Partial Review: “Enclave” (PC Version) (Retro game)

Sometimes, there are reasonably enjoyable games that get overlooked. A computer game from 2002 called “Enclave” is one of those games. I hadn’t even really heard of it before until I happened to notice it during a sale (where it had been reduced to about 99p) on GOG a couple of weeks before I prepared this partial review.

And, yes, this will be a partial review. Basically, due to getting distracted by other stuff, I’ve only got up to the final level of the game’s “light” campaign. So, this will be more than just a ‘first impressions’ article, but less than a proper full review.

So, let’s take a look at “Enclave”:

“Enclave” is a fantasy-themed “hack and slash” action game from 2002. Interestingly, the game lets you choose whether you play as the “light” or “dark” side in an epic Tolkien-esque fantasy story. However, it seems like the “dark” campaign doesn’t unlock until you complete the “light” campaign – so, this review will just focus on this one side of the story.

To sum up the story of the “light” campaign – you have to escape from prison, defend a small city from the forces of darkness and then go on an epic quest across a nightmarish wasteland in order to find and gain the support of various allies. Just imagine all of the epic parts from the “Lord Of The Rings” films and this will give you a fairly good idea of what to expect:

You. Shall. Not. Pass!!!!!!! … And, yes, you can play as a wizard in some of the later levels.

The game also occasionally includes some vaguely steampunk elements too – like this vaguely “Riven”/”Myst”-like location.

And, yes, the “Lord Of The Rings” movies are an excellent comparison to make. This is mostly because the bulk of the “light” campaign involves fighting goblins, orcs etc…

Although there are some mild puzzle-solving elements occasionally, this game is a proper action game – in that you will be spending most of the time swinging swords, shooting arrows or casting spells.

And, some parts of the game look like a heavy metal album cover too 🙂

Although the hit detection in this game is a little clunky and the combat can feel a little bit imprecise at times, it is kept reasonably fun and interesting due to the variety of enemy types, the challenging difficulty, a few boss battles, the fact that this game is almost like a heavy metal album (except for the music) in videogame form and the level of character customisation available.

Technically, you play as a group of characters… and they all actually appear in one cutscene.

Although you start the “light” campaign with just one character (the knight), more characters become available as the game continues.

Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, and you can also choose their weapons, armour etc.. too. These things are unlocked by completing levels and by finding in-game bonus items (and, unlike in greedy modern games, you can only get in-game gold by earning it via gameplay 🙂).

See that cool-looking fiery sword. You’ll actually unlock it via gameplay 🙂 Yes, this game is from the glorious age before *ugh* micro-transactions were a thing 🙂

This high level of customisation also means that, if you’re having trouble with one level, then you can try it with a different character type or with different weapons.

The character types are sort of what you’d expect, and the best character in the “light” campaign is probably either the “halfling” character – who is a badass heavy metal/punk warrior who has scary facial tattoos, can move quickly, can use the game’s best swords, who grins maniacally whilst fighting etc.. or the “knight” character – who is a badass Roman gladiator/barbarian style character, and is also pretty metal too.

Once you’ve got some decent armour (as opposed to the default crop top) and a good shield, then the halfling is probably the best character in the game.

You can also play as a cool Roman gladiator/barbarian-style character too 🙂

The worst character is probably the “druid” character, who is an elf-like character who has little to no protection against damage (probably due to wearing a swimming costume into battle) and has a few magic-based attacks that are shared with a much cooler Gandalf-like wizard character you can unlock later.

Plus, some characters only become good later in the game when more weapons become available. The “huntress” character is a good example of this. She’s a character who specialises in using longbows and crossbows. Whilst she is playable from the second level onwards, she’s only really a good choice a few levels later – when you can equip her with some of the more powerful bows and arrows, and when you’ll find yourself in situations where you’re faced with fighting long-range adversaries from a distance.

Although the huntress is playable from the second level onwards, she’s a terrible choice for levels that involve lots of close combat (like the second level).

In terms of level design, this game is reasonably good. Although most of the levels are reasonably linear, there are occasional non-linear segments, set pieces and easy puzzles that help to prevent it from becoming monotonous. Not only that, the variety of locations on offer in this game is pretty good too:

There’s even a really awesome “Ancient Rome”-style level too 🙂

Which even includes a beach area and a gladiatorial arena too 🙂

But, saying all of this, it is very clear that this game was originally designed with consoles (rather than computers) in mind. This is most notable with regard to the game’s saving system.

Whilst you can go back and play levels that you’ve completed, you can’t save mid-level. Although most levels feature mid-level checkpoints (which penalise you 10 gold whenever you use them, meaning your gold counter doubles up as a “lives” system), the only way to save your progress is to let the game auto-save at the end of each level…. and only at the end of each level.

Yes, if you leave the game after finding a mid-level checkpoint, then you’ll have to restart the entire level next time…

Since some of the levels can take 15-30 minutes to complete and since the difficulty level of some of the later levels is very much on the challenging side of things, this can cause a lot of frustration! Still, thanks to the character customisation and the relatively short length of the levels, it won’t take too long before you’ll feel like having another go at the more challenging levels.

Plus, this saving system encourages you to play the game in shorter bursts, which means that the combat won’t feel as repetitive as it might do if you played for longer periods of time.

In terms of music, voice-acting and general presentation, this game is fairly good. Whilst it would have been cool if there had been heavy metal music on the game’s soundtrack, the game’s more traditional “epic fantasy” music is pretty cool.

Likewise, the game’s animated menus and pre-rendered cutscenes still look pretty impressive to this day (less so with the in-game cutscenes though). The voice-acting is a little bit more variable, but there isn’t that much of it and even the cornier examples of it are “so bad that it’s good”.

One thing that helps with the pre-rendered cutscenes is that they mostly involve looking at a book, which is probably easier to render realistically with early-mid 2000s computer graphics.

In terms of length, this game is fairly reasonable. Although the “light” campaign contains 14 levels (some of which are fairly challenging) and probably at least 10-20 hours of gameplay, the fact that there is another campaign (the “dark” campaign) that can be unlocked when you complete this means that this is anything but a “short” game.

All in all, this is a fun (if occasionally frustrating) epic fantasy action game. If you like heavy metal album covers, gleefully mindless action games, the epic battle scenes in the “Lord Of The Rings” movies and things that are “so bad that they’re good”, then you’ll absolutely love this game 🙂 Yes, it certainly isn’t a perfect game, but it is something of an overlooked gem and it’s worth picking up when it goes on sale…

If I had to give what I’ve played of this game a rating out of five, it would just about maybe get a four.

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Review: “Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded” (Computer Game)

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Well, after playing quite a bit of the first “Alien Shooter” game (and completing “Zombie Shooter”), I was curious about what the second “Alien Shooter” game would be like.

Thankfully, there was still a sale running on GOG a few days before I originally prepared this review (in late 2016), so I was able to pick up a copy of “Alien Shooter 2” for 79p. I think that it costs about a fiver at full price though.

And, since I completed “Alien Shooter 2” a few minutes before I started writing this review, this will actually be a full review, rather than a partial review or a first impressions article.

Plus, like with the other games in this series, I should probably warn you that this review contains unrealistic/cartoonish GRUESOME IMAGES and BLOODY IMAGES.

So, let’s take a look at “Alien Shooter 2”:

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“Alien Shooter 2” is an isometric third-person perspective action game from 2009. One of the very first things that I will say about this game is that, unlike the first “Alien Shooter” game, this one actually has something of a story to it. In other words, there’s actual voice-acting, NPCs and even the occasional set piece.

Of course, some of the voice acting is kind of funny, such as the voice acting for this character. I literally laughed out loud when he said “deep in the bowels of this place” in a serious voice.

And, yes, there are set pieces like this one too.

And, yes, there are set pieces like this one too.

In other words, this is more like a “mainstream” game in some subtle ways. A few of the levels are somewhat more linear than usual and all of the levels are vaguely story-based. Whilst this detracts from the timelessly thrilling gameplay slightly, it’s something that you can get used to after a while. Even so, most parts of this game are just as thrillingly fast-paced as the first “Alien Shooter” was. And, thankfully, this game isn’t as easy as your typical mainstream game is 🙂

However, before I go any further, I should probably point out that the controls/perspective can take a bit of getting used to. Whilst I’d had a lot of practice with the previous games, one annoying feature in this game is the inclusion of vehicle-based segments (including at least one vehicle-only level).

The vehicles use a totally different control scheme to that used for normal character movements (eg: directions are from the perspective of the vehicle itself, rather than from the perspective of the overhead viewpoint) which can confuse the hell out of you and cause you to swerve around wildly until you finally get used to another set of controls…. only to then have to get used to the “normal” controls again once you leave the vehicle.

Seriously, why couldn’t the vehicles have used the same movement controls as the rest of the game?

The difficulty curve in this game is kind of strange too. Ironically, some of the earlier levels and one level in the middle of the game are more difficult than the later levels. This is mostly because, by the end of the game, you have such powerful weapons and such impressive stats that you may as well be playing with “god mode” enabled.

Yes, as soon as you get one of the better rocket launchers, the difficulty drops from "hard" to "easy" LOL!

Yes, as soon as you get one of the better rocket launchers, the difficulty drops from “hard” to “easy” LOL!

 Yes, even though the last two levels contain five bosses [well, sort of...], it only took me two attempts to beat both levels. Whereas, one level in the middle of the game took me at least six tries to get through!

Yes, even though the last two levels contain five bosses [well, sort of…], it only took me two attempts to beat both levels. Whereas, one level in the middle of the game took me at least six tries to get through!

Another reason why some levels are almost unreasonably difficult is because of the game’s saving system. Whilst this game now allows you to replay previous levels, it still uses the dreaded checkpoint saving system (only saving when you’ve completed a level). Given that one difficult level in the middle of the game is literally half an hour long, having to replay the whole thing every time you fail will probably cause you to ragequit more than a few times.

Yes, getting to this part of the level isn't too difficult after a couple of attempts. But, unless you picked up the hidden rocket launcher (or found enough in-game bonuses to buy it) earlier, then you won't stand a chance in the last part of the level.

Yes, getting to this part of the level isn’t too difficult after a couple of attempts. But, unless you picked up the hidden rocket launcher (or found enough in-game bonuses to buy it) earlier, then you won’t stand a chance in the last part of the level.

On the plus side, this game has received some fairly cool upgrades. Not only are there more characters, weapons and stats available, but you also get to choose an upgradeable ‘perk’ at the beginning of the game. The best one to go for is probably the “vampirism” one (which gives you health every time you destroy a monster) since it complements the aggressive playing style that you’ll need to use. Not to mention that it makes the final boss battle a lot easier too.

Plus, the perk selection screen actually has a sense of humour. Seriously? Humour? In an action game from 2009? Maybe there's hope for games after all....

Plus, the perk selection screen actually has a sense of humour. Seriously? Humour? In an action game from 2009? Maybe there’s hope for games after all….

But, unlike other games in this series, you can’t use bonus items you find whilst playing to buy extra lives. You only get extra lives on the rare occasions that a monster drops a “+1” power-up. I don’t know why they left this feature out, since it makes a couple of the levels more difficult than they should have been. But, for the most part, it doesn’t affect the game too much.

Graphically, the game has been given a huge upgrade compared to the previous game. The lighting in this game looks beautiful, and most of the locations, animations and monsters are more detailed too. Whilst this gives the game a lot more atmosphere and allows some parts of it to be even more ludicrously gruesome than the first “Alien Shooter” game, it does come at a cost. If you’re using an older computer, then expect some fairly long loading times both between missions and when you load up the game itself. Still, if you set the graphics to minimum, then the actual gameplay itself will still run at a decent speed.

Fun fact: This game came out at least a year BEFORE “Brutal Doom” did, and yet this one monster death animation somehow manages to be more splatterific than all of “Brutal Doom” combined.

And just check out this awesome lighting! Yes, there are some parts of the game that are set during boring daylight, but the gloomy corridors are the best parts of the game.

And just check out this awesome lighting! Yes, there are some parts of the game that are set during boring daylight, but the gloomy corridors are the best parts of the game.

The game also contains the usual survival modes etc… too. I didn’t really have much of a chance to check these out but from, what I saw, they seemed to be pretty much what you would expect.

All in all, this is still an absolutely brilliant action game. Whilst it lacks some of the pure thrilling simplicity of the first “Alien Shooter” game, it’s still a fairly solid action game.

Yes, some of the changes in the sequel don’t work that well (vehicles especially!) and the difficulty curve is a bit strange, but it’s still the kind of thrilling action game that could probably put most modern mega-budget games to shame. It may look a little bit more like a “mainstream” game, but it’s still pretty much the same thrilling action-fest that the first “Alien Shooter” was.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

Partial Review: “Alien Shooter: Complete Pack” (Computer Game)

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A while ago, I reviewed a game called “Zombie Shooter“. This game made me curious about a similar game called “Alien Shooter” – so, I decided to check that out too.

Like with “Zombie Shooter” (and a few other games I may review in the future), this game was on sale on GOG at the time of originally writing this review. So, it only cost me 99p. I think that it’s about five quid at full price.

As the title suggests, this is only a partial review. Basically, I’ve played this game for a couple of days and am completely stuck still grappling with a particularly challenging level.

Yes, this really ISN’T one of those easy modern games…

So, this is more than just a “first impressions” article and less than a full review, if that makes sense.

Like with my “Zombie Shooter” review, I should probably warn you that this review contains (unrealistic) GRUESOME IMAGES/ BLOODY IMAGES. But, if you think that the game looks too gory, then it apparently also contains a “green blood” option too.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Alien Shooter”:
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“Alien Shooter” is a 1990s-style third-person action game from 2003. The story behind the game is pretty simple, a facility has been overrun with alien creatures and it is up to you to shoot them all. Like all great retro action games, the gameplay matters a lot more than the story.

Before I shower effusive praise on the gameplay, I should probably preface this with the caveat that I started playing this game shortly after completing “Zombie Shooter”. In other words, I’d already had a lot of practice with the controls and was totally used to the slightly strange isometric perspective that the game uses. Because of this previous practice, playing “Alien Shooter” was almost intuitive to me.

However, if you’re new to this game, then the controls and the perspective can take a bit of getting used to. It’s worth getting used to them, but it can be a little annoying at first.

That said, this game is the perfect example of how to make an action game! After the eerily empty first level, the aliens come at you thick and fast, the weapons pack a mighty punch and – once you get the minigun – you’ll feel like you’re Ripley from “Aliens”!

Seriously, a game hasn't made me feel THIS badass in ages!

Seriously, a game hasn’t made me feel THIS badass in ages!

If you want to feel like a badass, play this game! Seriously, despite being older than “Zombie Shooter”, it surpasses that game in so many ways.

For example, it also includes a turret section. However, instead of just remotely controlling the turret from a distance, you actually get to sit inside it. Plus, if I remember rightly, the screen actually judders dramatically whenever you fire the turret.

YES!! Why wasn't this in "Zombie Shooter"? It would have been even MORE epic!

YES!! Why wasn’t this in “Zombie Shooter”? It would have been even MORE epic!

Since it is a slightly older game, “Alien Shooter” contains fewer RPG elements than “Zombie Shooter” does. Whilst you can still choose from two characters at the start of the game, there’s no weapon upgrade system and your character’s stats can’t be upgraded as many times. However, this actually works really well. Because the weapons can’t be upgraded, they have to be more powerful from the moment you get them.

Plus, the novelty weapon in this game is a Duke 3D-style freeze gun. It looks cool, but it isn't worth wasting credits on.

Plus, the novelty weapon in this game is a “Duke 3D”-style freeze gun. It looks cool, but it isn’t worth wasting credits on.

Yes, there’s still resource management between missions, which adds some strategy to the game. But, unfortunately, this game still uses the dreaded checkpoint saving (and lives system). However, since there are fewer options available between missions, you have to be a lot more careful with your choice of weapons and items. This is both good and bad.

Yes, like in "Zombie Shooter", what you do on this screen can make the difference between success and failure.

Yes, like in “Zombie Shooter”, what you do on this screen can make the difference between success and failure.

For example, at the time of writing, I’m stuck on a level because I only found about 30,000 credits during the previous level (and, thanks to the saving system, there’s no quick way to go back and replay it).

This means that, every time I start the level, I have to choose between giving my character the most powerful weapon in the game (but less armour, running speed, accuracy and lives), or giving my character a lot more armour and better stats, albeit with weaker weapons.

Since this level is crammed with powerful monsters, it’s the kind of level where having any kind of weakness will doom you to almost certain failure.

Yes, this level may actually cross the line from "enjoyably challenging" to "borderline unfair"!

Yes, this level may actually cross the line from “enjoyably challenging” to “borderline unfair”!

This brings me on to the difficulty – this game is even more challenging than “Zombie Shooter”. But, it contains a better difficulty curve. Even so, the better variety of monster types means that the combat in “Alien Shooter” is a lot less repetitive and monotonous than it was in “Zombie Shooter”.

For example, in one of the earlier levels, you run into various types of palette-swapped alien insects. The green ones are just generic cannon fodder monsters. However, the yellow ones will quickly cover the ground in pools of radioactive acid. They’re kind of like the “Spitter” monsters from a game that came out six years after this one called “Left 4 Dead 2“.

This might not seem like a powerful attack but, since you’ll be fighting large numbers of these monsters, it’s often easy to forget that you’re standing in an acid pool if you try to fight them in the same way as you would fight the green ones. So, you actually have to use different tactics (eg: running backwards whilst firing the grenade launcher, rather than just standing in the middle of a group of monsters and using the minigun).

In terms of length, this game seems to be better than “Zombie Shooter”. Since at least one level is ultra-difficult, even by the standards of an experienced gamer like myself, you’re likely to be spending a lot more time with this game. Plus, the version available on GOG also features two expansion packs too (“Fight For Life” and “Experiment”).

I’ve only had a brief chance to check these out but, although they have cool-looking text-based introductory cutscenes, they both seem to be slightly flawed.

Yes, the intro to "Experiment" might look cool, but...

Yes, the intro to “Experiment” might look cool, but…

I got stuck on the second level of “Fight For Life” because there seemed to be nowhere to place the dynamite you find in an early part of the level. Likewise, the first level of “Experiment” throws too many monsters at you when you are armed with nothing more than a pistol and a shotgun.

 I got stuck on this level in "Fight For Life" because of a possibly missing dynamite point, rather than because of the combat. I'm not sure if this was just a glitch or not though.

I got stuck on this level in “Fight For Life” because of a possibly missing dynamite point, rather than because of the combat. I’m not sure if this was just a glitch or not though.

In terms of music, this game has a fairly good soundtrack, mostly consisting of the kind of heavy and fast-paced metal and/or synth music you would expect in a sci-fi action game. Plus, if you get the game on GOG, you’ll also get a MP3 copy of the soundtrack (which also includes the menu theme to “Zombie Shooter” as a bonus).

However, and this might just be my old computer, but the MP3 tracks refused to play on my old version of Windows Media Player (although they played perfectly in VLC Media Player). This could just be a technical issue, or it could be a DRM issue of some kind.

This game’s code also seems to be more stable than “Zombie Shooter” too. In other words, I was able to minimise the game (whilst it was running/paused) quite a few times, without my computer freezing up.

All in all, this game is almost a perfect action game. Yet, even experienced gamers are likely to get stuck on the more difficult later levels. Plus, the controls/perspective can take a bit of getting used to too.

But, these problems aside, this is what an action game should be. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel like a badass when you’re playing it. It’s the kind of game that forces you to play strategically. It’s an almost perfect action game, which comes close to the high standard set by the classic “Doom” games.

If I had to give this game a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.