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Why Enslaved Has Ruined All Other Games

Yes, Enslaved: Odyssey To The West has ruined all other games. Destroyed them. Obliterated them. Smashed them into pieces so tiny you’d need a microscope to see them.

Ok, we’re perhaps getting a bit carried away. It’s just made other games look a little bad; it’s subtly altered our perception of them. This realisation recently dawned while playing Castlevania: Lord Of Shadow this past weekend. Now, Castlevania is undeniably a great game. It’s atmospheric, its gameplay mechanics intelligently balance risk and reward, and the scope of the boss battles have provided some of our fondest gaming memories this year. But something was missing. Something was keeping the game from being truly great.

And then it dawned – we didn’t care about the characters. They’re predictable. They’re boring. They spout terrible faux-profound nonsense – just listen to Patrick Stewart’s over-enunciated pre -level ramblings. Absolute gibberish. The characters are broadly cut clichés, their motivations obvious and personalities even more so. Gabriel Belmont is a 2D cut out, surrounded by more stereotypes stolen from a variety of filmic influences.

It’s easy to let this all slide by – we’ve experienced this kind of subpar writing and characterisation since the dawn of videogaming, and we’ll certainly experience it a great deal more in the future. But it becomes all the more pronounced when placed in juxtaposition with a game like Enslaved.

Enslaved – written by 28 Days Later and The Beach scribe Alex Garland – is something altogether more special. We admit, there are stereotypes. A quick glance at the game displays a lead character who looks straight out of Jersey Shore and his female, navel-exposing, sidekick.

And yet a few hours spent in the company of Monkey and Trip reveals them to be interesting, compassionate and sympathetic characters with depth. Brilliant acting, writing and animation brings them to life. Their realationship is convincing, and even delivers some genuinely touching moments throughout the course of the game. Yes, Enslaved is full of clichés, but they’re offset by some genuinely impressive writing and character development. Enslaved doesn’t feel the compulsive need to endlessly explain what’s going on in long, overly convoluted sentences, unlike Castlevania’s Mr. Stewart. It shows its story, as opposed to telling it.

When Warren Spector recently compared games to cartoons, he had a point. Just look at Vanquish – it’s Saturday-morning-with-cereal fare through and through. There’s still a place for that in gaming – we bloody love Vanquish – but with games like Enslaved coming out with greater frequency gamers are being taught to expect more. Uncharted, Heavy Rain, Enslaved – we’re actually getting games that can resonate on a deeper level thanks to better acting, better scripting, and better motion capture technologies. Soon games with ridiculous dialogue and ludicrous narrative like Vanquish are going to look immature in comparison. They already are.

Now, if only a developer can find a way to mix the characterisation of games like Uncharted and Enslaved with the expansive non-linearity of a title like Fallout: New Vegas – a game which really plays to the strengths of the medium. When that happens, the medium will truly have become something very, very special indeed.




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  • Goatman

    I found enslaved boring and clunky, uncharted 2 beats this hands down.
    and strangely I prefer castlevania.

  • bowserone

    catlevania was okay at best( edge jumping anyone?) and a lot of it was filler…enslaved kept you enslaved( pun not intended) to the very end with an awesome twist( ending was a let down though) i got both games and while castlevania was good for its length and what it is…enslaved gave me more of a good time( till the ending)

  • linkuu

    I agree with your story.
    i was waiting for castlevania so long and i dint care about enslaved, but after i try the demo, i was in love with the game, and more after i played and discovered the subtle relationship between both . this remember me the first prince of persia (for me the best on narrative) the relation between the prince and farah was the best of the game.

    by the way , i hope enslaved sell well and allow a sequel, but more mature,adult relationship onmonkey with trip. and a final note, i havent tougch castlevania yet and i dont fell like i do soon. right now i finish enslaved and im playing and enjoing vanquish. very fun game, remembers me ZOE 2.

  • isarai

    I agree with Goatman, nothing can touch uncharted 1/2 when it comes to chracters except maybe Heavy Rain. But i found Enslaved really lackluster, especially when compared to their last title (Heavenly Sword) though it kinda felt like they were held back, not sure why. I also prefered Castlevania LOS and enjoyed it a LOT more than enslaved.

  • JonahFalcon

    Well, your article was about as stupid as the title made it sound. Congrats!

  • William

    To the loser Journalist, Enslaved is nothing special or Great compared to Castlevania and Vanquish, copy that in your head loser!!!!!

  • Beefy

    I think is this a great piece and why are people writing such negative comments? Enslaved is a piece of art and it’s glorious to look at and stunning to play. It may not be as involved at Castlevania or a shooter like Vanquish (both great games), but Enslaved has tried to offer something exciting, enjoyable and a pleasure to be part of. The only real problem is that these expensively developed pride and joys could eventually die in general (even Castlevania etc), because consumers are only buying games like Medal of Honour and Call of Duty… Games like Ico, Enslaved etc should be experienced.

  • Conor w

    agreed.@beefy

  • Sean

    I would say there are a few other games whose cutscenes are brilliant, uncharted’s for example. But Enslave’s are brilliant, the facial animation is the best I’ve seen, there’s no doubt about that.