reviews\ Aug 13, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Enclave - XB - Review

The army of Celenheim had nearly been defeated. The dark hordes led by the demon Vatar were closing in, ready to deal the final, crushing blow. Suddenly, a lone wizard atop a ridge defiantly stepped up to face the demonic leader of the evil onslaught. With a great, unleashed fury the wizard slammed his staff into the ground and released the very power of nature itself. The world erupted. The skies grew dark, the soil burst into flames. A rift raced forward from the staff, tearing the very earth apart wherever it went and ultimately swallowed the demon Vatar. The demon was thought to be gone forever, as was the wizard who defeated him. Now, light is once again separated from darkness. The Enclave ... also known as Celenheim ... is protected on all sides by a wide, bottomless abyss. Light thrives in it's protected area while on the outside of the rift, dark creatures have struggled for survival. The hatred of the darkness has increased over time, and the Outlanders know that they will soon be able to cross the rift and claim what is rightfully theirs. Now, the earth is healing. The rift grows smaller with each passing moment. The powers of darkness prepare to take up arms and crush the lowly people of Celenheim once and for all.


Pretty exciting, eh? Well, that's the story behind Enclave for the XBox. You start the game off fighting for the side of good and protecting Celenheim from the evil rampaging army of orcs, goblins, and other evil beings as the next war between light and darkness is on the brink of taking place. Once the campaign of light has been completed, however, you will also have the option to begin a new series of quests fighting as part of the dark army and helping to destroy Celenheim. Either way you play, each side has a various assortment of characters to unlock and choose from as quests are completed, each with it's own unique strengths and weaknesses. Some characters, like the Elven Archer, are more proficient in using a bow and will have access to explosive arrows and such and will be more inclined to pick enemies off from a distance. Others, like the Berzerker or Warrior, are better suited for a large melee weapon and are more likely to do their best work up close and personal. Either way, all characters can use both melee and distance weapons, and the controls are simple one button presses to attack, switch weapons, or use healing potions on the fly which make it easy to pick up and get started. In addition, the game also allows the option of playing either in a third person action style or as a first person shooter, so it allows for a better fit with the user based on which gaming style you are more comfortable with.


The game progresses in individual stages, and the missions consist of such tasks as retrieving an item for someone, escorting a merchant through a city overrun with dark creatures, or even things like simply "Get to the other side of the area". Each level has a certain amount of gold stashed in various places, and gold is used at the end of each level to purchase new weapons, armor, or healing potions to use on the next mission. At certain times, you may run across another NPC character who needs help fending off attackers, and keeping them alive will not only reveal a safer passage through the level you are on, but will also turn out to be the next unlocked character that you can use. Also, if you don't find all of the gold on a level, fear not. You can always go back and play it over again to get what you missed the first time through. You also can find maps in some stages which unlock mini game style things which are not related to the story, like a skill test to see how many goblins you can kill with a cannon or a survival mode where you must kill all the enemies which appear.


Now, the first time you begin your quest as a champion of the light in Enclave, you will immediately notice a couple of things. To begin with, the graphics are amazing and really show off what the XBox is capable of. The torches cast realistic flickers and lighting effects, and each brick is detailed down to the last crack or dirt smudge. Some walls will crumble as you walk past in some areas which causes clouds of settling dust and debris. The second thing you will pick up on as you continue to progress through the levels is the sheer size of some of the areas that you visit. In most stages, the draw distance goes for a pretty good length, and things like a spectacular looking castle crumbled in ruin off in the background soon move to the forefront and become the next area that you have to move through. The characters and monsters that you will run into on your journeys also look fantastic, and little things even down to rust spots in armor or the flexing muscles of an Orc Berzerker as he swings his mace can be seen in impressive detail. To give credit where credit is due, it really stands out that the developers took a lot of time painstakingly creating each inhabitant and environment that you will move through, and it really adds a lot to the experience while you are playing the game.


So far so good, right? Well, unfortunately there are a couple of REAL downers which ultimately may drown out the easy controls, character selection, and graphic qualities for a lot of you GameZone fans out there. The first and probably least annoying thing is collision detection issues. There were places where I would get stuck behind a 2x4 sized plank or rock, and had to keep turning and jumping trying to break free and continue. Another example of this was found in using distance weapons. Each non melee weapon produces a green dot which is used for targeting. When you have successfully targeted an enemy, the green dot turns red, and firing ultimately should mean that you hit your target. Once monsters got close enough to be really detailed, but not close enough for a melee attack, there were times where the arrow or bolt seemed to pass through them and into the ground. While it didn't happen ALL the time, it did happen enough and in intense battle moments where it made the difference in me getting popped for a large amount of damage rather than killing my target. 


Secondly, enemy AI is really not that good overall. Archers and crossbow bearing enemies mostly just run back and forth stopping periodically to fire a shot or two off before beginning the sidestepping dance all over again. There is also a delay in them putting up the crossbow or whatever in exchange for a melee weapon if you get up close, so you get a few cheap shots in while they are busy reloading whatever it is that they are carrying. Most melee based enemies, like Orc Deathcrafters or heavily armored Berzerker Brutes have no other attack strategy other than to run at you swinging their weapons. Hopping onto a pile of crates or getting on a upper level next to a staircase if you are being pursued is a real easy way to get them to just stop and stare at you while you plant one arrow or bolt after another into their head until they collapse. Occasionally, sniping enemies will have a flash of intelligence here and there by ducking behind a post or wall making them harder to hit, but it's more of an exception than the norm.      


The biggest and what will probably be the final deathblow to this game for a lot of people is the overall difficulty. While monsters that aren't that smart make for easy targets at a distance, getting rushed by 2 to 5 of them at a time can be overwhelming. All creatures inflict large amounts of damage with each hit, and you will quickly find your health drained after an encounter with a couple of them. Also, since they all have a large amount of hit points, and many of them bear heavy armor, hacking one down can be a chore regardless of your melee weapon of choice. Add in getting hit from two sides plus periodically getting arrows fired into your back and you will probably wind up dead pretty quick. You can purchase a shield with the gold that you find, but holding it up does little more than protect from an occasional arrow and melee attacks will still land crushing blows. The larger the shield, the greater chance of less damage or a blocked shot, but ultimately nothing is foolproof.


Now, even all of this might be forgivable if there was a way to turn down the difficulty or perform an in game save. With large levels and extremely difficult gameplay, being able to save after a particularly hard battle or difficult area is almost crucial. Well, apparently the developers didn't feel that this was necessary since the only time a save will occur is after a level is completed. Since each stage gets increasingly bigger and more difficult, the great graphics and stunning environments will probably give way to a few choice phrases about the situation and/or a thrown controller. Realistically, I don't know many people who don't mind when they spend 40 minutes going through a level only to die at the very end, then have to go ALL the way back to the beginning and play through it all over again. Well, if you decide to pick up Enclave, be ready to go through this ... over and over again. 


Many gamers and XBox owners out there, like myself, were waiting patiently for Enclave to hit the shelves. After all is said and done, I have to say that regardless of the great graphics, easy controls, and selection of characters ... this game turned out to be way too frustrating for me overall. In addition, let me throw out a quote from the February 2002 issue of Official XBox magazine, page 56 ...

"Multiplayer modes are also available - ranging from simple split screen battles to complex cooperative play."

Well, no online modes here, XBox owners ... and no multiplayer modes either. Be prepared for a long, long lonely one player battle against good or evil, whichever side you choose.  



Gameplay: 6.5
The controls are all simple one button presses and are easy to pick up and start getting into. The levels are big and well detailed, and the plot is really good and interesting. Unfortunately, there is no in game save which will probably result in multiple do overs and aggravation, and melee combat seems to inflict more damage on you than you dish out to your opponents. Since blocking is also not a sure thing at any point, be prepared to start over ... a lot.


Graphics: 9.6
WOW! That's really the word that comes to mind. The graphics are VERY well detailed for both characters and environments, and there is only some minor pop up in the distance on some of the darker stages. If you have a friend wondering if they should buy an XBOX, throw this one in for some really convincing facts on what the system can produce graphically. 


Sound: 7.9
The sounds of battle are represented by clanking armor or twangs of arrows and crossbows being unleashed. Enemies will groan or scream when dying, and will roar when hit. The music is a little repetitive, and reminiscent of 80's fantasy fiction movies like Conan the Barbarian.


Difficulty: Hard
And good gosh, is it ever. I am actually going to push my editor to add in an EXTREME option, just for games like this. There is no way to turn the difficulty down, and even the lowliest of snotlings have enough hit points to make them a real challenge. Get attacked by a large group, and you will soon see what I mean. Not being able to save during the game and limited if any use of blocking in melee combat adds to the level of difficulty as well. 


Concept: 9.0
Third person action, or first person shooter? You decide. This option plus a great storyline and some different enemies make a really unique game.


Multiplayer: N/A
I normally don't say anything if it's not multiplayer, but I was really disappointed to see a good opportunity for split screen or single player bot matches go to waste.


Overall: 6.9
As much time as the developers obviously spent making this a really awesome looking game, and allowed the gamer the option to play in a style they were comfortable with, this game is not for everyone. If you are an RPG or FPS fan like I am, and you have the patience of a saint, and don't mind re-doing missions multiple times, than this game is probably for you. Regardless, I definitely recommend renting this one before committing to a purchase, even if the genre is right up your alley.

Above Average

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