It is said that in Christianity, history is a form of linear
progression, from beginning to end, from dark to light, from good to
evil, whatever your future outlook may be. But the pre-dominant view of
history before Christianity was what Boethius called the wheel of
fortune. What dominates today will wither tomorrow. Curiously, that's
how the world in Enclave works where swords, magic and sorcery all mix
together in humanity's quintessential struggle, that between light and
dark, good and evil.
In the land of Celenheim, the evil was exorcised by a wizard in ancient
times through a rift that pushed the antagonists to the outer parts of
Celenheim. That rift protected the forces of good as they lived
harmoniously for a few millennia but that very same rift is shrinking,
protracting and will eventually resume a conflict that was started long
ago. The time calls for new heroes as you assume one of several role
playing style classes in a quest either for the forces of darkness or
that of the light. With two single player campaigns, Enclave provides a
lengthy and prolonged battle for both sides.
Despite a solid grasp of the good versus evil premise, Enclave is unsure
of itself in terms of what game it wants to portray. The various
classes and character development denote a work that befits a role
playing title. There are giant vistas to discover and the world you
embark on is not only visually stirring but also has an interesting
history behind it. Giant machines and preternatural contraptions can
dominate the landscape. Unfortunately, Enclave offers very sparse
commentary on some of the more interesting parts of the title. Why are
these machines there? What purpose do they serve? Enclave's story
reminds me a lot about Bungie's Myth franchise but the difference
between that wheel of fortune and this one was the narration, depth of
story and strong characters, especially the villains. In Myth, you were
given hints as to what you were doing, why the evil overlord was
actually the great hero from the last good versus evil battle. Those
types of epiphanies and plot twists are missing in Enclave because after
the backdrop was crafted, the developers went on to focus on combat
Regrettably, the combat it throws at you is schizoid by nature. The
controls you take up are complex and the skills you are provided with
can be used tactically to disable foes. Deficient AI has made that
rather useless so somewhere along the line the developers decided to
simply throw numbers at you, much like a scaled down version of the
hordes you faced in Hunter: The Reckoning. The trouble with Enclave is
the camera system. It seems geared toward exploration, one-on-one
combat and not mass combat, therefore allowing even a group of lowly
enemies to inflict significant damage from 'cheap' shots. Enclave
challenges you with working the camera to aim at your foes, rather than
the smart use of your character's skills.
The truly difficult parts are predicting scripted ambush sequences that
are only figured out on first try if you were on the development team of
this title or you were plain lucky in selecting characters. Each level
lets you choose a different character, so unlike Hunter: The Reckoning,
you'll get a chance at trying out and improving each character class.
Which character performs best in which level, unfortunately, is a hit
and miss process. You don't know until you've been stabbed by five
assassins or shot down from a hail of arrows at a certain juncture.
Then, in lieu of any save game function in between levels, you'll have
to select the correct character and go through the combat once more.
It's an artificial way of extending the longevity of Enclave but it
works against the title so much that it becomes an annoying exercise of
paper, rocks and scissors.
It's rather a pity because Enclave is so imaginative in other ways.
Visually, it provides some terrific and sublime landscapes, especially
as you progress through the depths of evil. However, the most stunning
pieces of work are in the effects. The Xbox came on to the scene
claiming it had Dolby Digital encoding for its titles. Unfortunately,
not all Dolby Digital titles are equal and the extra hardware persuades
players to expect a certain home theater, cinematic quality from the
audio. Sub-par effects, therefore, sound worse and are disappointing.
Enclave, however, is exceptionally well done. The effects are crisp,
not distorted and possess a high enough fidelity with enough bass to
make them convincing. I've played certain titles like Blood Wake where
the sound is absolutely abysmal, whereas titles like Jet Set Radio
Future create a world in and of itself merely from the audio component.
Enclave is definitely one of the latter. Its soundtrack is punctuated
by light operatic chants, though not as dramatic as say Hans Zimmer.
Now, if only the mechanics of the title were as creative as the
technical portions, Enclave could be the sleeper summer hit we were all
looking forward to.
Graphics and sound are not the only things that are needed to create a
compelling piece of entertainment. Enclave's heart appears to be in a
role playing title but what results in the end is a lot of mindless
combat that it's not prepared to handle, with its anemic camera and
deficient AI. The lack of multiplayer also makes it difficult to
overlook these deficits. If it had convinced itself it was only going
to be a Gauntlet-style title, it should have taken the Hunter: The
Reckoning route and fixated its camera. That would've been, ironically,
its saving grace. Unfortunately, an identity crisis makes Enclave a
less enjoyable game than it could have been. Schizoid in its execution,
this is a title that puts its best skills to work in the wrong areas;
like incorrectly choosing a character class to pass a certain level in