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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Conspiracy Games

 

Developer

Starbreeze

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

 

- Kind of like Morrowind on steroids
- Two campaigns from both sides of the coin
- Some wicked-looking equipment upgrades
- Good character design
- Aiming with a ranged weapon has never been easier

 

 

- Camera too variable
- No mid-mission save option
- Incredibly difficult end sequences
- Some annoying stutter
- Swimming sucks

 

 

Review: Bloodrayne (XBox)

Review: Gungrave (Playstation 2)

Review: El Matador (PC)

 

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Enclave

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

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If the Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind were stripped of its depth, its open-ended gameplay, its plethora of quests and overarching story, and its hardcore role-playing game (RPG) mystique, Enclave would be the result, an often entertaining but equally often frustrating game.

Although Enclave is lacking in brain power, it’s clear its been popping performance enhancers. Make no mistake; Enclave is pure hack and slash with very little strategy or thought involved. No need to think of the best approach of attacking an enemy, just walk up and stick him with your biggest and pointiest weapon or snipe him with your dwarven crossbow. (And as always, magic users have to hit and run.) The most thinking required is before the start of each stage when you chose and equip

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your character. (And possibly in the late stages of each campaign.)

There is a semi-interesting backstory to Enclave, but for most players the driving force for completing levels won’t be to find out what happens next, but to unlock another powerful weapon or new character. There are two campaigns available but you’re forced to play through the “good” campaign before the

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“evil” campaign opens up, and the good campaign starts you off in the boots of a barbarian type escaping from an area under siege, complete with mortars and orcish-type invaders. As you progress from there you open up other character classes like Druid, Sorcerer, Engineer, Huntress and Halfling. (And rough equivalents in the evil campaign.) Depending on how much gold you collect through a level (and the gold reward you get at the finish of each level) you can outfit your character with varying weapons and equipment of specific effectiveness and power. For example, heavy armor costs an arm and a leg so if you miss some loot during the course of a level it’s extra incentive to retread earlier levels before tackling harder ones – if you don’t have the ability to buy the most powerful stuff before the end confrontation go back and search every nook and cranny for the gold.

It’s the character upgrades that really show off Enclave’s detailed graphics and animation. (Flaming swords are just cool!) Enclave looks great but on occasion this turns out to be a curse. When facing off against more than a couple of enemies it’s not uncommon to encounter a second or two of stutter (sometimes three). In itself this isn’t a problem, but when the camera is taken into account it can result in critical slashes (or spell casts) missing their mark.

 

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The left stick is used to move your character and the right stick controls where you’re looking. More often than not, during a confrontation I always wound up looking at the ground (or trying to correct myself). I never really found an optimal camera angle to fight enemies – a camera and target lock would have helped this enormously. And for whatever reason, the developers didn’t implement limb hacking – the ability to cleave off parts of the opposition would have been sweet, even though a well executed swing-through combo does provide a feeling of accomplishment. Getting the combos to work is mostly a matter of good timing on the attack button and since timing changes for each weapon (i.e. a sword slashes faster than a big war hammer) this in itself can take some practice. I give kudos to the developers for implementing one of the easiest methods for aiming ranged weapons I’ve ever come across in a 3rd Person game. When equipped with a ranged weapon and a enemy is in sight a circle highlights the target. The longer your targeting reticule sits in the circle the more accurate your arrow will fly, indicated by the circle gradually changing to red for the best accuracy. Besides the camera though the control is fairly straightforward even with most of the buttons on the controller put to use, with the exception of swimming, which proves to be freakin’ annoying – more so on levels where you actually have to swim.

Puzzles and level design are unimaginative and occasionally awe-inspiring respectively. Morrowind sported some of the best architecture I’ve ever seen in a game – Enclave doesn’t quite reach the same level of spectacle but man, oh, man, some of sights are practically ripped right out of Lord of the Rings. Then there’s this fight between a mammoth lava man and a mammoth ice man – some cool moments. Interiors and exteriors are consistent for the theme of each level but both are extremely linear. Forget Morrowind’s wide-open expanses. Hit the edge of an area in Enclave and a “leaving the game” timer begins to click down from 5. There are small hidden areas to discover but there’s no raft of side quests to undertake for extra rewards. Puzzles are mostly key hunts – kill this guy steal the key and unlock the door to progress. There is also the usual lever pulling puzzles – and one that is incredibly funny thanks to some good voice acting – and a few escort missions. It’s a good mix but nothing outstanding.

 

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The challenge is not always consistent. I’ll admit, I finally succumbed to the lure of the God Mode to complete the showdown with the uber bad guy the first time through – one of the most incredibly ugly bosses ever. Even equipped with the latest and greatest equipment and trying each character endlessly for nearly week I would get close but never finish. There’s a series of events you have to fulfill before finally being able to go toe-to-toe with the beast – it’s a good setup in theory and implementation but it’s extremely hard. The same can be said for a few other levels where one misstep mid-way through a mission means instant death. There’s no in-mission save or check-point feature, which would have gone a long way to alleviate some of the frustration of instant death or getting so close only to fail by a miscalculation.

There’s something to be said for a game like Enclave that goes for the visceral experience – lots of good-looking graphics and hack ‘n slash action. But the camera trips it up, not so much that it falls on its face – more of a stumble. It’s like popcorn with extra butter and just the right amount of salt but with a surprise used band-aid somewhere near the top puffs just out of sight. You may enjoy the rest of the popcorn but you’re always thinking about that band-aid, tinting your enjoyment. Then there's the lack of in-game saves, extreme linearity, and extreme difficulty in some areas -- okay, so there are a few band-aids.

In short, Enclave’s definitely not all bad and is worth a rental at least.

- Omni
(August 29, 2002)

 

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