Ninja Theory, best known for it's less then successful Heavenly Sword PS 3 exclusive gave the world a second taste of their unique style of uber game story telling with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Now, Heavenly Sword wasn't a total bomb. It sold okay, and reviewed fairly well, but failed to live up to the expectations of Sony. I personally felt Heavenly Sword was an amazing example of how much a game could make you care about the characters. It's gameplay was fun and diverse, but the developer Ninja Theory failed to focus on aspects of the game that many take for granted. Two aspects to be specific. Replayability, and online connectivity.
Many games have succeeded without online multiplayer. Fallout 3, Assassins Creed 1, and 2, and Bioshock to name a few, but all these game also have massive amounts of gameplay and replayability. Twenty plus hours of fun wrapped in cinimatic story telling and pervasive style. Which leads us to Enslaved.
The game, much like Heavenly Sword, is submerged in style and by far one of the most beautiful games to look at. The characters seem to be alive and emote real emotion. As the story unfolds you find yourself engrossed in the fate of Monkey and Trip. These are characters that legends are made of. The problem is once you play through the eight or nine hour story it's over, and I mean over. No unlockable costumes, or secret rooms. No extra modes or survival battles. No alternate endings or secondary paths. No leaderboards, hidden items, or exploration. There are these masks that you can find which show you a photo of a wheat field or office building, but finding them gives no greater understanding of the story then what the ending of the game gives you. Other then the achievment for finding them they are pointless. You can find orbs to level up Monkey, but there is really no point in doing so except to get another achievment.
Many have already been squealing about how people aren't giving Enslaved a chance and getting Call of Duty instead, as if Call of Duty is some how a lesser game. The fact is Ninja Theory knew damn well that Heavenly Sword's failure was due to the lack of gameplay, yet they made every single mistake over again and now act surprised that the game fails to sale. The reason that Call of Duty, and Fallout, out sell Enslaved is because they are better games. To suggest that Ninja Theory gets a pass because of facial mocap is insane. Both Fallout, and Call of Duty have deep engrossing and socially important stories, and are no less artistic the Enslaved. They also provide 50-300 hours of gameplay. Call of Duty does so through online multiplayer, while Fallout does so by being fuck'n huge. All three games are $60.
Now, understand I love both Heavenly Sword and Enslaved. Both are amazing feats of video game story telling, but Ninja Theories' self rightious behaviour in believing they are somehow excluded from the work every other developer must do to succeed is stupid. They are making video games. Thats the business. They could have easily added a battle arena, coop play or at least a few unlockable costumes, but they believed they were better then that. It would have literally taken a week or two to throw together some extra costumes (other then the pre-order dlc). This would have given reason to continue playing. It would have been nothing to add a score system for online leaderboards. They even could have taken areas out of the game and created an arcade like battle mode, but they did not. Instead they give you a game that is short, even for an action game, which can be casually beaten in three days, and returned. They then ask for ten more dollars to play as the fat nasty dude (Pigsey's Perfect 10 DLC)......I don't think so.
To succeed Ninja Theory will have to understand that they are not so great that the rules no longer apply to them. The fact is that they have released two games and both have failed. Time to check your ego and stop blaming FPS games. These games fail because they are only slightly more then a tech demo with a great story. In the end maybe Ninja Theory should focus on making CG movies, because games are not just eight hour DVD's. Thats why they are $60. They should be no less then twenty hours of entertainment. I'm the most artsy fartsy person you'll find, but nothing Ninja Theory does, makes them better then anyone else.
I hope Ninja Theory's 'Devil May Cry' corrects these problems because I love their games once they are used for $19.99, but if it fails for the same reasons as Enslaved and Heavenly Sword then piss on'em. I will not shed a tear for a developer who does nothing to correct it's obvious short comings out of sheer stupidity. It's better to have a shitty boat then half of a good one. Ninja Theory is half of a beautiful boat, and it's sinking. read