Enclave Preview

Starbreeze's hack-and-slash action game is being brought over to the PC by Vivendi. New details and screenshots inside.

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When it was originally released for the Xbox, Enclave was praised for its detailed environments, complex character models, and sharp textures, but the hack-and-slash-style gameplay was somewhat hampered by unforgiving controls and the lack of a helpful save feature. Recognizing these problems, the development team at Starbreeze has not only tweaked the controls for the PC version of the game, but has also added a helpful checkpoint save feature so that you won't have to start at the beginning of a level if your character happens to die.

You can select from both the light and dark campaign at the beginning of the game.
You can select from both the light and dark campaign at the beginning of the game.

Enclave begins by telling the story of a great battle that was fought over a magical world. Seeking this world for himself, the demon Vatar sends his massive army into the magic lands, where it is met by fierce resistance from the inhabitants. Vatar's forces come close to winning the battle until the wizard Zale strikes his staff into the ground, causing Vatar to fall into a massive rift that forms beneath his feet. The magic lands are saved, and the city of Celenheim is established. However, as years pass, the rift starts to close in some areas, allowing the remnants of Vatar's forces, known as the Dreg'atar, to cross back into the magic lands and lay siege to Celenheim. The city raises its taxes to provide funds for its defense, which causes many of its inhabitants to start uprisings within the city itself. Your journey begins as an angry citizen of Celenheim who has been thrown into jail.

The game is split into two different campaigns--light and dark--and unlike in the Xbox version of Enclave, you can select from these two campaigns from the very start of the game. The first character you'll play as in the light campaign is the knight, who initially has no weapons or any other means of attack because his weapons were confiscated after he was thrown into Celenheim's dungeon. But after a massive fireball strikes the walls of the dungeon, you're able to free yourself from the prison. Naturally, the knight is more adept at melee combat than any of the other characters in Enclave. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's quicker with a blade or that he even inflicts more damage on enemies, but later on in the game, he'll have access to incredibly powerful melee weapons, like morning stars, while the other characters will be restricted to daggers and other small blades. In addition, the knight can use shields, which become incredibly valuable as enemies become faster and stronger.

Boss battles aren't quite as difficult, thanks in large part to a first-person-shooter-style control scheme.
Boss battles aren't quite as difficult, thanks in large part to a first-person-shooter-style control scheme.

Melee combat in Enclave can be a little tricky at first, but the switch to a first-person-shooter-style control scheme that uses both the mouse and the keyboard certainly makes it much friendlier. All the characters have a variety of slashes to use, depending on how they're moving around while engaging an enemy, but these slashes won't automatically make contact--you have to constantly move your character around to ensure that you'll actually hit an enemy. This is made even more complicated by the fact that some weapons are slower than others, making it difficult to get adjusted to the timing of an attack. However, the same rule applies to the enemies in the game, so you can move in, hit the enemy, and then move back or sidestep to avoid the attack. In fact, if you don't use that stick-and-move strategy in Enclave, you'll find that your character won't last very long. Switching to the first-person perspective may help you feel a little more comfortable with the combat, especially with the new control scheme.

Another big improvement for the PC version of Enclave is the new save system. At various points in a level, you'll find a checkpoint area where you can save your progress, which makes it possible to start at that point after you die. However, you will always have to fork over a little gold whenever you save, so if you don't have enough, you can't use the checkpoint.

The Cast

While you'll be forced to use the knight in the first few levels of the light campaign, you'll come across additional characters--a huntress and a druid--shortly thereafter. Both of these characters can hold their own in melee combat (especially the huntress, since she's the faster of the three characters), but because the melee weapons at their disposal pale in comparison with the knight's, you'll find that both the huntress and the druid are much more effective at longer distances. The huntress will eventually have access to both crossbows and regular bows, which can take down most of the average enemies within four or five shots.

The goblin in the dark campaign is proficient with melee attacks.
The goblin in the dark campaign is proficient with melee attacks.

Using these long-range weapons is incredibly easy, thanks to Enclave's targeting system. Whenever you switch to one of these weapons, a small dot will appear on the screen, indicating where you're currently aiming. When enemies appear on the screen, a circle will appear around them. To hit the enemy, you simply have to move the dot within the circle, but it is also beneficial to take your time aiming, since there's a much higher chance that you'll make a critical shot on the enemy, inflicting even more damage.

The huntress is very useful in most of the early levels. Since she can take out most enemies at long range, she doesn't have to worry about receiving too much damage. This is especially true against some of the lesser enemies and even other enemies who have long-range attacks, such as the sorceresses and assassins. However, you'll start to notice later on that enemies become not only stronger but also faster, making life especially difficult for the huntress since she can get only one or two shots off before the enemy is within striking distance. Still, her added speed makes it possible for you to get those shots in and then run to a safe area where you can wait for the enemy to find you.

The druid has similar strengths and weaknesses. She is skilled at long-range attacks, but her melee abilities are very poor. As the only magic user of the group, however, the druid doesn't have to worry about buying or finding additional ammunition for her weapons since her mana recharges over time. She plays a little differently than the huntress does because her magic attacks are a little slower than the huntress's bow and arrows, but her poison attack makes the hit-and-hide strategy even more valuable.

As you reach the later levels of the light campaign, you'll find even more playable characters, which also have their own advantages and disadvantages when placed in particular situations. In addition, each of the six or so characters in the light campaign has a counterpart in the dark campaign that has similar skills and abilities, so you can expect to use similar strategies.

There are some spectacular visuals in Enclave.
There are some spectacular visuals in Enclave.

Throughout Enclave, you'll come across additional bows, shields, and gold. You can use the gold to purchase new weapons, armor, and ammunition before the start of every mission. None of the initial items, except for the armor, are outrageously priced, so you'll be able to pick up some strong weapons by the time you reach the third or fourth mission. You'll also discover that there are some character-specific items, such as the Molotov cocktail that can be used only by the engineer.

The higher resolution afforded by PC hardware makes Enclave's already great visuals look even better--the textures are incredibly detailed as are the character models and the environments. In addition, the frame rate problems in the Xbox version of the game don't seem to be quite as apparent in the PC version. We'll have more on the PC version of Enclave as it approaches its release early next year.

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