Pimping the New (a plea of sorts)

Everybody has their own gaming habits. Personally, I like to have a fair few games on the go at any one time. It means it takes me an age to finish anything, especially considering what limited time I have available to dedicate to my hobby. It also means I am hardly ever on the bleeding edge, tending to be months behind my Xbox Live friends when it comes to playing the latest titles. However, this habit does have its merits –the major one being that things stay fresh and varied.

A good example of this is my experience with Ninja Theory’s sci-fi adventure, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The detractors accuse the game of having a repetitive combat system that becomes tedious by the latter stages of the game. In contrast, fans of the game laud the narrative, the vivid game world and the warmth of the characters within it. Fortunately for me my habit of flitting between games, playing bite-sized pieces at a time has meant that I’ve been able to side-step any issues regarding repetitive gameplay mechanics, and been able to revel in the game’s wonderful story, world and characters.

I could probably use the previous two paragraphs as a means to launch into a ham-fisted and downright amateurish review of Enslaved, but instead I decided that this should be a plea of sorts. A plea to those gamers enamoured of narrative’s role within videogames who haven’t played Enslaved to go out and do so.

My reasons? Well firstly and to repeat what I mentioned earlier, the narrative is excellent; a sci-fi spin on the 16th century classical Chinese novel, Journey to the West. The player takes on the role of Monkey, the reluctant companion of Trip, a fellow survivor of a crashed slave ship. Together they journey towards salvation, avoiding the ever-present threat of mechs which prowl the post-apocalyptic landscape, itself a treacherous foe.

A good narrative is nothing without characters that you can warm to and Enslaved wholly succeeds on this front. The relationship between Monkey and his captor/travelling companion is one of the main themes of the game, and it is a joy to watch how the characters’ relationship changes over the course of the game. Credit for this success must go to both the excellent script and the fantastically emotive character animation. The combination of the two encourages the player to empathise with the main protagonists and the other characters they meet.

I said this isn‚Äôt a review didn‚Äôt I? So let me stop there before it becomes just that. The other reason I implore you to buy this game is not that it‚Äôs simply a good story-driven game, but that it‚Äôs a new IP. A new IP that hasn’t been particularly successful commercially.¬†I‚Äôm pretty sure I‚Äôm not alone in thinking that it‚Äôs important for the games industry to keep providing its audience with new titles, new ideas and new stories to tell. For that to keep happening people need to buy these games when they come out. If not, the men in suits who worship at the altar of THE BOTTOM LINE see less and less credence in ¬†allowing developers to take chances on new IP and new ideas. So please, take a chance on Enslaved. It‚Äôs a wonderful game developed by people who want to tell us a new and different story. We need new and different stories.

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