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The plot thickens: More on Enslaved's inspired journey to the West


Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was one of my favorite titles at E3 this year. It's got a terrific story foundation upon which Ninja Theory has built rock-solid combat, jazzed up by great art direction. This past week at Comic-Con, I spoke with Namco Bandai brand manager Laili Bosma, who filled in the background behind the game and fleshed out more of the gameplay mechanics that shape this promising action adventure.

The game's key aspect is the relationship between its two main characters. While their names and basic personalities have been taken from the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West, Bosma stresses that Enslaved is "very, very loosely based" on the famous tale. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic future where Trip, a fragile 19-year-old redhead, embarks on a perilous journey to return home. In order to survive, she recruits the player-controlled Monkey, a brutish slave, bound to Trip by a deadly, magical headband.

Gallery: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (07/09/10) | 12 Photos

There are some other ties to the old tale, too. "We do have Cloud in this game, which is in the original story. Cloud is Monkey's hoverdisc, which you see in some of our trailers," Bosma explains. "We have a character by the name of Pigsy, which is also from the original story as well."

"We will be stepping outside of New York shortly -- in the upcoming months, you'll start seeing other locations as well."- Laila Bosma, Namco Bandai brand manager

Not much has been revealed about the game's additional characters, like Pigsy, but Bosma suggests they might play a very small role anyway. "If you notice, going through the levels as you play, you don't really run into anyone else." Trip and Monkey are venturing across a post-apocalyptic America that's practically void of humanity (and festering with killer machines), and it's been that way for a long time. "If you listen to the dialogue even in this demo," Bosma points out, "they come into New York City, and she says, 'Wow, thousands of people must have lived here.' And he goes, 'No, no, I think there's more, maybe tens of thousands.' They just can't fathom that there were millions of people living in New York, so for them, this is the reality of not knowing there are a lot of humans out there."

While we've mostly seen these New York-based segments of the game, Bosma confirms the duo will travel beyond the city. "They do journey west," she says. "We will be stepping outside of New York shortly -- in the upcoming months, you'll start seeing other locations as well."

That journey will definitely bring the two characters closer together. They start out on rocky terms (Trip has essentially enslaved Monkey to get him to help her), but as the game progresses, Monkey will start to realize that Trip can help him, too. "He's getting through this area, not just with brute force, but also with her help." In the early stages, the AI-controlled Trip can do things like cause distractions and use collected tech orbs to upgrade Monkey's health and equipment.

Later in the game, Trip can even teach Monkey new gameplay tactics, using a scanner to examine enemies that Monkey has defeated. "And the next time he comes up to that enemy, she's able to point out weaknesses," Bosma explains. "Yes, you've killed this enemy before, but here are things you can do differently to make it easier, or you can possibly use some of their weapons against them to your advantage." One such encounter allows Monkey to steal a robot's gun and use it against the enemy machine. The fact that Trip teaches this tactic to Monkey strengthens the relationship between the two characters, which in turn further enhances the gameplay. You're more likely to work with Trip and help her out, the more she returns the favor.

With unique, story-driven gameplay, Ninja Theory looks to be updating more than just Enslaved's narrative foundation. Keep an eye on this compelling single-player co-op game as it approaches its October 5 release date.

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