It's late; we've finished writing for the day. But having tried out Enslaved: Odyssey To The West just moments ago, we had to get our thoughts down on digital paper. Ninja Theory's attempt at re-telling the classic Chinese novel "Journey To The West" has us hooked. It's been a while since we went into a game with so few expectations and came out with so many.
Enslaved tells the story of "Monkey", a captive man in a post-apocalyptic world. Monkey has spent his life trying to escape the machines that have captured him; and our demo starts with another escape attempt.
We're chasing an awkward girl — who's later revealed as "Trip" — across a vast airship. She's had the opportunity to save us multiple times, but has ignored our requests. Still, two people are stronger than one, so we go in pursuit of her assistance. Enslaved's been developed in the Unreal Engine; a platform we've been quick to criticise in the past. Here, it looks stunning though. Ninja Theory have created an inviting world. It's not the typical post-apocalyptic setting. The space-ship is luscious and the outside world is bright and organic. The engine struggles to maintain a solid frame-rate during some of the demo's more intense moments, and there's a hint of tearing; but otherwise it's convincing use of Epic's technology.
As we journey through the airship, we familiarise ourselves with Enslaved's mechanics. The game seems to focus on two key elements: combat and platforming. The latter is particularly on-rails during our demonstration, but is likely to get more complicated as the campaign furthers. That said, it's still impressive. As Monkey's search for Trip - and freedom - intensifies, we find ourselves clamoring across the wings of the air-ship as it floats above an overgrown New York. Enslaved is incredibly cinematic, and as such its camera can be a bit wayward. While this can have an impact on control at points, it gives the game an Uncharted-vibe; a comparison which no developer would want to shun.
The other key mechanic, the combat, is based around the use of the Square and Triangle button. This allows you to alternate between light and hard attacks. You can also use the Square button in conjunction with X to break enemy blocks. The camera zooms in and shakes during combat, which makes it satisfying to take down enemies but can be a bit unwieldy.
Ultimately, it's the story and character's that drew us in. Monkey may be a little gruff, but the female character Trip is interesting. You can tell weeks of Ninja Theory's development time's gone into putting a level of tragedy behind Trip's eyes; something we've never seen in a video game - not even Uncharted 2.
The demo ends with Trip holding Monkey captive due to the placement of an electronic head-band. The pair must fight together, or die together.
We were left questioning what will become of the duo; and most importantly caring about their fates. We seriously cannot wait to find out.