There are many timeless games we still love and play today. With the likes of Resident Evil 4 (which had a remake this year), and Half-Life 2 (which can be played comfortably today on all hardware, even a PC with a processor with the power of a roast potato). Then there are quite a few games however which aren’t so easily accessible, due to licensing problems, lack of presence on modern digital platforms, or just being unplayable to modern gaming standards. This is where remasters come in handy, and especially for games that surpass 20 years of age, it’s even better. Quake 2 saw an impressive remaster recently along with a few others. But now it’s time for a forgotten fantasy cult classic to make a return to modern consoles.What is Enclave HD?
Starbreeze studio has had an interesting past, rising as a hot young studio behind graphically impressive, and highly immersive shooters such as The Darkness and the Riddick games, to having a recent track record that’s not as stellar. But one of their first games was for the time an impressive fantasy adventure game. It wasn’t as mechanically innovative as Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate, but it was a fun, easy-to-grasp, and visually pleasing adventure game for 2002.
Enclave has been a rather low-key cult classic but is warmly remembered by fans especially seeing as it came out at a time when there weren’t that many adventure games on consoles. And while it had many tropes of the genre, from big buff men, skimpily dressed women and a s*** ton of orcs to kill, it did introduce some neat ideas which would carry over into other games. Be it women not in skimpy clothing, a good number of classes to play as for a single-player adventure game, and a good deal of depth for weapon and armour selection.
Not only that, but it had a good bit of lore for the plot, centring on the land of Celenheim facing destruction by the Dreg'Atar armies and the demon lord Vatar. In a desperate attempt to protect Celenheim, high wizard Zale created a rift around Celenheim, keeping the armies of Vatar away. It worked for a while but soon enough the rift began to close, and the looming evil of the Demon Lord and his armies returned. To grant protection for the people, tax rises have been introduced and those who fail to pay, will be imprisoned (wow, Meta much?).
And that’s where you come in, a fallen hero who didn’t pay their taxes and is thrown in prison. On the one hand, it sounds really silly and is something like that game where you play as a Turnip who’s committing tax evasion. But on the other, it is a great setup, showcasing a very ground plight of the people, and you being a somewhat defiant folklore hero who unknowingly comes face to face with the forces of darkness.
But the dynamic twist here is that you can be the unlikely hero of Celenheim, who saves the day and the queen. Or you can be on the side of darkness and work for Vatar to take over the land of Celenheim. At the time, this was a massive innovation, as you could be objectively good or evil, working for the side of light or dark. And with each side, there are of course various classes to choose from over the story.
And this is great, as the main plot itself is just your standard affair of, going here, killing many things, escorting someone to somewhere they need to go and fight the campaign’s antagonist. It’s nothing that provides many twists or turns or is highly thematically engaging. But the lore, world building and the choice between being good or evil is fantastic. Aged like a fine Medieval wine
I will admit, I’m kind of a sucker for old games, even though some of the ones I revisited aren’t as great as I remembered…
Although many of these games, including Enclave, back in the day got me interested in game design and making my own. Titles such as Riddick, Half-Life 2, Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance and Resident Evil 4 are all timeless. And while I can’t say Enclave has aged all that gracefully, there are a few things it still does right, and think this remaster makes it better.
Regarding the visual presentation and sound design, it’s nice, clean and much smoother. While I do love the jagged edges, and rough texture work of older video games, I will acknowledge much of the charm and old-school aesthetics are kept in, just with a layer of polish. Enclave HD looks old but new at the same time, like a retro-inspired 3rd person game made by a small team in 2023.
Lighting has been bumped up, cutscenes have been fitted to a proper ratio for modern screens, and everything is lovingly upscaled to the highest resolution. While I had the odd cutscene stutter, and certain surfaces look a little too shiny, I do think this is one of the nicest remasters of a very old game I’ve played. Sadly there is not much else, no additional content or otherwise. Now I can gather that obtaining lost levels, artwork and extra bits is difficult, especially if the original studio has moved on or lost it. But it is a shame there weren’t any extras to make this a grander package.A fantasy epic of the 6th generation consoles
As for gameplay, Enclave is from an era where gaming was simpler, wholesome and quite frankly very basic at times. Now I’m not one of these dudes who keeps banging on that old games were better. Like everything, there is truth to that and plenty of nostalgic lies. Enclave was the second game from Starbreeze Studios and while limited in scope for depth, it did have quite a lot of character and flare to make up for it.
You will start your campaign as a rugged knight be it for the side of humanity or the demonic forces. Escaping from your cell you will slowly gather a sword and shield that’s good for whacking and slashing. In each level, you’ll fight a good selection of baddies, gather loose gold coins dotted around everywhere and partake in the odd set piece or dynamic event which can change things up a bit later in the game. This usually takes the form of rescuing prisoners from certain death, and upon doing so, grants you more characters to choose from before each level. A neat way to reward you for various actions and actively grow your character selection more compellingly.
While the combat is one note, be it one attack for each weapon, sadly no variation of attacks for even the sword, there is a good variety of weapons/classes. Each class will have their selection of weapons, be it swords, axes, longbows, or staffs for the more magical heroes. There’s a pretty great selection to choose from for each, with all weapons having their strengths and weaknesses, be it attack rates, attack power and short/long-range impact. A knight is very up close and personal but does have access to some beastly weapons, such as a great axe and spike shield. Whereas a Huntress’ handiness with bows means she can attack from far away, close-quarters combat can be rather dangerous.
My favourite was Druid, as she could wield various powerful staffs that could cause massive damage from afar and my favourite perk was that she could raise a mighty companion from the Earth to help in combat. It’s little touches like this that make combat feel a little more engaging and meaningful, despite the simplicity in the foundation.
The character classes are all great, and the general-level design for many of the missions is solid too. There are plenty of levels set within towns and cities that make good use of looping level design, branching paths, fighting big bosses, solving puzzles and exploration, which while simple are quite wholesome and fun. There were a couple of levels which haven’t aged all that well, being mighty long gauntlets that even with top-tier characters and weapons felt like a chore to get through. This is where some classes like the Huntress become utterly redundant and you will at times cheese it through the tougher, unbalanced sections of the game.
The higher difficulties can be broken depending on the class you choose. Again, the Huntress sadly becomes massively redundant that I have no idea why she is included or wasn’t given more to bump up her attack power. The difficulty was notorious back then and still is a problem now. I feel it’s really in the late game you feel the pinch of insane difficulty spikes, picking the wrong classes and the infrequent but annoying death traps that usually pop up in levels with little or no checkpoints. This is something that can certainly make or break your time with Enclave.
That’s why it’s amazing the cheat codes still work!
Enclave doesn’t have a multitude of skill trees or subsystems at its core, which you might like or dislike depending on preference. And overall it isn’t a very long game either, taking a couple of hours to finish each campaign type. But again, Enclave is from 2002 and was made at the time by a small studio. It’s a neat little fantasy game with cool cinematics, beautiful menus and selection screens, simple combat basics yet a wide variety of classes and weapons, with mostly great level design and pacing. Outside the campaign, there isn’t any multiplayer or rogue-like mode which seems to be trending in modern gaming, but rather awesome unlockable content such as new characters and modes.Overall?
It’s always amazing to revisit an old game such as Enclave, and seeing it remastered just makes it easier to access and play again, especially for modern hardware. Enclave isn’t the most immense classic of the genre or gaming overall, but it’s still definitely worth checking out nonetheless. And while this remaster doesn’t hold any extra content, it does do a good job at making it smooth, presentable and easily playable in this day and age (unlike a certain other remaster I’m playing this week …).
It doesn’t break the mould like the recent Quake 2 Remaster, which did set a high bar for quality in remasters. Yet it’s still nice to play one of Starbreeze's early titles, in a nicely functioning remaster, that keeps everything in check and place.
++ Old school, wholesome fantasy adventure fun
+ Great level design and with some neat gameplay features
+ Nice presentation and fascinating lore
-- Difficulty spikes and unbalanced encounters are off-putting
- Lacks any additional goodies for the package
Publisher Ziggurat Games provided a PS5 copy of Enclave HD for the review.