What did critics think of Enclave in 2002?

Retro specialists Ziggurat are giving the fantasy hack ‘n slasher Enclave the HD treatment this summer. It’s due out on Xbox One, PS4, and Switch, marking the first time it has graced a PlayStation format – the humble Wii saw a conversion in 2012, arriving without much fanfare.

If you’re familiar with the 2002 original – released on Xbox and PC, and developed by Starbreeze – you may be aware that critics were wildly divided. It was heralded as a visual showcase for the then-fledgling Xbox, showcasing graphics the PS2 and GameCube would struggle with, and also managed to ride the coattails of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind’s hype.

But behind the glossy exterior was a game that gained all manner of review scores, with the majority of low scores being attributed to the Xbox version – which reportedly had far worse controls than its PC counterpart. Cheap deaths and no checkpoints also harmed the experience.

There’s another noticeable pattern to the lower scoring reviews – the gaming magazines of the era really didn’t hold back, resulting in a 42% from GameNow, a meager 3/10 from Computer Gaming World, and a middling 5/10 from the US-based Xbox Nation Magazine.

The Wii version – subtitled Shadows of Twilight, and published in Europe by current rights holders TopWave – garnered a shockingly low 15% from the sorely missed Nintendo Gamer. Indeed, it seems the Wii version was the worst way to experience Enclave, with no critical reviews higher than 53%.

So far, so damning. Enclave had its fans though, and it continues to gain praise via user reviews on both Steam and Metacritic.

US publication PLAY (not to be confused with the UK PlayStation magazine of the same name) felt it deserved top marks. “While the rest of the world pants about the nonsensical “Morrowmind,” the pinnacle of action role-playing is right under their noses. Wake up and smell the mace,” they said back in 2002.

The Gamers’ Temple [sic] opted for a 78%, albeit with a caveat that you’ll have to put up with some frustrations to get to the good stuff. IGN’s review is also still live. They went with a 73%: “Each area of play has so many faults, it’s undeniable. Still, there is a hack and slash dumb kind of grace that keeps you playing, especially since the story is solid enough to warrant it and the atmosphere rich enough to justify it.”

The Official Xbox Magazine made a comparison to Halo, of all things, before dishing out a 7.4. “The biggest problem is that (with very, very rare exceptions) you can only save at the end of a level…Imagine “Halo” without a recharging shield or checkpoints, and you’ll start to get the idea.”

GameSpot went with a lukewarm 68%, with the verdict: “Unfortunately, Enclave has a number of gameplay problems that its good graphics and sound can’t hide.”

GamePro shared the sentiment but went with a 6/10: “A well-made, well-presented, potentially thoroughly enjoyable hack-n-slash-a-thon that’s plagued by a Frustrating Cheap Death spell and the lack of any mid-game save or checkpoint feature to combat it.”

Finally, GamePen, Game Revolution, and XenGamers went with middling 5/10 reviews. “There’s a good deal on the surface to enjoy… When you get past the surface, the random mash of melee and the forced repetition of the levels chillingly weaken Enclave from the inside out,” said Game Revolution.

It can only be good news to hear that Ziggurat are planning improvements for their upcoming HD re-release, including upgraded visuals, enhanced sound effects, and remastered music. Cross your fingers for a new checkpoint system too, or at least save states. The lack of a save function seems to have attributed to a lot of the game’s problems back in 2002, and it’s something today’s gamers are unlikely to forgive.

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