Set within a fantasy world populated by fierce monsters and altruistic characters, Enclave is a third-person game emphasizing combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving. Two warring factions, the light and the dark, are in a bitter struggle for control of a region called the Outlands. A total of 25 outdoor and indoor locales, ranging from ornate castles to Gothic cathedrals, are spread across the land, each selectable from an overhead map. Unlike the Xbox original, in which players began the game fighting on behalf of the light side, PC owners can begin either the light or dark campaign right from the start.
The single-player campaign varies depending on the side, so players can explore new levels as different characters. Twelve playable classes are equally divided among the light and the dark. Fighting on the forces of good are knights, huntresses, wizards, druids, engineers, and halflings. The dark classes include assassins, berserkers, sorceresses, liches, bombardiers, and goblins. Each class has variable attributes and wields distinct weapons: some brandish swords and axes, while others fire magical energy from staves.
The action is played from a perspective behind the selected character as players fight their foes using a variety of combination attacks. Melee weapons such as swords, hammers, and axes can be swung in different directions using the mouse, while careful aiming is required using secondary weapons such as crossbows and long bows. Other useful equipment includes staves, whose power comes from a character's mana supply, multiple types of arrows, potions to replenish health, and shields.
Gold collected in each level can be used to upgrade equipment and supplies before each mission, and players are also free to switch classes if a battle becomes too difficult with a particular character. In addition to fighting, players can jump, crouch, climb, and swim to advance through the levels or to avoid enemy detection. PC enhancements over the Xbox original include higher frame rates, improved resolution, and additional checkpoints for more frequent saving.
Enclave let players run around plenty of well-designed fantasy-themed levels, including a haunted house, a dense forest, an other-dimensional fortress, and a trading town that straddled a bottomless gorge. The good news is that the PC version of Enclave manages to avoid the common annoyances that plague console-to-PC ports, and even improves on the console version in some areas. The bad news is that, even with the improvements, the game is still just "OK."
Let's start out with the good news. One of the major complaints leveled at the Xbox version of the game was the difficulty of controlling your fighter using two analog control sticks. There are absolutely no such problems with the PC version of the game, which is controlled via the common keyboard / mouselook setup. The game's camera is always directly behind your character, and the process of moving and fighting with your character is easy, intuitive, and quite fun. This wouldn't seem like such a radical concept, but after some the control problems we've seen in some recent PC games, it's a breath of fresh air. The character's sword-swinging animations even alter based on the direction you are moving when you hit the button. It doesn't effect the damage you dish out much, but it makes everything look cool and is a nice touch.
The game sports great variety in gameplay styles. Enclave is split in two parts, a "Light" campaign where you play warriors fighting for the survival of Celenheim against the Dreg'Atar, and a "Dark" campaign where you play evil characters participating in the exact same story from the other side. It makes certain missions much more enjoyable, particularly an early one where, as a "Dark" assassin, you're sent to kill a merchant that you were asked to protect while playing as a "Light" character. As you progress through the missions, you will also get access to new characters including warrior, magician, and thief-style characters, each of whom have their preferred weaponry and attack style. You can also return to earlier levels and try them again with new characters and equipment you have obtained in later levels.
Enclave's Xbox version was also lauded for being one of the best-looking Xbox games; its graphics have made the trip to the PC intact. Many of the levels are quite beautiful (in a darkly, sinister way), and all are put together with an eye toward style and atmosphere. It's just that they tend to suffer in comparison to eye-popping PC titles like Unreal 2. The characters, too, seem designed with an eye toward looking cool. The "Dark" warriors in particular -- especially the sorceress -- all wear outrageous outfits that make them a visual treat.
This, unfortunately, is where the accolades stop. The game seems to suffer from some serious collision detection problems, particularly in combat. Beyond the obvious problem of characters "skating" across the world, enemies seem able to hit the player's character whether or not they actually touch them. Many times, I found myself backpedaling with my assassin while being pursued by a sword-wielding knight who was able to hit me every time he swung his blade.
The enemy AI is nothing to write home about. The AI, in addition to being mostly of the "charge-straight-ahead-until-the-player-kills me" variety, seems to be inconsistently applied. Certain enemy characters seemed to have almost supernatural perceptions, able to nail me with arrows through a tiny slit window from all the way across the city square. Others, however, didn't even notice me from an equal distance despite my character standing right out in the open on an empty rooftop.
The poor quality of the game's storyline bothered me -- possibly all out of proportion to its actual affect on gameplay. I can't tell whether the juvenile quality of the story is due to problems in translation, but the game's story is cliched, inconsistent, poorly presented, and reeks of the worst Dungeons & Dragons tropes. The dialogue is badly written, and the high school drama-club-quality voiceovers frequently don't match the onscreen subtitles (which is riddled with missing words, grammatical errors, and spelling mistakes). Of course, since Enclave is an action game with only the slightest relationship to an actual RPG, it may not be a major problem for most gamers.
The game's biggest issue is a lack of multiplayer. This is a puzzling omission on several levels. First, the simplicity and openness of many of the game's levels practically scream that they were designed for both single and multiplayer use. The game also includes several different types of fighters with different fighting styles and abilities, and certain secret bonus levels in the game are basically bot matches. Finally, it fails to take advantage of what is the game's strongest quality: the sheer fun of whacking enemies with a sword or disposing of them with a sniper arrow from a rooftop. There may have been good reasons for not including a multiplayer mode, but it seems like a missed opportunity.
Not every game has to be groundbreaking to be fun, but any title should be good at what it does. Enclave was never going to be more than a fast-action, hack-and-slash game (not that that's a bad thing). Had the game's collision detection matched the quality of the controls and graphics, Enclave might have been more than a fleeting amusement.
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Devastation, Eragon, Evil Dead: Hail to the King, Evil Dead: Regeneration, Deus Ex: Invisible War, Chrome, Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening (Special Edition), Dead to Rights
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