Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Gameplay Review

I'm playing Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, a fantasy role-playing 4X strategy game by Stardock Entertainment.

This is a semi-sequel offered for free to early adopters of the first Elemental game, War of Magic. It’s obviously similar in approach (a 4X game with role-playing elements) but much better overall thanks to streamlined mechanics, added content, and a more accessible interface, among other things. Starting a new game offers good hero customization and rules options; victory conditions include conquest, diplomacy, researching the top spell, or completing the final quest. While the tutorial is terribly short, there is extensive in-game help with short movies describing each game mechanic. The interface features plentiful tool-tips, a handy city and unit list, and event icons that need accompanying sound effects. Fallen Enchantress also has more varied graphics than War of Magic, although the ground textures are still blurry. The cloth map is a good way to play the game faster and figure out what all of the locations are. Founding a city is now restricted to locations that have grain, although you can construct an outpost near resource sites scattered around the map. Each city can specialize in population, defenses, or research, and will get a different selection of buildings based on your choice. On-map resources can be reaped by nearby settlements, so there is some planning in where to place your towns, rather than resorting to city spam. The technology tree has been streamlined and offers several paths in civics, warfare, and magic. Spell variety has also been drastically increased, and the spellbook is much more organized, placing magic into unit, city, strategic, and tactical categories. Diplomatic options remain the same, with specific values to assist you in getting the deal you want. The world of Fallen Enchantress is full of roaming monsters and loot, both of which can be farmed for experience, money, and items. There are also many quests to undertake, but they lack variety and usually involve defeating some powerful enemy. You will also encounter other champions you can recruit (for a price); all heroes level up with combat experience (unlocking a choice of skills) and suffer injuries when defeated in battle. Improved equipment can be purchased for your heroes once researched, increasing their stats. Fallen Enchantress also has many more default units to choose from, so you don’t feel like you have to customize a new soldier every time research is completed. Tactical combat is improved because of more interesting spells and unit abilities, but still a little bland. The multithreaded AI is strong and efficient and provides a capable foe. Though still complex and requiring trail-and-error to discover optimal strategies, Fallen Enchantress is much improved over its predecessor War of Magic and features a pleasant combination of role-playing and 4X conventions with enough variety to keep the game fresh.