Enclave first impressions (In depth as always)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Romier S, Jul 31, 2002.

  1. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    Game: Enclave
    Developer: Starbreeze Studios
    Dolby Digital 5.1: Yes
    Widescreen support: Yes
    480p support: Yes
    Overview:
    I'm sure a majority of Xbox owners have heard of Enclave at one time or another. Its visual appeal and promise of innovative combat and RPG action has kept me at the very least, highly interested. Well the day has finally arrived. Enclave is here and ready to be played on an Xbox near you.
    Enclave started out as a highly innovative multiplayer medieval combat game. As development went on things inevitably changed and Enclave morphed into what we have today. The multiplayer aspects were dropped (much to the chagrin of those anticipating the game) and the single player game became the focus of the development team.
    There have been many reviews published online citing the many pluses and minuses of Enclave. Many complained of the lack of an in-game save feature causing the game to be overly difficult and frustrating. Many reviews have also cited the "lag" or slowdown the game suffers from. it almost seems like a laundry list of problems and to be perfectly honest with you some of them very much apply to Enclave. It leads to the question: Is Enclave all that it promised to be? Lets find out.
    Story:
    Enclave begins with a standard epilogue telling the story of the demon Vatar and his ambition to rule the magic lands of Celenheim. Hell-bent on taking control of the land Vatar's army attacked full force and drove the light side to the brink of destruction. On the verge of defeat a mighty wizard named Zale cast his staff to the ground opening a giant rift causing the demon to fall to its supposed death and turn the tide of the battle.
    As time grew the city of Celenheim became surrounded by this rift which caused a separation in the lands. Celenheim and the inner portion of the rift (Known now as the Enclave) became a peaceful thriving land whilst the outsiders became the Dreg'Atar. Evil greedy creatures that wished to take back what they felt belonged to them.
    Time passes and the rift is closing. Some portions can even be crossed now. The lands of the dark are planning their invasion. Can you stop them? Or even aid them if so inclined?
    Gameplay Impressions:
    Enclave can be played from a first or third person perspective. Changing views is as simple as pressing the black button on the Xbox controller. The game begins with the knight awakening in his prison cell. Shortly after you will be broken out and taken through a semi-tutorial level that helps you get acquainted with the controls. Here is the button layout for those interested:
    Black button: Toggle view
    White Button: Unused
    Left Thumbstick: Move and strafe
    Right Thumbstick: Look around
    Press Left Thumbstick: Crouch
    Press right Thumbstick: Jump
    A: Change Weapons
    X: Change Items
    y: Drink potion
    Left trigger: Shield/Use
    Right trigger: Attack
    In first person mode the game moves very much like Halo. Movement is similar but attacking with a melee weapon can be a bit disorienting since enemies can be smaller than you and end up right below your swing range. This causes some positioning issues that can be a bit irritating at first but easily alleviated in the third person mode (see below).
    Third person is *THE* view for melee fighters. Right off the bat you will be swinging a nicely sized sword at several smaller enemies and you will find that melee combat works very much like Draconus on the Dreamcast or Rune on the PC/PS2. Things are a little more sensitive in Enclave as you need to be positioned correctly (as mentioned above) to hit the enemy and you will always be moving when fighting so as to not be hit yourself. Your fighter can also string moves together to cause some pretty damaging combos. Once you have become accustomed to how the positioning in the game works and how the combos are created you'll be pounding out holes in all of the nearby enemies with glee.
    The first person mode is definitely the preferred view for using the ranged weapons available in the game. Aiming is more precise and it gives you an all around better look at the enemy from afar. Using the ranged weapons is surprisingly quite intuitive and easy. You simply aim at the enemy and a green circle appears around them. you then simply move the reticle onto the enemy and shoot. The longer you keep the reticle the more of a "lock" you will have and the more critical a hit you will make. The levels of damage are represented by a color. Green is minimal, yellow is medium and a red lock is critical. The ranged combat is fun and adds some interesting depth to the game.
    On that note I wanted to quickly mention that the controls are responsive and never leave you wondering why your avatar is not doing what you want them too. That is always a plus in any game. Moving right along...[​IMG]
    Having played through four levels of the game I have to mention that the storyline is pretty interesting. Nothing too horribly original but interesting nonetheless. Tasks throughout the four levels I played were varied. One level has you guarding a merchant as you lead him out of town while another will have you defending an outpost. During these levels you will come upon gold which your character collects and uses to buy new items. There is a set amount of gold per level and you can come back and replay any level to make sure you get all of the gold.
    In between levels you will be allowed to pick which character you wish to play as well as spend the money you accumulated. Items available vary from different types of armor, crossbows, swords etc to healing potions. Once the items have been purchased you will "equip" your character so to speak and be on your way to the next challenge. Its all very light RPG fare but it gives you some nice character building to do (Weapon and armor changes do appear on your character). Note: This is the only time you have access to your inventory. You cannot change equipment while playing through a level.
    Of course your next question is so how does it all come together Romier? Well, I have to say that I am rather enjoying myself. The melee combat does take some getting used to but once you got ahold of it there really isn't any major issue. Thus far i've played the Knight and the Huntress and I'm finding the Huntress to be the more difficult of the two to play as she does less damage all around. With four other characters available in the light campaign, I'm looking forward to the added variety.
    The enemy AI is neither here nor there. You hit a goblin with an arrow and he will run away. At other times you can just stand in front of an enemy for 20 seconds and they will do nothing. Then all of a sudden they will "wake up" and attack you. Its a little odd. They really don't seem to work in groups much and at times they just keep running at you after you peg them. It ends up being tolerable since most of the time your after as much carnage as possible anyway[​IMG].
    I'm not going to comment on the save game feature as I have only played through the first four missions and have not met death as of yet. The levels have been pretty expansive and I could see how having to restart them would become frustrating. For now I will not speculate and I will update this thread as soon as I experience this aspect of the game.
    It is rather strange though. As I play I am not finding anything major to gripe about in the gameplay department but it feels like more could have been done. I am not sure what it is but with a little more refinement to the melee system and a couple more tweaks, things could have been even better.
    The obvious issues in Enclave include the melee combats higher than usual learning curve but any experienced gamer will get through without a problem. Repetition (and lack of an in-game save function) may be an issue later in the game but I'll have to wait and see what variety of enemies they throw at me and what new adventures they have this warrior partake in.
    Sound Impressions:
    This is very easy to say and I have no quarrels in saying it. Halo has found its equal! Enclave's 5.1 surround sound is quite the technical marvel in my humble opinion. As soon as the game starts you are met with booming explosions that will have your subwoofer bouncing. Shortly after you will experience the knight smashing his sword into an enemy creating a loud strong bass filled thud! The further you go in the more you will be surrounded by arrows being flung around you in all directions. Loud fire explosions filling the room. Water running in discrete channels and enemies moving around you in all the speakers including the center channel.
    Oddly enough the center channel is not used for dialogue but it is used for music and ambiance. Strange but I'm not complaining!
    The music is well done and adds to the fantasy setting. Some of it is fairly standard fantasy music but I have no doubt many will enjoy it (Starbreeze is planning to release a full soundtrack soon).
    This is simply a fantastic sounding game that rivals and at times surpasses the mighty Halo in its use of directionality and immersiveness. It needs to be heard.
    Graphics/Video
    (This portion will be broken up into two sections: Home Theater Impressions/Graphics Impressions)
    Home Theater Impression
    Many on the Home Theater Forum will be happy to know that Enclave does in fact include support for 16:9 televisions and 480 progressive scan mode. Let me make this clear right off the bat, Enclave looks spectacular on a widescreen television. I would be so bold as to say that Enclave can go toe to toe with Dead or Alive 3 and come out with a respectable draw to maybe even winning a round or two. Yes it looks that good.
    I experienced Enclave on my Avia calibrated Toshiba 42H81 and I had to pick my jaw up from the floor. The clarity of the textures is astounding and at times you could confuse the floor for being real. The lighting in the game is even more pronounced on my widescreen set and well hell its just drop dead gorgeous.
    Thankfully Enclave has a large variety of environments and I was able to sample everything from deep brown caverns to lush green outdoor environments. Resolution, clarity, color...it was all breathtaking. If it sounds like I am gushing well..I am. Jagginess is a minor issue with very few scenes displaying the ugly artifacting (Though it is there at various times but no more than DOA3) This is a game that needs to be viewed on a widescreen set. At the very least I have to congratulate Starbreeze for including widescreen support and taking advantage of it so well.
    (NOTE: The menus for Enclave are *NOT* 16:9. Just for clarification the menus are again *NOT* in 16:9. The game on the other hand does support 16:9.)
    Graphics Impressions:
    With the Home Theater impressions done we can focus on the games technical aspects. Enclave is a damn fine looking game. Have you ever looked at screenshots of a game in a magazine or website that looked gorgeous only to find when you got the game home, it didn't look quite as good? You wont have that problem with Enclave. The game looks identical to the screenshots. The texture work in the game is second to none. Detailed bump mapping can be found on almost every surface (ala Halo). Lighting is fantastic changing the mood of the game as you play. The list goes on.
    The player models are excellently detailed. The characters hair actually moves and is drawn realistically. Cloth textures are easy on the eyes as well. Your avatars all animate pretty well. There are some stiff animations here and there that could have been ironed out though. Another minor problem is that your characters weapons do not appear on their body. When you switch between a crossbow and a sword it kind of appears out of nowhere. This is a VERY minor issue though and I mention it only to be thorough and because I feel it would have added to the game.
    Enemy models surprisingly are almost as detailed as the player models. Though you can see that they skimped a bit more in the animation department. Though thankfully they put most of their resources into the death animations which are always fun to watch.
    A couple levels into the game you will be privy to some nice fire particle affects. Not too mention some rather excellent water effects that even has some extremely impressive light sourcing. Unfortunately the water is pretty static and does not create a "ripple" effect when you run through it.[​IMG] Another minor point of contention that's worth noting.
    Looking on the other side of the spectrum all of this detail and quality comes at a bit of a price. I'm not going to lie, Enclave does have some framerate issues. Though I don't know if I can call it an "issue" as of yet. It suffers a bit from what I call the "spin and stutter" effect. It essentially means that when you spin the camera around it causes a kind of stutter that indicates a framerate slowdown (though its a very minor stutter). This effect at times gives the game a "stuttery" feel and not the smooth movement you would have hoped for. Now the important question..Is this a game crippling phenomenon? No, its minor annoyance at best. I will on the other hand give you some further information by saying that I did run across some nasty slowdown when I had several (about 6)enemies on screen at once. That did cause some fairly annoying slowdown but in four levels it has happened once to me so take that for what its worth.
    This is a technically superior game that's pure eye candy. That eye candy does, at times, have it consequences (though thankfully not often!). I personally feel Enclave could have used a bit more framerate optimization on the whole. Other than that Starbreeze have done an excellent job with the games graphics.
    Conclusion
    So it comes down to simple question. Do you want to try it? For those who have been anticipating the game for awhile I think its a safe buy. I personally am not horribly let down though I think a good number of things could have been done better. The lack of an in-level save function may make the game frustrating for some though as I said I have not experienced this yet.
    The minor stutter issue can be an irritant to those who are very much sticklers about that. Though it has not yet caused me to throw my arms up in disbelief or frustration and I am very attentive to framerate problems.
    My final thoughts? If I were to give the game a score after four levels I would give it a solid 7.5-7.7 out of 10. It most assuredly is not the most original or innovative hack and slash out there but its a technical marvel for your Home Theater and most importantly I am having allot of fun playing through the game. In the end I'm glad that I tried it for myself because now I have a new game to work through for the summer.[​IMG]
    In the other Enclave "fever pitch" thread I mentioned that like movies, all games don't need to be "Oscar winners" or "AAA" titles. All they need to be is fun. Enclave is certainly no Oscar winner but it may pick up an MTV Movie Award here and there[​IMG]
    (BrianB, this is most definitely Draconus on steroids![​IMG])
     
  2. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    EDITED FOR SPELLING ERRORS.
     
  3. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    Very nice review [​IMG] I played the first three or four levels last night and if I had to compare the game to anything, it would be like a fantasy Max Payne, albeit rough around the edges in ways that are covered in the review. Unlike you, I did die a couple of times last night - once during the protecting mission, partially because I chose the Huntress instead of the Knight and partially because I'm not very good at "protect the big slow-moving target" missions, and then I died again on the temple level when I missed a jump while trying to get over the spikes that pop out of the floor. It wasn't that frustrating though, mainly because the levels weren't all that big and I could get back to the same spot pretty quickly. Maybe the later levels are bigger but so far I think the difficulty seems acceptable.
     
  4. Dave Falasco

    Dave Falasco Screenwriter

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    Another well-written, intelligent, and fun-to-read review...you are a credit to this forum, Romier.

    Thank you for your efforts my man. I'm going to see if I can find this game tonight.
     
  5. ChristopherS

    ChristopherS Second Unit

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    Since I am one of the few people on this board who must wait until August 6th for my LOTR DVD I will just have to go out and get this game today or tomorrow. Hopefully it will provide my fantasy fix until Tuesday. I bought Morrowind after Romier's review (and love it!) so I will just have to trust him on this one.

    Chris
     
  6. Chris Rein

    Chris Rein Stunt Coordinator

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    Yessir!

    This game is gorgeous! And it sounds fantastic.

    I've played about 4 levels worth as well, and it's just one fun game.

    The only stutters I had were at the VERY beginning of level 2, and that was my fault because I just wanted to start hauling ass into the level while it was still loading. So, if I would have waited a few ticks, I would have been fine.

    Anyway, the whold fiasco of no "Mid-level saves" is just absurd. Gamespot basically dethroned this great game by complaining about the lack of this feature. boo hoo. Graphics and sound alone are a huge weight for the final score of this game. Gameplay is fun, controls are dead on, it should easily be a high eight or low nine. Not mid 6's. That's just stupidity. Did they even play the game?!!?1

    This is a great game. Widescreen goodness, solid Dolby Digital (try panning around when someone talks!) and a low-end on the first level that moves furniture. Kudos to Starbreeze on this fine game.

    Oh yeah, where in the HELL are those last 10 gold coins on level one!!!

    Chris
     
  7. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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  8. Chris Rein

    Chris Rein Stunt Coordinator

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    I've already picked up those bags of coins. You have to ride the lever on up.

    Guess I've missed the obvious somewhere!

    I've done that level twice already!

    Any other hidden spots? I'm sitting at 40/50 on level one. The next 3 levels I have all the gold. I'll just explore it again!

    Chris
     
  9. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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  10. Troy LaMont

    Troy LaMont Supporting Actor

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  11. JohnE

    JohnE Supporting Actor

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  12. Scott "E"

    Scott "E" Second Unit

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    Thanks for a great review Romier. Looks like I'll be picking this one up after all.
     
  13. Chris Rein

    Chris Rein Stunt Coordinator

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    Romier,
    Doh!
    I found them!
    They were "hidden" later on in the level! hehe
    I now have all gold up to level 6 (that's where I'm at now).
    The Druid ROCKS!!!! Man, glad I've been searching for those coins, my druid is fully stacked...okay, pun intended too! [​IMG]
    Chris
     
  14. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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  15. Dean DeMass

    Dean DeMass Screenwriter

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    Romier,
    I am here. I have been following your posts in this thread. I would love to get this game right now, but with Football coming out next week, Mario in a few weeks, and I just bought Buffy: Season 2 on DVD, my funds are a bit on the low side. [​IMG]
    I am going to give it a rent though so I can get a good 4-5 days in on it before I buy it. [​IMG]
    After reading your review yesterday, I was going to ask if the game [​IMG].
    It sounds like it does. However, I may have to get Buffy before Enclave. Please don't hate me because of this. [​IMG]
    -Dean-
     
  16. Tim Markley

    Tim Markley Screenwriter

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    I had almost written this game off because of all of the negative reviews. Now that I've read your review, I think I'll pick it up. I've got a 65" widescreen HDTV and I can't wait to see Enclave on it.
     
  17. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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  18. Derrik Draven

    Derrik Draven Supporting Actor

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    I'd have to say I'm blown away by Enclave's graphics. The sound is superior to Halo's in a few ways as well.
    As for the rest, I'd have to say the overwhelming mediocre reviews were spot on. Just mho.
    Definitely rent before you buy.
    Man, it's going to be a long wait for the fall gaming season...[​IMG]
     
  19. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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    Yup, it shore is purdy!
    But I think I'm going to have to wait a while to buy (I'm renting right now), as I must get NFL Fever on Tues! (...and Lord of the Rings, and the Simpsons, and Clash of the Titans, and Star Trek!)
    -Dave
     
  20. Tim Markley

    Tim Markley Screenwriter

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    No drops??? Hmmm, not sure if I like that. So the only thing that you actually find is gold and then you use that gold to buy stuff? I think this will be a rental for me.
     

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