Enslaved may be published by Namco Bandai rather than Sony, and may be on Xbox 360 as well as PlayStation 3, but Ninja Theory's latest still has a lot in common with its PS3 exclusive, Heavenly Sword - Gollum Serkis is returning to wax lyrical in his own inimitable, rubber-faced way, and there's the familiar promise of a vast, cinematic story brought to life by a convincing cast of characters. One of the lead characters, Trip, also bears a striking resemblance to Nariko.
But there is, of course, plenty that separates the two. Enslaved tells the tale of two characters, most notably, and there's Alex Garland, him of The Beach fame, writing the story, with gameplay built around the unlikely duo of Monkey (Serkis) and Trip working together, against one of their wills, in a post-apocalyptic world of killer robots.
With the game due out next year, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, so we tracked down Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades to find out more.
I liked the relationship between Kai and Nariko in Heavenly Sword, and many people mailed us telling us how very deeply they were moved by their story. They talked about them as if they were real people or old friends. So beyond fear, anger and sadness, how much further could we push player empathy? Can you feel all the kinds of feelings you would do in a real relationship? Protection, disappointment, comfort, derision and so on?
About two years ago, I read Journey to the West while I was researching the Wuxia genre for Heavenly Sword. It's an epic, breathtaking fantasy on par with Lord of the Rings in my opinion. I really like the character setup with Monkey's master, Tripitaka, being completely vulnerable yet having complete power over him. So this became the basis of Enslaved, which is only loosely based on this epic novel.
However, we didn't want to do another Wuxia-themed game. I knew that sci-fi was an area a lot of people in the studio were interested in. What if we replace the demons with near-future military machines and the magic with technology? Everyone in the studio dug it so we went full steam ahead on that basis and, after a few close shaves, Namco Bandai signed it up and we were in business.
We have an intimate low-level knowledge of hardware and this goes way back to Kung Fu Chaos, which was an Xbox exclusive. So we are applying this knowledge in the areas that will make our games shine for all platforms: combat, facial technology, audio and animation.
When you are exclusive, sometimes the pressure to demonstrate technology can override other aspects of game development. Being involved in one side of a format war as if it's the machines that make great games can also be draining. You get a lot of attention as an exclusive developer which is great, but on the flip-side there was a lot of anti-Sony feeling going on which I felt was unfairly being directed at our team.
Our focus is now on building as compelling a game as we can and I am more comfortable with that.
Enslaved is meant to be a story-driven, single-player experience so we do not have plans for online multiplayer type functionality in the game. However, we do have plans for DLC, which we'll be discussing more in the future.
Without giving away too much, you start the game trapped in an egg-shaped cell on the slave ship. Trip is another prisoner in there. She escapes and, in doing so, shorts the entire ship, freeing Monkey. It also causes the ship to lose power and crash through the skyscrapers in New York City. You get to play through this whole sequence.