Growing up, my dad and I played a lot of turn-based strategy games together. We stayed glued to the screen for hours playing games like Lords of Magic. Eventually, I was able to see some patterns in the game and my father started to include me in the decision-making process, but it wasn’t until recently”â€when I was asked to play the first beta of Elemental: Fallen Enchantress“â€that I realized just how good my dad is at these games, at least compared to me.
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a turn-based strategy game set in a world known as, well, Elemental. Your character is one of the few beings in Elemental that is capable of utilizing the power that flows through magic shards scattered across the world. As such, you are a sovereign of one of ten available factions. Your goal is to defend your territory, explore the land, complete quests, and take everyone else out… preferably without going into debt or somehow getting killed in the process.
1.) There are some pre-made characters you can choose from if you’d like, or you can create your own. For fun, I decided to make my own character after a play through with a pre-made one. There’s a random name generator if you would like to use it, but most of the “names”Â that come up don’t even resemble anything that could remotely be considered pronounceable. If that bothers you, don’t worry: you can type in your own name. Your character can choose between eight professions, five attributes, twelve talents, and six weaknesses. You have a particular number of points you can allocate between the talents and other features for your character, but adding weaknesses gives you more points to spend.
My main issue with the character creator is that the characters themselves are pretty ugly. Some of the colors don’t quite match up to the picture or description of the feature, and there are articles of clothing where I don’t think the “main”Â and “trim”Â color slots were assigned properly. Some of the skin tones are pretty crazy looking; they’re either way too yellow or way too white. It’s weird. The hair looks weird too. Some of the poses you can choose are also pretty awkward. Realistically speaking, however, you don’t see your character at that close of a distance too often, so it ended up not being a big deal. I focused more on making a character I felt could survive.
2.) Once you’ve decided on what you want your character to be like, it’s time to decide how you want to play. I am very grateful the developers made the game very customizable in this aspect. I got destroyed in normal mode, because like I said, I’ve never been particularly good at these games; I’m sure my dad would have managed fine. In any case, there are seven difficulty levels and you can also customize monster frequency, the pacing of passing time, the strength of the magic shards, and the frequency of resources. Additionally, you can decide what you want as victory conditions: conquest (kill everyone), diplomacy (make friends with everyone), master quest (complete the quest of mastery which is hidden randomly in the world), or spell of making (require a lot of research and control of several magic shards).
3.) If you’re not familiar with how the game is played, there is a tutorial that you can access from the main screen. It’s a very basic tutorial, but there’s also an in-game guide if you get lost. Using it, I went through recruiting a champion to fight alongside me, settling my first town, and engaging in battle. I found it useful to go through this twice, just to make sure I caught everything, especially when it came to battles. I usually ended up auto-resolving for those because I put the monster frequency up to the highest rating and it got old after a while, but basically the game does a decent job of leading you through the steps and allowing you to figure the rest out for yourself.
4.) There are a few loading issues in that the load times can be long, and that the textures don’t always load (or load correctly), or that they disappear. The music also stopped playing after a while, though other sound effects still work. This is a shame, because the graphics (other than the character creation stage) are pretty decent and the music is thoroughly enjoyable. There are these cut scene screens which have obviously had a lot of effort put into them and look like paintings. The overworld map isn’t bad either, when everything loads, though I noticed that the trees look kind of odd, even when compared to everything else on the overworld map and in battles. I did really like the music and definitely noticed when it cut off; playing in silence was really odd and broke the mood.
5.) Speaking of things not loading correctly, thank goodness for auto saves, because the game crashed four or five times on me. There was one point where I’d been playing for an hour, wasn’t doing anything in particular that would make the game crash, and it just… stopped working. I was about two seconds from raging because I’d obviously made some pretty decent progress, but as it went I only lost a few turns. This was definitely a good idea on their part, and it saved at least some frustration with dealing with the game crashing four times in the span of about fifteen minutes. Other than that, the game runs pretty smoothly; there isn’t any lag between telling a unit to do something and them carrying out the order, and there weren’t any issues with menus not popping up right away or anything.
6.) Another problem I ran into was that the units sometimes got confused over where exactly they were supposed to go. For example, I would tell them to go to a space that was two spaces away, and they’d turn around and start heading the other direction. At first I thought it was because I was near a mountain, and maybe that was the cause for confusion; perhaps they thought they needed to go around the mountain the other way in order to get to that space. However, this happened several times even in areas that didn’t really have any hills to speak of. I also ran into the issue of units ignoring what I told them to do. I wanted one group to explore, but then decided against it. I clicked guard, and went on with my life. I found out several turns later that they’d actually went exploring instead, and even when I told them to come back to the city, they decided they’d rather explore. My only real option was to let them explore until several battles took them out.
7.) There was another issue that kind of annoyed me: the game would automatically switch between units once you were finished with a particular group. This is a good idea in theory, but in practice it got really annoying really fast. I’d want to do something with the units I had in a particular area, and it would automatically switch to a unit halfway across the map, and if I wasn’t paying attention, oftentimes that unit would get assigned to come toward the other units, wasting their movement as I had to tell them to back to where they came from and then head in the direction I wanted them to go. This was especially annoying when I didn’t actually want a unit to do anything at all that particular turn, because it seemed that no matter what I did, even if I told them to guard, the game would switch back to them once I was done with another unit.
8.) The game is pretty forgiving as far as your sovereign and champions go, which is encouraging for people who might not be as good at the game or who are new to turn-based strategies. If your champions die in battle, they don’t actually die, but escape to the nearest city that you own. The penalty for having a champion go down is that they gain a weakness–for example, a missing ear–and are incapacitated for x amount of turns, with increasing incapacitation times as the game continues. If your sovereign is defeated in battle, s/he goes to the nearest city and is incapacitated for x amount of turns, but I don’t recall him/her receiving any weaknesses as a result. This tends to happen a lot early on in the game but becomes more infrequent as you move forward and are able to have larger squads within your units and have better technology.
9.) I ended up sinking hours at a time into this game without really realizing it. I think at one point I spent an hour and a half to two hours without even realizing that I had a message waiting for me on AIM. So despite the problems I’ve listed above, the game is an enjoyable experience, and even though I had to play on one of the lower difficulty levels, I started to feel more confident about my abilities and may consider trying to ramp up the difficulty in order to test my skills. The game does a good job of not discouraging you for being new or for being terrible at it (or both), but rather allows you to customize your experience so that you can have the most fun with it. If you’re looking more to explore things and not necessarily engage in battle the entire time, you can lower the difficulty and adjust the shard frequency and enemy difficulties to a level you feel comfortable with. If you’re looking for an epic war, you can up the difficulty, increase the monster frequency, lower the resource availability, and make everyone hate each other. There’s a lot of in-between area as well for those who like to experiment. Opportunities exist for all types of gamers to customize their experience.
10.) Beta 2 is coming out shortly. Stardock Entertainment has said they will be addressing issues with character creation, updating the graphics, fixing some seemingly minor issues with the user interface, and including a kingdom report screen to help players see where their kingdom stands in comparison to others. They have also mentioned that they will be updating the music and sound and fixing pacing and balance issues (maybe I don’t suck as much as I thought!). They’ll be getting rid of caravans, which is good because I didn’t really see the point of having them; every once in a while one of mine would get destroyed, and I neither made any nor knew what that meant for them to be destroyed, so I really didn’t care. Apparently, they’re going to be updating the battle system as well to include better animations for magic, which might be a nice feature, as it may make people more likely to watch battles on auto-play instead of just auto-resolving them whenever doing battles manually gets too tedious. They plan on letting Beta 2 run for about a month, and then to release Beta 3. They haven’t yet announced a gold date, but there are a lot of issues to fix and a lot of potential to unlock.