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Gaming: Enslaved – Turrets Syndrome

Click here for the previous post about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

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That’s right, I finally tore myself away from Minecraft and spent some time on Enslaved again. The game welcomed me back with an… on-rails turret section. Oh well.

In shooters turret sections are considered pretty lazy, reducing the game even further into a shooting gallery. You can’t move (or the turret is attached to a vehicle and moves for you, as was the case this time), enemies pop up from set locations around you, and you either successfully kill the enemies or they kill you. There’s no freedom at all and everything gets to proceed exactly as the developer designs it. Of course, Enslaved isn’t a shooter so I don’t really know why it’s in the game (though I’m sure it has nothing to with the fact that Uncharted has them). As it stands it was just as forgettable as almost every any other turret section in a game but it did have good checkpoints, so my one failure only lost me seconds of progress and put me on full health instead of being close to zero.

Of course, turret sections fit in well with Ninja Theory’s level of control over every other aspect of the game, keeping you from making any choice. As soon as I started up today Trip warns Monkey not to touch the water because it’s toxic, so obviously the first thing I did was run straight at the nearest bit of water. The game doesn’t let you near it, treating the shore as an invisible wall. Why let the player do something silly and fun when you can just block it off? After all, Monkey wouldn’t do something that stupid and this is Ninja Theory’s story, not the player’s.

Amusingly, not only does the game keep you from being more stupid than they want Monkey to be, they also won’t let you be smarter. At one point there’s a sign that clearly tells you what will happen if Trip and Monkey do a certain thing (I’m staying vague to avoid spoilers) and there’s an obvious way to avoid it. However, it’s in a cutscene so you can’t stop it at all, you just have to sit there and watch them make this obvious mistake and then you have to deal with the consequences. Ninja Theory aren’t interested in letting you make a choice and for obvious reasons that bothers me a little, especially as it meant I had to go through an annoying cloud (hoverboard) section with instant-kill mines and awkward platform navigation, all because I wasn’t allowed to stop the character I control from doing something stupid.

Actually, this whole chapter so far has less climbing in favour of more cloud sections. The board only activates when you’re in specific areas (there is an in-universe explanation for why that is) and they always happen to be bits where you couldn’t proceed without it, so that’s fortunate. These areas are a lot bigger than most others but Monkey can go all the way to the end of them without triggering the headband that would kill him, which is also pretty fortunate. Technically it makes the headband rules inconsistent but it’s not really an issue, as it isn’t much of a stretch to think that Trip could manually expand the range when it’s needed, though by this point Trip and Monkey are friendly enough that I’m disappointed the headband is still active at all. Obviously Ninja Theory need some reason to stop the player from being able to continue on without her, but that’s a game reason to have it, not a narrative one, and I don’t like the narrative reason.

I realise there’s a strong negative tone to these Enslaved posts now but I don’t hate the game.  I think part of the reason I’m criticising it so much is that it could have been better, there are lots of minor annoyances that all add up and drag my opinion of the game down.  It’s a better game than Ninja Theory’s previous release, Heavenly Sword (which was itself not a bad game but one dragged down by its flaws), but not by as much as it could have been. I’m pretty much just playing for the story now, and it’s to Ninja Theory’s credit that it’s an element that interests me, but there doesn’t seem to be anything more from the fighting or navigation elements that I haven’t done over and over already, and as I play games to, well play, that’s definitely something of a problem.

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