Enslaved Odyssey To The West is loosely based on Journey To The West, which is generally considered to be one of the four greatest classical Chinese novels. The original story follows the Chinese monk Xuanzang on his quest to retrieve Buddhist scriptures from a temple in India. He is accompanied by his disciples, two of whom you would recognise in Monkey and Pigsy. The quest’s theme is the pursuit of knowledge and a journey of discovery.
In Enslaved Odyssey To The West the same theme is present, as well as an exploration of entrapment and the nature of freedom. Of course the central plot of Enslaved is also a journey, one to find answers and return home in a world where civilisation has all but vanished.
A beautiful, ruined world.
The bright, post-apocalyptic world is dangerous and Trip’s initial reaction to Monkey reveals something about the nature of this reality. The still functioning combat mechs are the obvious and main threat to the people, but when Trip places that headband on Monkey she gives us a brief look at the nature of the relationship between people.
Trust is hard to come by in this world, and Trip’s initial distrust of Monkey shows that such reactions are ingrained. It’s not hard to see why, with the collapse of society coming from a world war. During this war the enemy would have been demonised and when the world ended the communities became smaller; anything outside of someone’s settlement would have been viewed as dangerous. It’s an attitude that the survivors of the war would have passed down to their children to keep them safe and to stop another war happening.
Of course the danger is always there, with the mechs left over from the war and the slaver ships presenting constant peril. Although the mechs are dangerous because no-one controls them, the slaver ships are much more interesting precisely because of who controls them.
That control comes from Pyramid, who was alive during the war and before the fall of civilisation. He knew of a world where people didn’t have to worry about killer mechs and where food was plentiful. He sees what has happened and wants to help those who live in this new world.
Pyramid uses his ships to capture people and transport them to his place in the middle of the desert. Once there he puts masks on his captives and places them in simulated reality, a bit like the Matrix. In this reality all of Pyramid’s captives enjoy a life where everything is provided for them.
And this is where the themes of entrapment and freedom really come to a head. Monkey, Trip and Pigsy eventually discover the location and what Pyramid is doing, leading to a conflict between Monkey and Trip about whether what Pyramid is doing is a good or bad thing.
Was Pyramid a villain or a saviour?
Imagining being one of those people. You’ve been in a different reality for a long period of time, possibly living a new life. Then suddenly you’re torn without warning from that place to a room full of strangers in the middle of a desert with giant mech filled ruins around you. Would you feel joy or fear?
Sure you’re free, but you’re now in a world full of killer machines, forced to enter a harsh existence where you have to have survival skills to live day to day. Hunting, fishing and building shelters are all things you have to be proficient in, skills that may have been lost since being captured.
In that sense wasn’t Pyramid offering his captives something that had been lost? He gave them a reality full of hope and happiness.
To an outsider like Trip it would have looked like nothing more than people with masks on their faces doing nothing, but to the captured it was their very lives. Ultimately, even Trip wonders if she has done the right thing, leaving it up to us to decide whether it was the right decision or not.
Of course the captives didn’t choose to be given access to Pyramid’s world either and they would have been taken from their homes. What Pyramid did was take people against their will and force them into a new reality.
From his point of view he was saving them but he didn’t have that right. If left alone then humanity could build itself up again and create a new society; trapping people in the past is detrimental to that future.
What Enslaved: Odyssey To The West gave us was a game that offered up a jumping off point for some very interesting ethical and philosophical discussions about the very nature of freedom and reality. Monkey, Trip, Pigsy and Pyramid offered an insight into a world which had fallen and how different people tried to cope with it, either by facing it or trying to forget it.