Enslaved: Odyssey to the West may be the most influential game of the past decade.

Game Recs

You need to claim this decade-defining sci-fi game on PS Plus ASAP

Monkey Business.

Namco Bandai Games

A decade ago, a unique game was released. It was set in a post-apocalyptic America and would follow a man who begrudgingly takes a mission to lead a girl he doesn’t know across the dangerous ruins of civilization to safety. With Sony’s new rollout of PS Plus, this classic title is now available for players to sink their teeth into. I’m sure we all know what game I am talking about.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

Oh, you thought I was talking about The Last of Us!? As great as Naughty Dog’s masterpiece remains, three years earlier Ninja Theory released Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It is a game full of incredible storytelling and excellent gameplay mechanics thanks to a top-tier team that even included two talented members of Hollywood.

The A-Team

Andy Serkis portrays Monkey.20th Century Fox

After completing work on their 2007 game Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory began work on a new project. While researching ideas for Heavenly Sword, Director Tameem Antoniades came across the 16th-century Chinese epic Journey to the West. Thinking back on the epic story Antoniades put forth the idea of making a video game that told a loose adaptation of the story.

The original epic follows a monkey named Sun Wukong on his journey to recover Buddhist texts from across Asia. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West would follow the character Monkey in a future Earth as he guided the woman Trip to her village.

To make the project come to fruition, Ninja Theory began to assemble an A-Team of talent. The developer had made a name for itself as a studio pushing to bring a cinematic quality to video games with Heavenly Sword. One way the studio accomplished this was by partnering with special effects company Weta Digital, known for its work on the Lord of the Rings movies. In addition, the performer behind Gollum, Andy Serkis, helped the team with motion capture direction and even played a character in Heavenly Sword. For Enslaved, Serkis reunited with the studio to play the role of Monkey. (It’s fitting that Serkis also did mocap for the three Planet of the Apes movies from the 2010s.)

In adapting Journey to the West into a video game, Ninja Theory enlisted the aid of writer Alex Garland. At the time Garland had been a writer for the film 28 Days Later and was looking to get involved with video games. Today, Garland is best known as the director and writer of films like Ex Machina and Annihilation.

Garland and Serkis worked with Ninja Theory to create a game that felt cinematic in its scope and execution. A decade before God of War was doing long takes, Enslaved was working to bring a movie feel to how the camera moved, such as how the game smoothly transitions between cutscenes and gameplay.

Ahead of its time

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of many games that owe a lot to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.Sony

At the heart of Enslaved is the relationship between Monkey and Trip. The story is reinforced through gameplay as the player can direct Trip to help Monkey in certain tasks. Monkey’s mission requires him to keep Trip alive, which leads to moments in the game where you must be conscious of enemies attacking you but also any threats to Trip.

Three years after Enslaved was released, both The Last of Us and Bioshock: Infinite featured companions as major aspects of the game. The Last of Us was praised for the characterization and gameplay use of Ellie. Elizabeth in Infinite could be ordered to do certain tasks in combat. Both games owe a debt to the work Ninja Theory did in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

The story itself follows Monkey and Trip to the point where they uncover secrets about the civilization on Earth that came before the apocalypse, including revelations about why the current world is overrun with robot monsters. Guerilla Games have openly discussed the connections Horizon Zero Dawn has to Enslaved. Overall, the game gives players a diverse amount of gameplay experiences that are all equally revolutionary.

While the game was not a commercial success, it still has a cult following for its incredible writing, performances, and gameplay. All of which are the result of the incredible team at Ninja Theory working with talented people like Andy Serkis and Alex Garland. Now that the game is available on PS Plus more people should experience Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It just might be the most influential game of the past decade.

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