Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was one of the unexpected surprises of 2010 — a wonderfully colourful, well-told story full of enjoyable Uncharted-esque gameplay and some some remarkably well-done digital performances. Its story wasn’t perfect, but those opening chapters (and that finale!) stick with me even today, as do its two mismatched protagonists.
So I was bummed to hear that developer Ninja Theory will not be making a sequel. But when I thought about it, I realised that I wasn’t bummed because I actually want another Enslaved game — goodness knows, we have enough lackluster sequels flooding the market already — but because of what the decision says about the game’s sales. Namely, that they weren’t good enough for Ninja Theory to make another game. Not that many people bought Enslaved, and so not that many people played it, and that is a shame.
Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades is quoted as saying “Enslaved should have done better. Right now we should have been doing a sequel and perfecting that sequel and doing what franchises do, which is get better over time.”
We’ll never know whether Enslaved really would have gotten better over time. But as I mentioned in my review of Gears of War 3, franchise iteration helps game designers iron out the kinks in their design and mechanics, but it can often prove anathema to the storytelling, filmic qualities of games.
Does Enslaved really need an additional chapter? Would we really have gotten more out of watching Monkey and Trip travel across another series of post-apocalyptic wasteland, meet another couple of scavengers, explore their complicated relationship further? I’m not so sure. Enslaved stands pretty well on its own.
Furthermore, without spoiling anything, I’ll say that I found it refreshing that Enslaved had an actual ending. It t raised all sorts of questions, and it was anything but some weak cliffhanger leading into a presumed sequel.
All that’s not to say that I wouldn’t have immediately played an Enslaved sequel, should Ninja Theory have made one. But now that Enslaved is off the table, the studio is free to work on other projects, and Enslaved is still a worthy, complete work.
And hey, if you haven’t played Enslaved yet (and based on its sales numbers, you probably haven’t), you still can. It’s available for incredibly cheap, and its colourful art, story and characters might provide a nice break from the dark destruction of so many of this fall’s upcoming releases.