reviews\ Mar 21, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Enclave - PC - Review

Enclave is the latest from developer Starbreeze Studios.  It originally debuted on the Xbox last year, receiving mixed reviews.  Most agreed that it was a nice game, but problems occurred with aiming using the controller, and the fact that there were no checkpoints in the levels.  Thankfully, in the revamped PC version, these problems have been fixed, allowing for a lovely experience all around (for the most part, anyway).


We start off by choosing a path to follow - do you choose the path of light or darkness?  They're actually two totally different paths, each sporting different levels and different playable characters.  The knight, huntress, wizard, druid, engineer, and halfling represent the light side.  As you progress through the game, they become available to you.  The dark side features characters such as assassins, lichs, and goblins.  What's nice is being able to use the gold you collect throughout the levels to but new weapons, armor, and items for each character.  You can replay any mission at any time, as long as you've already unlocked it.  This adds a fair amount of replayability to the game, even though the levels can be pretty straightforward.


The actual gameplay is a lot of fun.  Its controls are nice and tight, with a third-person camera always directly behind your warrior.  Weapons are the heart of the game, of course, and using them is fun.  Swords are pretty simple - you want to get in close and swing.  There are a number of slightly different swings, though, depending on which direction you may be moving.  If you're moving backwards, you'll be swinging differently than if you were strafing from side to side.  It's a nice little touch that adds some depth and makes everything look nice.  Bows are just as important as blades, though, giving you an edge from afar.  Crossbars fire immediately, but are not as powerful as long bows.  You need to hold in the attack button before letting go to unleash a deadly arrow.  You can even load up more than one arrow at a time, allowing for some nifty burst attacks.  There are also magical staffs, which come in a variety of flavors, but usually shoot projectiles of some sort.  Rounding out your arsenal are the ever-important defensive items - shields can be used to ward off attacks, and potions can be stored for times when you're in danger of dying.


There are quite a few missions, each with their own objectives.  Some have you simply trying to get from Point A to Point B; some have you escorting important folk, some have you searching for certain items, or trying to destroy a particularly malicious boss.  I never became sick or bored with completing the objectives; the whole experience feels fresh, even when playing through levels a second time.  There are also Survival-style missions, where you just have to slay all of the enemies that are tearing at you for your blood.  It can become a little mindless, but they are optional.


Yes, I definitely enjoyed playing Enclave - most of the time.  There are a few things that bothered me that might be worth pointing out.  A few of the levels suffer from extreme slowdown.  It's possible that very powerful computers will have no problem, but mine was running earlier levels with wonderful speed and smoothness until I came upon one or two levels that were practically unplayable due to the terrible slowdown.  I was forced to trudge through them to progress, and in the long run, it's only a small problem.  The only other problem worth noting is the sometimes bad AI.  Enemies aren't entirely stupid, as they actually don't get caught on corners, unlike in so many other games.  However, when attacking, they often just run back and forth, firing their weapon at you, or chase you mindlessly.  It's not a terrible problem, but it could have made the game even better if the AI were improved.         


Graphics are very nice.  Environments are detailed meticulously, made up of tons of polygons and well-textured.  Characters are pretty cool looking, with a nice artistic flair.  Even the enemies are designed nicely - you'd almost rather stop and look at them than pummel them to a fine pulp.  Aside from the few levels with the bad framerate, animation was top-notch; fluid and convincing.  Everything is just very, very nice to look at.


Sound is fine, but nothing spectacular.  The background music gets the job done, being neither impressive nor terrible.  Sound in cutscenes is often cut off before the scene actually finishes, which is rather weird.  Subtitles also tend to move way too fast, getting far ahead of actual voices - which are pretty decent.  Overall, the sound isn't going to fill your speakers with glee, but it won't make them want to commit suicide, either.


Yes, Enclave is a very solid action game.  It's fun, fresh, has great control, a lot of replayability, great visuals, and okay sound.  If you're planning on picking up the game, this improved PC version should be the one to get.  It would definitely be easier to aim with a keyboard and mouse than a controller, especially in a game that requires a lot of it.  If you need an action fix, Enclave should be considered. 



Gameplay: 8.0

At first glance, the game looks like your average hack n' slash title.  Upon further inspection, we find lots of neat weapons, from bows, to daggers, to magic staffs.  The control is tight, the levels are designed nicely, and it's just a fun adventure.  The only thing really hurting the game is the ridiculous slowdown encountered in a few levels.


Graphics: 9.0

Enclave sports some pretty good looking graphics, with lavish environments and detailed characters.  It's all pretty impressive, and very nice on the eyes. 


Sound: 7.5

The music in the game is pretty well done - it never becomes too droning or annoying.  There's a bit of a problem with the fact that subtitles appear way too fast, completely not in sync with actual dialogue.  I've also noticed that the last second or so of dialogue is sometimes cut off during cutscenes.  A little odd, but not a huge problem.


Difficulty: Medium

You'll need a little skill to complete the tougher levels, but progression without too much trouble.  Some stages will have you frustrated, but most others aren't extremely difficult.


Concept: 8.0

The game may not do a whole lot that hasn't been done in some way or another before, but it does offer neat elements that keep it from feeling too plain, with distinctly different characters that can be equipped however you wish - assuming you have enough gold.  The story is interesting, as well.


Multiplayer: N/A

There's no multiplayer mode in Enclave, which is a little disappointing.  It would have been fun to beat up your buddies online with an assortment of weapons and characters.


Overall: 8.4

Enclave is a solid action title that should keep you entertained the whole time.  The game is fun, with great environments, fun weapons, tight controls, and quirky enemies.  Some might consider it a simple beat-em'-up game at first glance, but it really is much more than that.  Take a look.


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