When I first played Heavenly Sword, I knew that Ninja Theory would be a developer that would (gradually) ascend to, in my mind, the pantheon of all time great developers, due to how they handled their cut scenes and voice acting, which was that they used the story in the game as a means to shepherd the player through the narrative, rather than using gameplay as a means of catching up to the story. With Heavenly Sword, I felt that the story and the gameplay worked in tandem, spurring on the player through the twists and turns of the plot, and providing motivation for carrying out the tasks set within the game.
Now, Heavenly Sword was by no means perfect, as a PS3 exclusive at a time when the system needed a star to shine for it, it was hyped to the sun, and unfortunately only reached the moon. It was still a good game, just not the game everybody wanted (nigh expected) it to be.
Fast forward to 2010, and Ninja Theory has been cracking along on it’s sophomore effort, Enslaved, an eastern odyssey loosely adapted from the Chinese tale known as journey to the west. The player assumes the role of Monkey, a vagrant who comes across Trip, who captures him, and places a headband on his forehead that will explode if she dies, or if monkey leaves her to fend for herself. This antagonistic relationship, compared with the state of the world in the game, has me well and truly intrigued by the concept of enslaved, as Ninja Theory know how to create a compelling narrative, and the story of a prisoner, forced to protect his captor in a seemingly post-apocalyptic setting has me all giddy at the thought of it.
It also doesn’t help that I felt that the combat in Heavenly Sword was utterly fantastic, and Enslaved’s combat has been described as resembling the combat of Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game whose combat had me chaining together massive combos in a manner that can only be described as rhythmic, creating an almost mesmerizing sensation of being both nimble and devastating. I’m fully expecting Enslaved to blow me away, but Ninja Theory has been burned by over ambition before. Here’s hoping that they have learned from their mistakes, and crafted a stunning game in the process.