Enclave is a gem of a game from the original X-Box era back in 2003. Its a third or first person medieval fantasy hack and slash with engaging combat and exceptional environments. For the rogue in all us there is a dark campaign where you play as several evil classes like assassin, berserker, lich and sorceress to name a few. If there are any good hearts out there, you also have the light campaign with their human counterpart classes such as knight, huntress, druid, wizard and half-ling. Each campaign lasted me a fun and joyous seven hours. At the start of each level you select your class and assign their equipment from the money you have. Nothing is permanently bought, so if you want expensive armor and a weak weapon with a few potions, you can do it or if zero potions, expensive weapons and armor is more to your liking go for it. The money is never spent, just assigned. These classes, play styles and different equipment go a long way to making each play through different, even if its your twentieth time on a level.
So why is this game so good? Let’s start with the controls and movement. While this was an X-Box game, there doesn’t seem to be controller support. You’re stuck with your keyboard and rebindable keys. Its more than that though, your character seems to have a good sense of movement. You’ll climb ladders, duck to crawl through tunnels, jump up boxes and over collapsed bridges. Even jump from rooftop to rooftop. Each class has its own speed. For the most part the heroes of the light campaign feel slower than their dark counterparts. Knights and berserkers move slow, while half-lings and goblins are the fastest. There is no run button, heroic classes are so slow that it really feels like you need to fight.
Getting there is half the fun, but along the way you’ll of course find enemies and you’ve got the fantastic combat to take them out with. I can’t call it deep combat so much as its fun. Each class can have a melee weapon that you really just mouse click bash to flail it around. Each weapon has its own strength, speed and range. Others have enchantments that will light enemies on fire. Most classes also have a shield too. Hold the right mouse button to have your shield up to block arrows and wow you will be blocking a lot of arrows. With some enemies that can fire a shotgun of bolts at you, it becomes mandatory if you’re going to survive at close range.
To add some depth there, each time your shield gets bashed, that will knock it away for a split second leaving you open to attack. So if two archers time it just right they can break through your defenses. This goes for enemies with shields too. They’re just like you, when their shield is up, you need to knock it down to hurt them.
Wizards, sorceresses, lich and druids have magic. Each magician has a magic meter that refills over time. So if you run out from fire balling an enemy, you’ve got to wait, where the enemies see your weakness and will rush at you. You can equip two spell staffs, so you have a variety there in the level. A lot of the spells make the game easier. Plenty of them seek out enemies and turn in the air to hit them. Instead of a shield, the right mouse will raise a force field, but I never used it that much, since mages are such long range classes. Some staffs also have a summoning ability to raise an ally to help you. Oh and the spells can’t get blocked. You still take damage.
Form there, non magic classes can also have a long range bow or cross bow. Even the knight and grenaders can use them, but you need to equip them at the start of each level, you can’t just find one. I’ve gotta say crossbows and bows are far too difficult to accurately hit anything. Sure melee enemies running to you will take arrows til they’re dead. Its shooting the other archers that becomes incredibly difficult. They can dodge arrows just as good as any human player. Its difficult to accurately hit them, so to compensate, there are several different tricks. You can load several bolts into a bow at once by pressing the right mouse button. Then release so one of them will hit its target if not all to instantly kill a close enemy. There are also fire bolts that will ignite enemies or the ground on fire. The abilities add some interesting facets to the game when you’re forced to play as an assassin for the dark campaign’s original character.
You have a quick health potion button that really plays into combat, because you need to chug the potion. Its not just instant energy, so if you’re getting beaten to death, you need to hide and chug the potion before you can attack or defend again. It adds a lot to the combat and gives the enemies a better chance.
You’ll need to unlock the classes as you go through the game. This means you’ll be rescuing your comrades in their levels. With them freed, they’ll temporarily aide you, fight shoulder to shoulder with you and guide you to the next part. They can die too, but as long as you’ve saved them and complete the level, they’re unlocked.
Enclave puts you into incredible environments and assets are not used from level to level. So each level has a completely different look and feel. Crypts, tombs, caves, castles, lava caverns, shadowy towns, human towns. There is a ton of variety here. Between the light and dark campaigns only a few levels get reused among the two. Even if it is a shared level, you start from the opposite end of it, to make it feel fresher. The levels feel like they’re just the right amount of time. Each level has plenty of exploration and a lot of levels feel open enough where you can look around without feeling like you’re forced down a corridor. They never overstay their welcome. I never think of it as a chore, because there’s always something new and beautiful to see around every corner.
The pre rendered cut scenes and menus are pretty dated with low resolution quality so they don’t look as gorgeous as the game itself. Not that the game itself is high definition, but over a decade later it still looks amazing. The only thing lacking are the ground textures. Grassy fields could have used Oblivion style grass, but for a game that came out when Morrowind did it still looks better than its contemporaries.
Its not all roses and sunshine in this dark enchanted world. The game goes from a fun treat and knuckles down on you in later levels to beat you down. I appreciated the challenge, even if some levels took me five minutes to make it across a bridge. If you die, you need to restart the level. To balance it out, if you can make it to a checkpoint, you will respawn there when you die. There’s just one catch. You need enough gold collected in that level to respawn. I’m thankful for the checkpoints even at a cost. Having each revive cost gold gives you incentive to return to each level after you complete it. Oh by the way, you only keep the gold if you beat the level. So if you died ten times, you spent one hundred gold, so you can return to the level, not die and get an extra hundred gold to spend. Assuming you collected what you had before. That’s the beauty with all the exploration, you can find things or miss them.
You won’t get limited to combat, there are some puzzles and a few brief, yet fun turret sections that don’t tie you to the turrets. The bosses are giant and feel engaging without being overwhelming or frustrating. A giant dragon, a huge lava monster and the mega evil boss has you shooting its hanging heart. If that wasn’t enough for you, there are unlockable mini games that are actually fun. You’ll find maps in levels that will unlock games like a survival mode and a cool turret gallery.
The music is also something to take note of. Its great and really fits the medieval epicness of the game. Its beautiful and touching, but with big and bold moments too.
Once again, this is just a gem of a game that I would have paid full price for when it was $50. Thanks to someone from Sweden for giving me the game!