within the gameplay itself were considered "physically impossible". Serkis felt that the motion capture also allowed for better performances in the dialogue itself; that "if you don't feel in the moment of filming that the character is moving you or engaging you or transporting you somewhere, it won't work. So you take that right into the recording of the dialogue. So it's about trying to keep that dynamic - that relationship on stage - going, rather than having this scenario that normal games have where you just go to the booth and record your lines."
Serkis was involved in the development of Enslaved from the beginning, while Garland became involved 6 months later yet was fully involved in the script as one of the key aspects of the development, according to creative director Tameem Antionades, was "trying to change the course of gaming in terms of storytelling, with emotionally engaging characters". Previously only concept and character designs were created thus far. The story itself however is originally based on Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of China, where the two principal characters Monkey and Tripitaka must travel across a landscape with Monkey following Tripitaka's instructions, the novel being used more as a basis on the plot rather than a straight adaptation. One of the more important aspects of the script was the characterization and interaction. In regard to character relationships in video games, with other mentioned examples including 2001 PlayStation 2 game Ico, chief of development Nina Kristensen described theirs as at first opposites whose relationship evolves as they learn to rely on each other in the hostile setting. The script itself was for some time developed separately before joining with the gameplay developers in order to "mesh" both the story and gameplay. In order to achieve this, a cinematologist was employed to teach editing, camera and film language techniques. Such techniques, along with the use of music, were used in order to make coherent transitions between cut-scenes and gameplay.
Prior to the game's release, a playable demo was released over Xbox Live and PlayStation Network on 21 September 2010. The demo features the first playable chapter of the game where Monkey escapes the crashing slave ship, the level also acting as a tutorial for the gameplay mechanics. Along with the standard edition of the game, various video game and general retailers offered exclusive extra content to those who pre-ordered the game. In North America alone, there were five different versions depending on the retailer. EB Games Canada and GameStop offered a downloadable extra costume for Monkey called Ninja Monkey that came with "rare stun and plasma blast staff ammo", while Walmart offered a "Classic Monkey" costume based on the original tale's protagonist and Best Buy offered a robot skin for Trip, all with their own perks. Amazon.com however offered the official soundtrack to the game while Target Corporation offered a miniature paper back comic.
In the UK, other retailers and websites like Game and Play.com offered similar bonuses while HMV released the "Talent Pack", which came in an exclusive presentation packaging and included the official soundtrack and a copy of the novel The Tesseract written by Alex Garland. Across Europe, a "Collector's Edition" was also released that featured both the soundtrack and a hard-back art book of concept art and character and level designs. The game itself was finally released on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 5 October and 8 October 2010 in North America and Europe respectively.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has received positive reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Xbox 360 version 83.66% and 82/100, and the PlayStation 3 version 82.23% and 80/100.
Much of the praise was directed at the art style, described by McKinley Noble of GamePro as "vividly detailed... that teem with color and light", that "for a post-apocalyptic world, Enslaved shines with gorgeous landscapes, bright scenery, and colorful environments. It's a world where nature is slowly growing over the ruins of the modern age, and the levels all look incredibly vibrant as a result." Edge echoed this view in what they felt was the game's "greatest achievement, standing out in the crowded field of me-too, colour-sapped videogame apocalypses, serving as a vibrant oasis in the otherwise murky brown wastes." Along with the colourful, detailed setting, further praise came from the characters themselves, particularly their dialogue and facial animations. Matthew Keast of GamesRadar felt that "what Enslaved represents is a more mature approach to storytelling, and by being more subtle (and even ambiguous in many of its character’s reactions to each other) it develops quite an emotional payoff", summarizing that it was "a game to justify the gaming medium as legitimate for storytelling". GameTrailers also praised "the voicework and motion capture, much of which bears the mark of the inimitable Andy Serkis, is several notches above what you'd expect from a game. The characters frequently sell you on their humanity with subtle facial gestures, which is truly a superb achievement."
In regard to the combat, while Jim Sterling of Destructoid called it "varied enough despite the simplicity of the commands", the more positive aspects came from "the interactions between Monkey and Trip that really put Enslaved ahead", along with Monkey's cloud disk that "it's so easy for "vehicular" sections of an action game to fall apart, but by keeping the controls for both Monkey and the Cloud uniform, Ninja Theory has crafted an excellent little steed for our nimble hero". Tom Mc Shea of GameSpot felt that "neither the combat nor the platforming are great on their own, but smart pacing ensures that you're always experiencing something new. Thrilling set-piece sequences are injected between the standard action fare, which create rousing moments of unbridled excitement." Arthur Gies of IGN however felt that the controls were "loose" at times, along with "charitable" platforming being more of puzzle-based portion of the gameplay and relatively non-hazardous.
Some critics found a number of technical issues at times, reportedly being more prevalent in the PlayStation 3 version, including jagged textures and some characters missing during cutscenes.
The game received 6 nominations from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences but won no awards.
Namco Bandai hoped Enslaved would have sold a million units by November 2010; however, the game only sold 460,000 copies by that date. By September 2011 sales of 730,000 had been achieved but this was not considered substantial enough to warrant continuation of the franchise so a planned sequel was cancelled.
Pigsy's Perfect 10
|Pigsy's Perfect 10|
|Publisher(s)||Namco Bandai Games|
|Release||PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
November 23, 2010
PlayStation 3 & Microsoft Windows
October 22, 2013
Pigsy's Perfect 10 is a downloadable expansion to Enslaved. Acting as a prequel to the main story where players take control of the character Pigsy, being a side-story rather than directly linked to not interfere with the events of the main game that followed. In addition to the new chapters, the DLC also provides the option to display and play through both the main game and add-on in stereoscopic 3D. It uses the TriOviz for Games Technology which allows to display the game in three dimensions on 3D-HDTV set (via HDMI 1.3 or HDMI 1.4 connection) as well as on traditional 2D-HDTV set with the Inficolor 3D glasses. The DLC was first released on both platforms on November 23, 2010.
Since the player takes the role of Pigsy, the gameplay has also changed due to his difference in character and build compared to Monkey. While Pigsy can still climb over terrain, he cannot scale buildings as fast or athletically. Instead, Pigsy utilizes a mechanical grappling hand attached to his own to reach higher places and swing over obstacles and large gaps. When in combat, without the same fighting skills as Monkey, Pigsy instead wields a long-ranged rifle and grenades. Stealth is also a preferable approach to gameplay, requiring at times to avoid combat altogether.
Set prior to the events of Enslaved, Pigsy currently lives a solitary life in the scrap yard with his only companion, a small flying robot named "Truffles" that helps Pigsy scout scraps and advice in combat. Due to his loneliness, Pigsy decides to build himself a friend, yet it would require three key components that he along with Truffles must find in the scrap yard populated by mechs. While Truffles helps throughout his search, Pigsy seems unappreciative and prioritizes his new creation. As Pigsy retrieves the final component, Truffles is damaged and shuts down in the process. With his new friend nearly complete, Pigsy learns that what his creation actually needs is a "heart", inserting Truffles inside. When activated however, his creation runs amok before being gathered up by a salvaging mech. Pigsy gives chase and fights his way into the main scrap collector. When he finally retrieves Truffles and escapes, Pigsy finds that Truffles was his real friend this entire time. Being greatly damaged however, Truffles shuts down permanently with Pigsy realizing too late that he took his only friend for granted and vows not to make the same mistake again.
Upon its release, Pigsy's Perfect 10 received a fair to generally favorable response with an average critic score of 79 and 69 out of 100 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 respectively on Metacritic. Like Enslaved, critics praised the quality of characterization and story-telling while others noted the varied new gameplay additions. GameTrailers found the story to be a "tale [that] is light-hearted, and you'll likely grow much fonder of Pigsy before the end", while GamesRadar concluded by stating "we can't say why it affected us so much, which is a testament to Ninja Theory's storytelling process – it just sneaked up on us and went somewhere really cool". GameCritics was particularly positive toward the DLC that "it builds on a character in a way not seen during the main game, but of equal import, the gameplay offered was not only interesting, but substantial enough to stand on its own." Other critics however were critical at the trial and error sections of gameplay, which Game Trailers said "clumsy controls cause occasional frustration as one wrong move can mean death", a view echoed by Eurogamer who criticized the "anachronistic trial-and-error gameplay, which grinds its gears and snaps your patience once too often."
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