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Enslaved just might have the best story in all of videogaming
Editorial by 
November 15, 2010, 20:07:29
Probably a bad idea to bury my pseudo-review in the demo thread. Pasta time.

Okay, so I rented this game and actually beat it on the rental, which is something I very, very rarely do. Why? Because I actually wanted to find out what would happen! Pretty bizarre, for a mechanics purist like myself.

Especially since most of my gameplay quibbles with the demo are still there, plus some more. The Platforming is finicky and mostly a matter of finding the next glowy bit to jump to, which is seldom rewarding, but often frustrating. It's generally kind of automatic, but making it otherwise, within the game's design, just would have been irritating. I also hit one jumping-related bug, which I spent thirty minutes of my life trying to 'puzzle through'. The art design is nice, but the environments are mostly kind of samey. Still, at least it's a colorful kind of samey. The framerate is kind of atrocious at times, and it DOES occasionally affect the gameplay. So does the squirelly camera. And so does the horrible response time (which might be a product of the heavy animation). Annnd the combat system is merely decent, breaking down with large groups of opponents (hand-in-hand with our old friend, Mr. Camera). But at least it offers a bit of choice, which is more than you could say for any other aspect of this repetitive, repetitive... repetitive game.

There are also some basic design decisions which really rub me the wrong way. Once again, glowing orbs are scattered around the levels. They aren't even disguised or explained. They're just orbs mysteriously present in nooks and crannies, and you've gotta grab 'em to buy moves, and such. But I don't care about the lack of context (although they could've explained that they were energy that indigenous bugs shat out). I care that they are totally at odds with the supposed URGENCY of the story. Every single area where time is supposedly limited and matters are dire has random orbs strewn about. Characters will be screaming at you to hurry, and you'll just be like, "Shut the fuck up! I have to take this side path and grab orbs before coming back! I'm not sure if the game will ever let me back in here!" I really resent that type of design. I resent having to turn 180 degrees at the beginning of every level and after every cinematic to grab magical doodads before moving in the correct direction. That childish game of hide-and-seek bugs me in any game, but it is even more out of place in a game with an urgent linear narrative. I also resent the slow movement speed of the main character, especially since it doesn't come with any added precision. I hate, hate, hate when I can immediately identify the negligible, perfunctory task I'm supposed to do in a game (hit that switch!), and it still takes me minutes to slog through all of the steps. I hesitate to use the phrase 'execute the task', because there is seldom any skill involved. The emphasis on animation over responsiveness also annoys me, even though I could consciously account for the delay. And some of the checkpointing is irritating, especially given the Dragon's Lair nature of some scenes.

NEVERTHELESS, the narrative is awesome. You know how most video game stories, including Metal Gear Solid, are absolute horseshit that wouldn't pass as a Tim Thomerson vehicle? Well Enslaved's is actually GOOD! It's written by Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later (who also apparently had some input into its integration into the game) and, for once, it shows. If it wasn't for the story, I literally would've given up on this game after one level. If I could've just watched a movie of the cutscenes, spliced with small bits of game, I totally would have. And you know what? I would have enjoyed it! It isn't Crime and Punishment, but the character development (something that usually doesn't even exist in games) was great, the dialogue was pretty good, the facial expressions were subtly impressive, and the story was well-planned, with a decent, if not particularly original, payoff. It may have been super-linear story, but it was a GOOD super-linear story, with a tiny cast of well-drawn characters.

So after two solid paragraphs of bitching, I am going to recommend that all of you play through this game (although renting might be a better bet than buying (and maybe play it on Easy and ignore the stupid orbs)). Because it might have the best story I have ever experienced in a video game. Definitely the best narrative story. This is one game I actually WOULD watch the movie of.

Hats off to Ninja Theory, I guess.

However, they are the worst, worst, worst possible candidate for Devil May Cry. But, as crazy as this is, coming from me, I'll probably play it for the story.

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Posted: 11/15/10, 20:07:29  - Edited by 
 on: 11/15/10, 21:54:38    
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Great story, mediocre gameplay? Pass.

Posted by 
 on: 11/15/10, 21:57:33
Normally, I would be right there with you, but I really think the game is worth playing for the story. And I don't really think ANY games are worth playing through for the story. Plus, some people might enjoy the Uncharted/God of War-esque gameplay. I'm just super-picky with that stuff.

Let me put it this way. It at least has more engaging gameplay (and better characterization) than the 80-hour RPGs that many people play through mainly for story. Plus, it's fairly short. And pretty easy to roll through.

Like Pandareus, I did seriously think about Youtubing the cutscenes. But I don't know if I'd have really appreciated the... (sorry) epic-ness of the journey that way. Plus you'd miss some good dialogue during gameplay. I would definitely prefer watching cutscenes spliced together with snippets of gameplay, though.

I guess I'm not really helping my case here. Dissing Metal Gear probably didn't endear me to anyone, either...

Posted by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:11:16
Yeah but I really, really don't think any games are worth playing through for the story if the gameplay isn't interesting to me. I don't mean because the stories aren't good enough, I mean because even if the story is good enough, if the gameplay isn't there, I'd rather read a book or watch a movie and get a good story without suffering through mediocre gameplay.

And I actually enjoy RPG gameplay (though I enjoy it even more when it adds in stuff from other genres, like Bowser's Inside Story...)

For that matter, I enjoy MGS gameplay. It does a lot of cool things and you never quite know what to expect next. Much better than all of the generic FPS out there.

Posted by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:13:56  - Edited by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:14:30
Yeah, but you like Uncharted and God of War.

Guess what Enslaved takes its cues from??

Also, Enslaved is the ONLY game worth playing through for the story, because it is the only game where the story is good enough. It's like a well-done sci-fi popcorn flick, and it's not like there are a ton of recent alternatives available. I should stop before I oversell it. The characterization is more impressive than the actual plot.

But, like I said, the gameplay thing might vary from person to person. It definitely compares favorably to the aforementioned games in many areas. Those just aren't my favorites.

I admit that I'm biased about turn-based RPGs. It's honestly hard for me to fathom why people play them, if not for story.

I played through Drakengard for the story. That game was fucked up. We should make a thread for games that people play through just for the story.

Posted by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:39:00  - Edited by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:39:59
Barely. I mean, I have God of War 3 sitting here and I got a few hours into it and never went back. Maybe I'll finish it someday. And Uncharted 2, despite getting GOTY OMG BEST GAME OF THE EVER praise, was like... a decent game to me.

I guess one of the things an RPG has besides a story is this sense of a vast world you can explore, which requires building yourself up more and more to explore more and more. I mean, good RPGs that still reward exploration. Like Dragon Quest VIII, didn't care much about the story one way or the other but the world was vast and huge and engaging and I loved seeing what was around the next bend.

Maybe you would like RPGs more if you didn't play stuff like Drakengard... just a thought.

Posted by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:45:22  - Edited by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:46:39
I guess I sequenced that in a confusing way. Drakengard isn't really an RPG. It's like Dynasty Warriors, except you can jump on a Dragon and shoot fireballs any time you want, and the story is totally fucked up.

Enslaved has a fairly detailed sci-fi world (simple, but internally consistent) and an interesting, deliberate style (green grass, ruins, and mechs), and it spans a pretty big area with some different types of environments (over the course of several linear levels). Plus, if you want to look for stupid orbs, you can explore nooks and crannies. The game has a pretty breakneck pace that doesn't really encourage leisurely exploration, but it definitely immerses you in a new (?) environment. I mean, it's still post-apocalyptic, but it's not fucking Normandy.

I don't really play games for exploration, unless the exploration is fun in and of itself, like in Metroid. Or Miner Dig Deep.

Posted by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:55:31  - Edited by 
 on: 11/15/10, 22:57:42
Well, I impulse bought Enslaved when it was $25 on Amazon. The demo didn't convince me, but I was willing to give the game a try. Do you think at $25 Enslaved is a keeper?

Posted by 
 on: 12/11/10, 02:12:08
HMM. Hard to say, really. It's brief, and I liked the story, mostly, which makes it an amazing rental. $25 is pretty good, though. And you can always sell it off after you finish. So why not?

By the way, there's DLC now that adds 3D support (using the Arkham Asylum GOTY glasses). 3D with a choppy framerate. Will it end in tears? Blindness?

Posted by 
 on: 12/11/10, 04:15:20
Did I have a post in here that got deleted or something? Why are you talking about me!?

Posted by 
 on: 12/11/10, 08:04:58
I think gametrailers put it pretty well and said it was the videogame equivalent of a page turner. I think once you start it the story kinda drags you through whether you like it or not.

Posted by 
 on: 12/11/10, 10:12:47
Yeah, that's very true. I don't know about the word 'drag', though. I prefer to think of it more as 'drive' or 'push'. Sort of like Metroid Fusion, Enslaved has a strong motive force. Once you start playing, it's hard to stop (but because of the story, in this case).

What did you think of the game?

I've been judiciously pruning your replies for years to eliminate dissension and strengthen my points.

No, actually, I posted this in another thread, and then moved it to its own, and you had already responded in that one.

Posted by 
 on: 12/11/10, 18:08:15  - Edited by 
 on: 12/11/10, 18:08:56
Enslaved is my 360 GOTY. The story is good, but I would argue that it's not the story that draws you in so much as it is the characters. These are characters you want to spend more time with and see where they go.

I disagree with op on many of the complaints. I thought the gameplay was a lot of fun, with some depth there if you look for it. I do agree that the orb collection broke the immersion at times, but at other times it presented some fun challenges in figuring out how to get all of them. However, since the orbs you have already Collected carry over from game to game you can always ignore them on the first playthrough and do the hunt on the second.

I wouldn't recommend the easy playthrough as the combat depth only starts to shine when you play on hard.

360 version runs a bit better than PS3 btw.

Posted by 
 on: 12/13/10, 00:41:33  - Edited by 
 on: 12/13/10, 00:43:13
Yeah, I guess I wasn't clear. I just use 'story' as a catch-all for all narrative elements. I agree that the characterization and character development were the defining aspect of the game, by far. Not the plot, necessarily.

As for my complaints, keep in mind that, in terms of 'gameplay', games like God of War and Uncharted don't really crank my gears, either. If I want to play an action game, I'll go with Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, Ninja Gaiden, or any number of 2D games. The GoWs and Enslaveds of the world just seem watered-down. And I'm super-picky with that kind of stuff.

I think the 'gameplay' in Enslaved was passable, but I honestly would've stopped playing after one chapter, if it wasn't for the 'story'. However, those aspects made the game worth playing (which, to me, few games are).

Posted by 
 on: 12/13/10, 21:04:33
Enslaved was originally a movie, then they turned it into a game. That's probably why the gameplay sucks so bad and the story is its (very) redeeming quality.

Posted by 
 on: 12/13/10, 22:52:58
@anandxxxI hear you. I mean, Enslaved is no Ninja Gaiden in the action department, but then there is room in my heart for both types. Ninja Gaiden Black was my favourite game of last gen. because of the amazing combat. It was like a deep fighting game was somehow successfully cross-bred with an action/adventure game. Still unsurpassed in my books.

However, that kind of gameplay wouldn't have enhanced Enslaved IMHO. Enslaved was cinematic through and through, and that carried over through to its combat. I thought the amount of depth in combat provided was ideal given the style and feel of the game.

Just my opinion.

Posted by 
 on: 12/14/10, 00:49:24
Yeah, it's fine that it was somewhat streamlined. That's why I didn't mind the automated platforming too much. It would've just been annoying if missing jumps and restarting kept you from progressing the story.

The combat in Enslaved wasn't bad, but for simple, satisfying, cinematic combat, I preferred Arkham Asylum. I'm not sure exactly why. Except that the combat camera in Enslaved was kind of a mess.

Is that true? That's really interesting. Do you have a link that talks about the history of the game?

Posted by 
 on: 12/14/10, 17:49:46
@anandxxxI loved Arkham Asylum, but I vastly preferred the combat in Enslaved over Arkham Asylum. Arkham Asylum's hand-to-hand combat was a true repetitive button-masher that felt like it was trying to be cinematic, but ultimately falling kind of flat. I thought Enslaved succeeded where Arkham tried and failed. Aren't opinions a wonderful thing?

Posted by 
 on: 12/14/10, 20:05:11
They are!

I actually don't make these threads to ram my opinion down people's throats. I make them to discuss games that I played. Conflicting opinions are welcomed, as long as everything's polite.

That said, I'd like to analyze what exactly didn't work for me about Enslaved's combat, because I don't like being vague, but I played both it and Arkham a while ago, so it's hard. The thing that sticks out in my memory is camera confusion, especially with big groups of enemies.

I'm not sure why I enjoyed Arkham's combat, when I didn't enjoy the similar combat in games like Assassin's Creed. (Although I really couldn't tell what the fuck I was doing in Brotherhood.)

Posted by 
 on: 12/14/10, 20:25:27  - Edited by 
 on: 12/14/10, 21:54:39
I guess the vast amount of time I've spent with Ninja Gaiden has numbed me to camera confusion.

Posted by 
 on: 12/14/10, 21:04:52

Arkham Asylum, button-masher!? No way! It's all about rhythm!

You can't have gotten anywhere in the combat challenges if you mashed the buttons. You probably didn't play them. They were actually fun!

Posted by 
 on: 12/14/10, 21:29:57  - Edited by 
 on: 12/14/10, 21:31:39
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