Thursday, 18 August 2011

Enslaved - The Epilogue

Before we start… SPOILER WARNING!

If you don't want to know what happens at the end of the PS3/Xbox360 game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West stop reading here.

If you don't plan on playing the game or have already finished it – read on!

So a brief outline of the game – set in a ravaged post apocalyptic world, the story is very loosely based on the Chinese folk tale Journey to the West.

So you have characters such as Tripitaka, Monkey and Pigsy represented in a reinterpreted human form (no Sandy unfortunately though) as they escape slave traders, battle vicious mechs and make their way across the wasteland. So far, pretty standard.

Now the Epilogue scene at the end of the game is where it gets interesting.

Having chased down ‘the slavers’ to their base Pyramid, Monkey and Trip are confronted with the truth – Pyramid is actually rescuing humans from the wasteland and plugging them into an artificial reality where they can live out their days as they did pre-apocalypse. The model for this reality is based on one man’s life experiences and memories (glimpsed as obscure flashbacks throughout Monkey’s journey) embodied here by Andy Serkis.

Although Serkis also plays the character of Monkey brilliantly, it is this performance of his as ‘Pyramid’ that surprised me. Although some have called out the live action footage as being jarring when mixed in with the in-game graphics, I think it works here as to me it represents the ideal, the perfection of memories of the past and how it compares now to the desolate future.

Furthermore, you can really feel the sadness in his voice, not just in terms of an artificial intelligence trying to preserve itself but with a real fondness for humanity that has been lost during the war and the humanity that will be lost if Monkey and Trip decide to destroy Pyramid as they had come here originally intending to do.

It all really boils down to the philosophical argument of whether you would prefer to live out a life of pain and suffering in a ‘true’ existence or be in a false reality where everything was perfectly preserved the way it used to be, an idea which has been explored repeatedly from Descartes to The Matrix.

This opens up more philosophical questions such as the nature of ‘truth’, whether or not Pyramid can be justified in acting for the greater good and with whom the choice ultimately lies.

Although this ‘Epilogue’ scene of Enslaved was a shock ending to the game for some, I consider it to be a bold move on behalf of the game developers. Brilliantly realised by Tameem Antoniades and writer Alex Garland, this downbeat ending leaves things open and makes you think – did they make the right choice? What is going to happen to all those slaves once they are freed? What is to become of Monkey and Trip?

Although well received critically, the game’s underwhelming sales means that a sequel is now unlikely. Besides, Ninja Theory, the Cambridge-based developer is now currently hard at work on developing the reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise.

You can watch the whole ‘Epilogue’ scene below.

17 Aug 2011

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