Impressions Of: Elemental – War Of Magic

By Kieron Gillen on August 30th, 2010 at 12:07 pm.


In my time so far with Stardock’s Elemental I’ve come to hate one thing above all overs. As in, its name. Which seems strange, because it’s a name with a certain grandeur to it. It also pretty-much close to Google-proofs it when I’m scouring the Internet, trying to find out whether it’s possible to do obscure and arcane things like – say – upgrade your units. I’m left without a clue, and pressing on anyway. And doing really well, but there’s the nagging sense that I’m missing something and could be doing better. That said, the AI seems to be in the same boat, so perhaps it all evens out.

Okay, let’s go from the top.

Elemental – or, to give it its proper punctuation hungry PC-games-title “Elemental – War of Magic” – is a fantasy turn-based-strategy game. File next to Master of Magic or – if you’re merely fairly ancient instead of impossibly ancient – Age of Wonders. If you’re unfamiliar, imagine it like a fantasy-Civ with a heavier leaning on the tropes of fantasy. So, as well as building your army and your financial infra-structure, you have heroes who gain equipment, go on quests, cast spells and all that sort of thing. Oh – and there’s (optional) tactical-scale turn-based battles when you go into a fight, allowing you to move all your units around and biff the hell out of one another. It’s also got things like Dynastic succession and marrying off your kids to cement alliances. Which leads to fun things like this in the manual…

The potential spouses that are likely to provide the most powerful offspring will require higher reputations than those who are less picky, with more middling abilities for future children.

AND IN THE GAME!

Actually, all that being said, the most pertinent reference point is actually Stardock’s previous triumph, Galactic Civilization 2. There’s enough fine detail in its execution of the game which seems to resonate with it. To choose an obvious example, rather than just making units more powerful you can research squad size – a parallel with the logistics for fleet size in GalCiv – which means you have multiple soldiers as the same unit, increasing their power proportionally. To choose something with a little more flourish, there’s the ability to actually individually design your units. So you decide what individual armour, weapons, special stuff, hats and similar you want them to have, including poses and a little quote. Of course, you don’t have to do it, as you discover new stuff it reveals pre-generated ones like so.

However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll work out stuff like…

It’s also like GalCiv2 in another key way. It’s perversely counter-intuitive in a few areas. Which isn’t a problem – the problem is that it’s terribly bad at explaining how the counter-intuitive bits actually operate, and when the game appears to look like something you understand, it’s easy to leap to the wrong conclusions. The manual is simply inadequate and the campaign mode – which is meant to operate as a kinda-tutorial – is both dull, with some of the twitchiest bits of the game (I had a scripting error which required replaying a section) and doesn’t really explain stuff. The real game is, like Gal Civ, in the randomly generated worlds and you’re best to just dive in and try and make some sense of it. And eventually, it sort of comes together, at least enough to play, though I’m constantly having moments where a briefly-flashed-up loading tip says something which causes me to go “WHAT!?!?!?! IT WORKS LIKE THAT?”.

Here’s an example: when you defeat your opponent’s faction leader, their faction is wiped out. In the game I played over the weekend, the end-game approaches and I’m doing a decapitation approach by zapping around the map with teleport and crushing my foes beneath my feet. I get to the point where the final general is facing me, and make my move. Except, when I kill him, he teleports away to the nearest town. I curse, march to the town, smash him again… and he teleports away again. I think I understand what it means. Stardock realise that in a game where you can do this decapitation strike, it makes it too easy to win the game – because you can always reload if you over-use your general. So with the final enemy, they give him this ability, which means that I have to actually crush their empire.

Except I discover that’s totally wrong. The rules are – apparently – that if you kill the enemy leader inside his own territory, he’ll teleport away assuming they have mana. However, if you kill them outside their terrain, they just die and their empire with them. The reason why I’d decapitated two enemies this easily is that the AI – at least on the normal level I was playing – doesn’t seem to stress things about little things like losing their empire in a single strike versus a clearly superior enemy army.

Which leads to the whole controversy from last week. At the moment, I think “unfinished” is too harsh a phrase. I’d lean towards “a bit shoddy”.

Some of it is surface. One which turned up a lot earlier was having the wrong icon in a toolbar for your character. A more regular one was seeing that a city of yours now appears to belong to another nation, while you’re still clearly in control with it – though this may be some manner of spell or influence ability going on (And that’s a problem with it right now – the game is definitely in the state where it’s difficult to ascertain whether something is a bug or whether it’s a rule you’re simply not processing properly). There’s oddities with the UI – like being unable to scroll away from a place when you’ve got the build menu open, which is a strange decision. Also, when you’re asked what special ability you want to give a village in a pop-up which conceals the village in question and gives no access that I can see for checking out what that village does, requiring me to remember which town is which from its silly fantasy name alone. Then there’s the actual bugs – the latest novel one was a really strange one where I entered the battle screen, did a move and then was unable to select any of the other units. Performance seems a little treacly, though not unbearable. Oh – and about 50% of the time when I alt-tab back to desktop, the game crashes. Which wouldn’t be a major problem, except it’s a game where I’m rooting through internet-FAQs and the PDF manual as I play. Oh – and the multiplayer isn’t in it yet.

It’s worth noting the crashes, while annoying, aren’t a critical error. The game actually autosaves with every turn, so it’s not as if you’re ever losing a game… but it’s obviously sub-optimum. As a whole, however, it does sap the will to continue. I’ve always been one to forward the argument that I’ll accept a lack of polish and even open rubbishness in exchange for a game that’s interestingly ambitious. Frankly, complete polish normally just implies you were reaching for something that was possible – and so, at some level, not really worth caring about. I’m Deus Ex over Ocarina of Time, every day of the week. Why don’t I forgive Elemental? Well, for the simple reason that it doesn’t feel that ambitious or expansive. It feels like a reasonable sized fantasy strategy game. The unit stuff is interesting and playful – though, once you’ve set up the basics, of dubious tactical worth without the careful mullti-weapon/multi-armour structure of GalCiv2 – but there’s little which screams out VISIONARY FANTASY WARGAME WHICH OVERCOMES PROBLEMS WITH UNIQUEOSITY. It’s not – say – Solium Infernum or Armageddon Empires.

As such, I’m not sure if I’ll be playing it much more at the moment. I’ll be listening to future developments and word of its current state with interest – especially with the hefty mod-tools included – but the result of playing it for the weekend has mainly been “Ooh – I haven’t played Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic with the 1.4 user-patch. I should probably drag that out and give it a shot”. And, modern aesthetics aside, were I recommend a strategy fantasy game to you today, it’d be Age of Wonders every time – if it wasn’t for the small problem it’s pretty much unavailable at the moment.

Generally speaking, I’m a little conflicted. On one hand, the game doesn’t have enough structure to understand whether my decisions are wise or bloody stupid. I don’t know if I’m doing well or badly, and that I don’t know how to upgrade troops – and, c’mon! There surely must be a way to just give these dudes who have decent XP a better spear, yeah? – implies I’m missing much. On the other hand, playing standardly and walking the map without a real threat, ignoring the mass of spells in favour of the army-destroying chain-lightning and all that… well, I’m not sure how much I need to learn now. There’s the possibility that Elemental is a complex game that doesn’t explain itself which you don’t need to understand to win. And, for a strategy game, that’s the worst of both worlds. The missing link is the AI. If we get to the famously brutal Galactic Civilization style of AI, then players will have to engage with the system at a high level to succeed… which will just leave the game’s problem being one of explaining itself how to achieve that high level of skill.

We don’t have any of that now and, as such, I’m stepping away from it.

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143 Comments »

  1. Hentzau says:

    Age of Wonders is coming to Steam/DD services soon, so you can totally recommend that.

    • Acosta says:

      Really? The complete series? I have been trying to get Shadow Magic forever but it’s damn impossible or absurdly expensive. Having it would be great news for me.

    • binni says:

      Is this true or just a rumour? I’ve been waiting for that to happen for ages….

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Feet links to the site elsewhere in the thread. It seems so. No details, but I mail ‘em.

      http://www.ageofwonders.com/

      KG

    • bwion says:

      Excellent. I own all three games, but the discs are getting on in years (particularly Shadow Magic, which has, unsurprisingly, seen a lot of use) and I don’t want to have to resort to piracy to get hold of a replacement when it finally goes the way of all flesh. Plastic. Whatever.

    • Acosta says:

      You made my day, just tonight, after a weekened playing Elemental and MoM, I was mourning not being able to play Shadow Magic and thinking is I should go a used copy for 40 pounds in Amazon.

      About Elemental, I like it, especially because I’m sure it will be much better in some months. I fully agree it lacks fantasy craziness, but I have faith that will be solved with time. In my opinion, is in better state, content and engine wise, than the original launch of GalCiv 2, and I know how well it evolved without offering much room for mods, so I have big hopes for the future of Elemental. I believe that in some months I will be reading in RPS some crazy AAR with armies composed of armored unicorns mounted on beholders.

    • Acosta says:

      Ups, sorry for the poor writing in my last post. To not make this post completely worthless, let me add that you should keep an eye on the game, don’t discard it just yet.

    • psyk says:

      Bwion you’ve brought the games but want to buy them again instead of backing up your disks, can I ask why?

  2. Batolemaeus says:

    You said tropes.

    Tropes will ruin your life and take over the world, as evidenced by your article.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      Except he just used the work trope, which existed a few decades before, you know, the internet and wasn’t invented by TvT

    • Batolemaeus says:

      ..which doesn’t invalidate what I said.

    • Dreamhacker says:

      TVTropes saved my life!

  3. Seol says:

    Master of Magic works mighty fine under dosbox, and it´s far more enjoyable than Elemental.

    • Patrick says:

      Around time the announcement Stardock was comparing it to MoM, even hinting that its a spiritual successor, but they have mostly stopped that. Now it’s like “Civ with magic and tactical battles!”, since they’re isn’t a whole lot of novelty to point out when comparing it to MoM.

    • Archonsod says:

      MoM wasn’t particularly great at the time, but since the original Civ lacked fantasy mods it was the best available. The balance is non existent, and the thing had more bugs than a homeless guy’s sleeping bag.

    • bob nobbs says:

      Elemental is like MoM if you replace most of the fantasy races with different kinds of white people and instead of being unbalanced in fun and ridiculous ways (like taking over the world with flying death ships) it was unbalanced in boring ways and what little balance is left was done by making everything nearly identical.

      Magic ia worthless compared to companies of peasants and despite it being in the name there is no such thing as elemental damage. Whacking a dude with a stick is the same thing as throwing a fireball at them (and much more effective too!)

      Moar liek Peasants: War of Sticks.

    • Archonsod says:

      Actually, Peasants : War of Sticks sounds like it could be fun. Four tech trees (Oak, Elm, Yew and the Larch) for different kinds of pointy stick, fully customisable units (peasant covered in mud, or peasant covered in crap) and two different factions, the evil Feudalist nations and the even more evil Autonomous Marxist Collective nations.

  4. Jimbo says:

    So it’s going to have multiplayer, and is advertised as having multiplayer… but the multiplayer isn’t available yet? You know, I think there’s a word for that.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      “Pulling an Anno”?

    • Hallgrim says:

      I read on the interwebs that if you email sales@stardock.com you can request a refund. Sent an email last night myself. Which actually a little depressing, since I was so excited at the prospect of the game that I pre-ordered it 11 months ago…

    • suibhne says:

      The “refund” bit is true, but has nothing to do with whether Elemental is or isn’t finished. It’s simply Stardock policy to offer refunds on their products.

  5. ts061282 says:

    R.I.P. Gamers Bill of Rights

    The Boardgames shall inherit the earth.

  6. Turin Turambar says:

    Your last point is oh-so-true. In the end it’s an aceptable 4X-TBS, a Civ style of game with a fantasy flavor. It doesn’t have not even one part of the crazyness of Fall from Heaven, or Dominions. Not even Age of Wonders.

    So.. what’s the point of playing a fantasy game, if it’s not crazy? That’s the good part of these type of games! Being a undead Lych crushing life with your zombie minions, or striking hard in enemy territory with terrorist elves troops, or making a magical ring with invisibility gifts in your forge, or summoning elder gods from the sea, or creating a godlike being. Stuff that makes you go “woahh! awesome” and makes you forget about the bugs and balance problems.

    If you don’t need any of that, you are better playing Civilization V, then.

  7. Feet says:

    So you aren’t going to review\WiT it then? I think that’s rather kind of you to be honest. You really give no conctrete impression of whether you actually enjoyed the overall experience of playing (apart from customizing units), or whether you thought any of the games various mechanisms you did understand actually worked and whether they clicked together. Is that cause you haven’t played it enough, or you want to give Stardock the time to resolve some of the interface problems, before you really consider whether there’s a good TBS game in there somewhere?

  8. Latro says:

    Yep, Kieron more or less nails it. There are several degrees of how not-fine this game is, which go up and up till you reach the big one; the AI is brain dead.

    The interface is clunky, the systems are opaque, there are mysterious bugs, and all that hurts, but it doesnt hurt as much as seeing the potential the game has and then realizing bugs, interface or whatever, it is not realizing that potential because the enemy players sit there not doing anything or, when they do, commiting suicide.

    Last game Capitar was bugging me for hundreds of turns about the great Mangar menace. I decide to take their word for it and attack Magnar with Capitar as allies.

    Kingdom of Capitar dies at tunr 2 after our alliance in a boneheaded enemy territory push with his leader: Magnar dies 30 turns later by the same – deep, pointless raid into my reciently conquered territory, not even aiming for one of the almost empty cities I left behind, no, just standing in the middle of nowhere waiting for my Dragon + 3 spellcasters + top of the line troops to teleport and kill them.

    Which… ok, the game gives me a detailed dynasty system telling me who is on line for sucession of the throne, but if Daddy King commits suicide by enemy troops they all disappear? That a wasted opportunity to make it really epic. But even if we forget that incongruence… then the AI should be VERY careful about where & when to deploy the King Dude.

    I’m trying again with “Hard” difficulty. And yes, like Kieron, learning a lot on the way (Note to developers: splash screens while loading are not the correct way to document your game to your players). I see enormous potential (most of it unrealized :-/) … but if at Hard the AI is as empty-headed as in Normal this is just “Fantasy Farmville with Quests”

    • Noumenon says:

      [quote](Note to developers: splash screens while loading are not the correct way to document your game to your players.)[/quote]

      You should have told them that [i]before[/i] they implemented the Alt-Tab-crash feature to make sure you load the autosave. That’s the tutorial!

  9. amandachen says:

    Above all overs?

  10. well says:

    ” when you’re asked what special ability you want to give a village in a pop-up which conceals the village in question and gives no access that I can see for checking out what that village does, requiring me to remember which town is which from its silly fantasy name alone”

    i find that rather annoying because it means having to name all my villages based on what production bonus i want them to have when they increase a level

    the AI is rather strange too, while it’s fairly useless when it comes to attacking me or defending against an attack it seems to be able to effortlessly out play me in regards empire building, more resources, higher levels of research etc

    but it never has any gold, so either it spends it (on what?) or it simply doesn’t bother to acquire any (why?)

    • Latro says:

      Yes, the “Upgrade Producgtion of X %20 Without Seeing if City Actually Produces X” is annoying.

      But on the AI – I have the impression Diplomatic Capital is one of the problems.

      You can gather it fairly easy, and its a kind of pseudocurrency that you can use on treaties and the like. But if you dont use it, then the AI sees you have thousands on diplomatic capital, and tells you on the Diplomacy screen something like:

      -2 My Army is Bigger Than Yours
      +3 Your Diplomatic Capital impresses us.

      So in the end a guy that thinks that can easily crush you does nothing and is your friend because you have “Diplomatic Capital” that you are not using.

      The other problem is that they suck a lot at calculating that “army size” and will be happy in having 30 troops with 5 Hitpoints, 5 attack and 2 Defense when you have 3 or 4 that can take on those 30 and dont break a sweat, given the enourmous differences in stats.

    • iax says:

      I never researched any of the technologies that grant you Diplomatic Capital. How much do you get from the first couple of tech-levels? In the game I played the AI factions demanded several hundreds of gold even for a simple non-agressive treaty and I never had much more than a hundred gold for the entire game. and that this was fairly early in the game. Now I am in turn 200 and at war with said faction who wants 69400 gold for a peace treaty. The diplomacy screen tells me that this faction has curretnly -2100 gold. The Kingdom report tells me it has a net income of -101 gold. The foreign realtions screen on the other hand, tells me that the very same kingdom has an income of 74 gold per turn. And in my game all other factions are also far more technologically advanced then I am.

    • Latro says:

      You can see a report on another kindgom economy??? Where?

      Diplomatic Capital can be obtained without any tech just if you have an Scenic View on your territory and develop it. And as you dont use it for anything but treaties, it keeps growing and growing and growing…

      BTW A lot of time it says a building will give you “influence”, it ends up meaning “Diplomatic Capital”, not “push your borders” :-/

    • Latro says:

      Ah, and the prices with “Diplomatic Capital” are still humongous. But what I mention is that you dont even have to use it – just having it, they will look at your faction better. So you dont have Non-Aggression Pact with X, but X, seeing you have 2000 Diplomatic Capital, thinks of you as a “friend”.

    • Dlarit says:

      They fixed not being able to see your town stats when it levels up now, it’s in the bottom left and auto jumps to the town.

    • well says:

      @Latro

      go to your own kingdom report and the go to the next page, you can see it for all the kingdoms you’ve encountered

    • iax says:

      Open your Kingdom Report. At the bottom right is an arrow, which lets you browse between all factions in the game.

      So diplomatic capital makes sure that your opponents won’t bother you, but you won’t be able to engage in diplomacy by yourself anyway because of their ridiculous claims? I may be mistaken but I think the diplomacy worked better in 1.0. At least I had a few treaties in a game about a week ago. Maybe this time my kingdom was just too weak and deserved to be annihilated.

    • Latro says:

      Man, and me thinking that would require some Espionage like tech or units :-P

    • bob nobbs says:

      Elemental has forced me to give all my towns immature and vulgar names because the one’s it suggests are gibberish.

      Fart Town might not be a good name for a bastion of hope in the broken wasteland of a world that is Elemental but Ibreaylaryial doesn’t make any sense!

  11. Matt says:

    I’ve been thinking about picking this up. Should I just re-install my old copy of Age of Wonders 1 instead? I don’t own Shadow Magic.

  12. JimmyJames says:

    I’m sad to read that this game, in it’s current state, isn’t very good. I pre-ordered Demigod and am very glad I waited on this one despite being really interested in it. The way the company has handled the whole ordeal is very off-putting as well–particularly the deletion of so many threads and comments in the official forum.

    Building a reputation for completely disastrous releases is probably not good business. The cynic in me suspects that perhaps this is a way to prevent zero day piracy while still touting yourself as being anti-DRM? Release a broken game and fix it only through patches that require registration.

  13. Bob's Lawn Service says:

    I just read that post from Brad on their forums and I’m shaking my head. Not only is he patching his way out of trouble but he is groveling his way out too.

    I hope he allows retailers to return the physical media copies they’ve bought before the ‘new’ gold version comes out in a few months. He’s pretty much left them high and dry. Who is going to buy the retail copy if they know the final version that actually contains a finished game is coming out in six months? How is this not an admission that they released the game in an unfinished state? Why would he rush to release the game now if there is shelf space available in six months and they are under no financial pressure to release now?

    Come now Brad – we’re not idiots.

  14. bloggs says:

    I had a similarly cynical thought, but while that might make *some* evil business sense from a feature perspective, it makes no sense whatsoever from a technical standpoint, and there are still major technical issue with the game.

    See this 325 post 13 page long thread with people experiencing sub 10fps for an idea of why that would be a horrible business ‘tactic’: http://forums.elementalgame.com/391334

    (granted, we’re living in an era of day 1 DLC, one use codes, and on-disc ‘DLC’, so it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for that sort of ‘feature’)

  15. Choca says:

    I find it strange that there are so few reviews of this game right now. As if people were waiting for the patches to come before reviewing, which is awfully nice towards Stardock but pretty much undeserved in my opinion.

    They released a game in a shitty state, with missing features and an army of bugs, they should get the scathing reviews they deserve.

    • James Allen says:

      Most (if not all) press review copies weren’t given out until a week ago, so I suspect reviews will crop up starting today.

  16. Tei says:

    The way the game work now, you can’t really review it or form a opinion about the game.

    There are things that are soo dull, characters, races, technologies, magic, … that look like Stardock has not imagination whatsoever. Other things, like the tech tree, are a huge improvement over the civi genre.
    The game has managed to be dull and unbalanced. Is complex enough to generate fun bugs, but some subsystems like combat are a first aproximation to the problem of RPG combat, and shows for it.

    With the game you buy 1 year of time, SD will finish the game in that year, suposedly.
    No one want to say anything negative of the game, I fear after this year E:WoM end as a classic. It will look moronic and look back, and see yourself saying this game stinks.

    Well… E:WoM stinks and has the promise to be a classic in 1 year timeframe. But still has to walk the distance from “It suck” to “Is a classic”.

    • Nick says:

      You won’t look stupid for saying it was shit when it was, at that time, shit.

      I doubt it will ever be a classic unless it is totally overhauled by modders rather than Stardock too, in which case is it the game that is the classic or the hard work of unpaid people?

  17. bill says:

    I have that final problem with EVERY game of this type – i just don’t know if what i’d doing is good or bad. It’s probably why i give up on most 4X style games quickly.

    They give me all these options, and I have no idea of the value of any of them. Should I be focused on expanding, on research, on upgrading units. Is it worth it to pay $1M to add lasers? It’s like the game gives me a billion options, but no indication what is a good idea.
    So I always feel like I’m spending hours building up my empire, but when I meet the first enemy I might find that i’ve done it all wrong and have to start from scratch.

    I guess I’m just not cut out for this kind of game. Is there one that gives you some kind of indication about this? Or is it always a case of having to use gamefaqs to find out that 90% of the options are a waste of cash, and you should focus on these 10%?

    • Xercies says:

      I found this in GW2 and thats why i absolutly hate that game to be honest. You spend like an hour putting up your empire going for one of the win states and find that when an AI gets agressive against you it pretty much wipes you out because you didn’t go for some other thing you were supposed to. Ergh!

  18. Flakfizer says:

    The most annoying thing is that under the bugs and opaque interface there seems to be a game i’d really enjoy playing.

  19. Ashen says:

    I sincerely doubt this game will ever truly recover. It will certainly get better, the same way GalCiv2 got better, but it will never reach the level of Simtex games, just like GalCiv2 failed to.

    The reason is pretty simple – it appears Stardock doesn’t really have a single designer. They don’t have Brian Reynolds, they don’t have Soren Johnson, they don’t have anyone with any cohesive vision of what the game should be about. I doubt they even have a single gameplay design document.

    As a result, it’s mostly a collection of random ideas thrown around the forums. This may work in the traditional software development (where Stardock makes their money anyway), but games tend to be more than the sum of their parts.

    • Bob's Lawn Service says:

      I get that impression as well. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to be a Stardock developer with Brad storming into your office every few hours “OMG! Some dude mentioned X on the forums! WE MUST HAVE IT YESTERDAY!”

      No wonder the game is a buggy mess. I followed that Elemental thread on QT3 for a while and Brad was like a child with ADHD when it came to features. One thing that sticks in my mind is that I seem to recall him going on about some insanely complex way of calculating spell effects. His explanation was that it was incredibly complex but that’s fine because the PC could calculate it even if the gamer couldn’t. All attempts to explain that gameplay mechanics should be clearly conveyed to gamers was ignored.

  20. n1ck says:

    Having played a little Elemental my opinion of it is that it has great potential but it can’t compete with the big player in the genre HOMM5 (IMHO). Elemental brings couple of cool ideas, spells seems pretty nice for one thing but I think it go a little too far in the civilisation style which complicate the game a lot. A problem I seem having is that, like in Civ, your expansion at the beginning is very important and leaving the player free reign to form city anywhere is making me need to be overly strategic and do not bring that much fun. In contrast, heroes has fixed cities so it simplify a lot. Not that I say this is a bad feature but I think a lot of player could be put off by it.

    Otherwise I proudly say I bought Elemental and even in the case that I migh not play this version that much (I do think it will need some polish) I have a lot of faith that we can get a very good serie if we give stardock some time with the game.

    n1ck.

  21. Ricc says:

    Your google problem reminds of when I tried to get Prototype to work on my PC. As hard as that was, the name made it even more infuriating. I don’t know any other game that is as hard to search for.

    • karry says:

      Any game that retarded marketing decided to name exactly as the previous one. Prime examples : Prince of Persia:Sands of Time, where everyone on the internet always omitted the “Sands of Time” part, recent Alien VS Predator, currently-in-development MechWarrior…

    • Risingson says:

      And games with a single letter, like D (or D2), or Z .

    • Unaco says:

      Love.

      That’s a real bugger to Google.

  22. Koldunas says:

    That’s not really true. All of the patches so far have been pirated in the matter of hours.

  23. TCM says:

    My favorite part of this whole mishmash has been 1up’s review, which claims the ‘robust multiplayer’ makes up for the AI issues. And how the game doesn’t alert you to the fact buildings and units are completed.

    You know, the multiplayer that isn’t actually enabled or playable yet. And the big alerts that pop up on the right side of the screen whenever you complete a building or unit.

    Outside that, I prefer to not comment on the discussion surrounding Elemental — I enjoy it sometimes, and curse it othertimes, but there’s always other games sitting around if it’s being stupid.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      TCM: I almost made a joke about that, but decided it would be cruel.

      KG

    • Archonsod says:

      Erm, there’s a whole bunch of annoying icons which drop down on the right hand side of the screen to inform you when a building is completed, a unit has finished training or your advisor has wiped their butt.

    • TCM says:

      Which is exactly what I was saying.

      The 1up review is the most laughably unprofessional thing ever.

      Elemental deserves to be criticized for a lot of things, like the obtuse UI, and poor AI, but I’m not entirely sure he actually played the game. He also claims in the review to have auto-resolved all battles, because he didn’t want to waste time figuring out the mechanics.

      Laughably unprofessional.

  24. Clovis says:

    Wasn’t Elemental the game that hired a crew of “professional” writers to create all the lore or whatever? That didn’t get any mention above. So, is the writing any good? I’m guessing not …

    • Choca says:

      The Belgariad + The Wheel of Time = Elemental’s “lore”

    • bob nobbs says:

      No, it isn’t very good.

      It’s worse then generic fantasy: It’s bland fantasy. The sort of crap The Wheel of Time popularized..

      Also don’t buy the book. Brad is an even worse writer.

      If King’s Bounty’s background is Vodka and some weird Russian food you can’t even identify produced by a chef who is insane than Elemental’s is bread and water created by prison staff and low funding.

    • Archonsod says:

      Actually, for all I know it could have the best lore in a game ever.

      Since it never actually presents you with any though it’s a bit hard to tell. Sure, you’ve got the odd quote and short biography of NPC’s, but that’s about it. Even the cthulhu dragons’ flavour text is limited to saying they’re dragons with tentacles. Which you can see looking at the picture.

      Oh, and you get the odd name drop here and there which is completely meaningless as there’s no actual detail on who these people are. Researching Morrigan’s Notes opens new sites to explore, but I dunno who Morrigan is or why my people take interest in her notes.

    • pipman3000 says:

      she’s that slutty swamp witch who disapproves of everything you do.

  25. UsF says:

    I see a blog post about Elemental and what do I get? Interested in older games…sheesh. Now I have to get busy about games I didn’t even know about a few minutes ago. Thanks a lot! :D

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      It’s the RPS experience. And, from my googling, it appears it costs more money to get a copy of Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic than it does to buy Elemental. Man!

      (I hope the person upthread is correct that they’re coming to Steam)

      KG

    • Choca says:

      Yeah, RPS always make me buy games I had no idead or interest about.

      It’s great and horrible at the same time.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Feet: Just dropped them a line to see if they’re available for an interview whenever they release it.

      KG

    • Feet says:

      You should know that I bought Age of Wonders Shadow Magic off the strength of your review of it on Digiworld. I picked it up for £7 in an HMV sale. Winner.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Oh, man. No idea what I wrote about it on Digiworld. I’m sure it was very funny.

      KG

    • UsF says:

      KG how do you contact devs about a game? I tried contacting Mr. Chahi for the “From Dust” game but haven’t received a response so far (2 mails, second was rather lengthy). That game has me going through the night :(

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Through whatever means necessary – I just dropped a mail to their PR address. I suspect Eric would be pretty hard to get hold of, unless you were a major site, and even then you’d have to go through their PRs.

      KG

    • Feet says:

      @KG – I don’t recall what you wrote about it either, except that you liked it. I dunno, something convinced me anyhow. I’m probably the only person ever to actual take buying advice from a Digiworld review. I don’t regret it, it’s a fun time for the price I got it for (considering how much used copies go for on Ebay these days).

  26. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    I feel like I’ve been taken for a fool by purchasing Elemental. I bought it on release day, no questions asked, because Hey! It’s Stardock! They’re honest and awesome! I still play the living hell out of GalCiv2 and its expansions, so why wouldn’t Elemental be good? I started reading all the bug reports and issues with the game right after I started my download. Goddammit.

    There’s an absolutely fantastic game buried under the mountain of crap that is the bug list, obtuse GUI, and nonworking features. Seriously, the potential is awesome; but it is so monumentally frustrating right now. Although I’ve combed the forums and read every guide on how to do everything, as Kieron pointed out, it’s still almost impossible to judge how well you’re doing at any given point, and you are constantly doing battle with the GUI.

    • Choca says:

      Amen to that. Bought it on D-Day too and I really wish I hadn’t.

    • Subject 706 says:

      Same here. Really depressing how much wasted potential this game has. For gods sakes Stardock, the game even refuses to render the terrain for me. Cloth-map only is even less fun. Stardock effectively destroyed all my confidence in them with this game.

    • Archonsod says:

      It uses virtually identical mechanics to Gal Civ II. It thankfully doesn’t hold your hand, but I’d be remarkably surprised if someone who played Gal Civ II struggled to understand it.

  27. riadsala says:

    Elemental makes me sad :( I actually broke my “don’t pre-order or buy new games” rule for this one (usually I’m at least 1 year a behind release schedules).

    Clovis – you asked about the writers. As far as I can tell, they left all the lore out of the game, probably cause they were rushing it. The game’s “Hiergamenon” has far far far less content than Civ’s Civilopedia. Like, just the odd very short paragraph on a race. I’m guessing they’ll fill it out at a later date once the game is working

    As is, it’s easily outclassed by Fall from Heaven’s backgroud, in game lore. By a long long long way.

  28. catska says:

    Kieron is being too kind here and its pretty obvious. It’s amazing you’ve managed to keep your composure in the wake of yourself and your website being repeatably slagged by Brad Wardell and his minions like Tom Chick on QT3. Mucho Respect.

    This game is an unfinished mess and wasn’t ready for release in the slightest. Wardell knew it. Stardock knew it. The beta testers who repeatedly warned them knew it. They obviously rushed it out to market so it would hit before Civ V and its biting them in the ass.

    Oh, and the reward for pre-ordering this game and helping them develop it for the past year? Not being allowed a refund. Great customer relations there Stardock.

    And now Wardell is backpedaling after his little outburst on QT3 and telling reviewers to review a version of the game that is newer than the version on the disc. Oh really Mr. Wardell, is it ok if we review this game now? What a goddamn joke.

    Many people will buy this unplayable game and have no idea there are patches (which still haven’t fixed it) and feel they just wasted 50 hard earned dollars on a game that doesn’t work. Giving reviewers ‘the okay’ to review your game only after your patch is a giant slap in the face to both consumers and the reviewing process.

    • Bob's Lawn Service says:

      Erm, for all his faults (and I’m not a huge fan of Stardock and Brad Wardell.) he did say this in his forum post : “To those reviewing the game: I would urge you to review the game prior to v1.1. I say this because v1.05 (the release day version) is the version of the game that was originally released and if that version of the game is considered flawed then my view is that Stardock should suffer the consequences for that.”

      So he is willing to take the stick for the stuff up. Well, he is on this iteration of his flip flop.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yes – to be fair to him, while he doesn’t say “review the one on the disc” reviewing it on the release-day patch is entirely fine. Many developers would get annoyed if you reviewed it on anything but the latest patch. This is him very much saying “We’re happy to be judged on what was the release state”.

      If we put aside the question of what was on the media, this really is better than most Devs and him willing to take whatever consequences being released in that state leads to.

      (I also suspect most reviewers will ignore him and review whatever is currently available at the time of review.)

      KG

    • catska says:

      The version on the disc is 1.0, they are asking people to review 1.05. Unacceptable.

      Why is it ok for them to ship a broken product? There are many people with no internet connection or ability to patch (a larger portion of which would be the consumers of this type of game over say a modern warfare multiplayer blockbuster) and will be basically screwed with the out of the box product.

      This really sounds like Stardock’s quasi-DRM of releasing broken stuff, making sure you register online and install their storefront/patch-pusher Impulse to get your game working.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The whether it’s acceptable to release a game which requires a Day 0 patch is a separate issue (Not least because, to be fair, you’d have to work out a way to review whatever was released as Starcraft, etc. Problem being, you can’t find out what was on the disc as it won’t let you play until you’ve patched).

      Attacking Brad for this when he’s actually going above what the Industry would normally do is pursuing him for the wrong issue. This is a “I am willing to accept whatever you think of the release game in a review” not a “APB You can’t review the game for 2 weeks after release”.

      KG

    • Bob's Lawn Service says:

      Yeah, but reviewing games including zero day patches is the standard of the industry. I don’t think that people would be making as big a deal about a zero day patch if it wasn’t for Brad’s bill of rights talking about gamers deserving finished games. He went out to score a huge amount of PR brownie points with that thing, loaded those points into has handy black powder musket, aimed it at his two feet and blew them off.

    • Clovis says:

      It’s cool that Brad said that, but I’d really want a review of the game fully patched up to when it was reviewed. It’s not like there are many people who will ever play the game without the current patches.

      The argument seems to be that the publisher should be punished by releasing the game in an unfinished state. I agree with this, but I don’t think the review is the best place to do it. The reviewer should certainly inform their readers that a company has made some egregious error in getting the game out. At that point I can decide if I want to support that developer. But after that, I’d like an actual review of the game I’ll be playing. I don’t care if the game was a complete mess at release; I want to play the game in its current state.

    • AdrianWerner says:

      While I do think developers should be responsible for delivering broken product at launch I also think reviewing and scoring the game solely based on how it was at day 1 is also very unprofessional. If a patch is out on the launch date or few days later it should be taken into consideration, otherwise you’re just going to publish a review that’s outdated the day it’s released, you’re bassicaly writting about a game that doesn’t exist anymore. Of course this doesn’t mean devs should get a pass for such behaviour and it should be mentioned in review, but the whole review and the score should be based primarly on the newest version.

      Of course in case of Elemental, even after the latest patches the game is very dissapointing. 6 more months in the oven and it could have been masterpiece. It’s such a shame that Starodock is bassicaly tarishing their reputation here. I actually consider GC2 with add-ons to be better than Master of Orion and I expected Elemental to do the same to Master of Magic.
      Demigod already was a warning sign, but there it wasn’t fully their game, Elemental is and it permanently removes Stardock from the first league of pc devs. In a year the game will propably be something truly good, but how many will stick till then? Or even give it a chance at all after looking at all the low review scores?

    • Freud says:

      Of course the only version that should be reviewed is the day 0 patch. But I see no reason not to mark the game down if the 1.0 version is much worse than the day 0 or at least mention it. Readers without broadband have the right to consumer guidance too, me thinks.

    • Archonsod says:

      The attitude of most developers (and indeed the world in general) is that the 10% or so of the target market without internet access can largely be ignored.

  29. Dlarit says:

    As I prordered the game and really like the concept I find myself really wanting to support the game but after 2 failed playthroughs below I’m going to retry it again in a few months.

    1st game they patched game and my saves wouldn’t load,
    2nd go used epic map created by frogboy but when I reached ai he had just sat there and not developed his army…

  30. Lightbulb says:

    Once the third expansion comes out it will be a pretty decent game….

  31. Tanysha says:

    The writing is actually not bad, just not very good either.
    Best part of it is that there are no elves, dwarves or orcs anywhere. Of course I hate elves, orcs, dwarves and the whole bucket of barf that most “authors” consider “proper” fantasy.

    There’s a bunch of semi-human kingdoms and a mediocre back-story about good versus evil. It’s like the rest of the game a bit bland, not very shiny and could use some polish.

    But no elves! No dwarves! No orcs! Yay!

    I happened to compare it to Fall from Heaven the whole time while playing it and it was a bit lackluster. If a fanmade mod delivers a score of well-written factions with a unique playing-style, a developer like Stardock should be able to do the same. Sadly the factions all play the same.

    Well, there’s still hope for it. GalCiv 2 had very bland factions, too, and Twilight of the Arnor changed that brilliantly. I’m putting it on the shelve for now and will wait for the patches to come.

    • Bob's Lawn Service says:

      Yeah, but I’m sure that we can all agree that Kael is an amazingly talented modder just a little bit of mentoring away from being a great designer of the Sid meyer, Soren Johnsen mould. He is incredibly imaginative and has an uncanny knack for balancing wildy differing factions.

    • Ashen says:

      While on the subject of writing quality, let’s not forget Brad’s book, the tie-in novel:

      http://www.unamommer.com/?p=109

      The choice quotes are really great. Maybe the book will get a year of free updates as well ;)

    • Elusiv3Pastry says:

      Hahahahaha, wow, that’s painful. I’d say Brad shouldn’t quit his day job as a game developer, but…well….looks like he’s screwed either way :P

    • myros says:

      I loved this line from the book review:

      “I’ve been mad at a lot of books in my time, but this is the first time I’ve punched a book because of its punctuation.”

  32. Sigh says:

    Brad Wardell wrote:

    “Having had the opportunity to finally get out of the office for the first time in months has let me look at the game (and ahem, play the game for crazy amounts) of time from a new perspective.”

    I have defended this game in other RPS threads, or at least argued for a balanced view of it. I have been playing it and I have mined some fun from it and I see a ton of potential once the mechanics are polished and made transparent. I just started witnessing my first buggy AI quirks where I attacked an enemy faction’s sovereign party, killed most of his units save for himself and one powerful companion, but the sovereign’s (now tiny) party just stands still in a forest in neutral territory (presumably to recover hitpoints). He should be fleeing for safer territory or should go on the offensive and counterattack my very weakened force which is desperately trying to rebuild from attrition. I don’t know what to say about that. The magic system and tech tree innovations give me tons of hope and I actually like the graphics/artwork as they exist in the landscape (the characters themselves could use a little polish though). Parts of the game offer enormous levels of fun, but as everyone has said that fun is tempered by some bugs and AI coding in need of attention.

    To revisit Brad’s quote above I have some thoughts. I have been following this game on the official forums and I have witnessed the loyal/excited fanbase nearly scream for the game to be released early for months now. The hardcore players would play a section of the beta and then would express how sad they were when the beta closed and how they can’t wait for the full game or even for Stardock to release an early version, etc. (which is what they did). As much as I hate to say it I think the development team was a little stuck in this feedback loop bubble of hardcore players screaming for immediate release. I think the beta participation never reached beyond the core community and so created a hermetic seal around the game. Which is one of the problems of closed/preorder betas in more recent times. I now believe that Stardock should have postponed the release date even if it meant missing the “retail window” they had reserved. I still enjoy the game and anticipate its continued development, but they should have dealt with the pressing angst of the core community in order to fully satisfy the wider more casual community that is just now posting in forums. Kieron wrote a very balanced and perceptive “Impressions” piece here.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “I think the beta participation never reached beyond the core community and so created a hermetic seal around the game. Which is one of the problems of closed/preorder betas in more recent times.”

      That also explains the opaque and un-helpful interface and lack of documentation. After the initial look at the game, nobody — especially including Wardell himself — is looking at the game with fresh eyes to see if the UI is working well, and the game mechanics are sufficiently exposed to the player. Stardock and at least some of the hardcore fanbase beta testers were just running on autopilot, using their internalized knowledge about the game.

      I agree that Kieron’s semi-review was great, especially those last two paragraphs. If they ever do get the AI working as well as GalCiv2′s, the player will need the tools to compete. I remember how tough it was to gradually advance into the harder AI settings in GalCiv2. A lot of that was because the AI was so hyper-efficient at fine-tuning the economic sliders, which were far from intuitive for the human player.

      I like complex strategy games up to a certain point, but I need to know what’s going on. I don’t mind losing to an AI that puts up a good fight, and if I make bad decisions. But I hate getting stomped by an AI, and not understanding how they did it, and what I did wrong..

    • Archonsod says:

      It wasn’t the people in the beta that was the problem, it’s that we never got a gameplay build. It was effectively a case of them deciding what aspect they wanted testing and releasing a build focusing on that, often with anything else removed. So all we got to see was individual components rather than how the whole fit together.
      That said, it isn’t intrinsically a bad game. There’s some awful clangers in there on the bug front, like crystals not affecting spell damage at all (note – they did in beta, so whatever they changed occurred after the Beta 4 release) but a lot of the “missing” stuff, like the spell tree and quests, was always going to be expanded on after the release once they could get player feedback, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; culling the best of ideas from the player base for spells should give them a much better feel than their predecessors rather generic “we ripped these from Magic the Gathering and D&D” style lists.

  33. Mike says:

    I have to wonder – would this game be getting such “tender” reviews, if this wasn’t a Stardock game?

    Seriously – the game was a mess on release, and two patches have only just managed to make it playable. Strip away the obvious bugs and the interface, and what you have is a game of heroes and magic where the heroes have no character and the magic is bland (pick a color – any color).

    A lot of people are saying that there is an awesome game hidden underneath all the problems; I’m not sure I buy it. There are just so many of the core mechanics in this game that are broken or poorly thought out that I can’t really see this becoming good (never mind great) without what amounts to a complete rebuild of the gameplay. I suppose we shall see how it looks in 1 years time.

    • Sigh says:

      @Mike

      Some of my faith for the potential of this game lies with the modding community…and this game makes modding so much more accessible. The initial mods we will see will be cosmetic, but over time people are going to roll up their sleeves and start playing around with the XML files (still accessible) and then Python scripting (slightly less so). Those who mod the Python scripts will be able to tweak AI and radically alter some of the mechanics. So even if Stardock never really delivers on their promise I believe some individuals from the modding community will. It is at least worth keeping an eye on.

    • raskolnik says:

      @ Sigh

      What you say may be true, but as someone said on the Elemental forums: we paid for a game, not a level editor.

  34. Wolfox says:

    “(…) but the result of playing it [Elemental] for the weekend has mainly been ‘Ooh – I haven’t played Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic with the 1.4 user-patch. I should probably drag that out and give it a shot’.”

    That’s EXACTLY how I feel. I’d add Dominions 3 to the “I haven’t played” list though, which probably means I’ll not play Elemental for quite a while.

  35. Talorc says:

    I dont think there would be any point in a wot I think – it is quite obvious it would just be like beating on the poor cripple kid. If you regard your reviews as simple product guides that basically inform you “should you spend your money on this product”, that information is in this impression – basically no you shouldn’t, but keep an eye out for future improvements.

    I am also a little bit annoyed with the constant refrains of “But think about all the poor people without decent internetz!!! You must review without patching because because of their poor deprived internetless existence!!” , especially when quite obviously the person making the post has decent internet.

    I say f*ck all of them with crap internet – they are not reading RPS anyway. Anyways, as KG points out, arguably the largest PC only release in recent times (Starcraft II) has technical means to prevent you playing other than the latest patch anyway. Stardock has Impulse, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult for them to implement a similar technical measure.

    Just review whatever version is readily available (ideally via some autopatching system) and note what version it was in the review.

  36. Talorc says:

    Also it is pretty clear that Stardock, as a commercial entity, is fixated on hitting their available “on the shelf window” -

    http://forums.elementalgame.com/388932

    Basically they ether had release now, or wait till next year. They are not big enough to obtain a release in the now building Christmas season, particularly with Civ V in there.

    This is just an opinion, but I feel they pushed to release to hit this window, probably convincing themselves subconsciously that the game was alright for release.

  37. RogB says:

    So in a nutshell, if you want to play a GOOD modern Master of Magic game, your options are:
    an rare game thats pretty damn hard to find – even on ebay, and has been salvaged by the community (Age of wonders2)
    or just play Master of Magic through dosbox….

    have I got that right?

    • n1ck says:

      Did you try HOMM5? It is by far the game I played the most recently. Otherwise I think they had announced heroes VI so maybe in a year or so. Disciples III had one or two good idea but lacked a lot compared to heroes. Still, it was good enough that I would love to see a sequel as it has a lot of potential.

      As for Elemental, I think it also has great potential but still need a lot of tweaking. I think they should fix any bugs and start working on a sequel has there is a lot of catch-up to do if you want to take on heroes. As I said in another post, I’m not totally sure about the civ-style of elemental. I also like the civ games but it is a lot more complex and I would prefer if they went to be more like heroes instead of civ.

    • Archonsod says:

      Age of Wonders is nothing like Master of Magic. It’s more comparable to Heroes of Might and Magic or Lords of Magic. There’s no civ building aspect to it (although 2 / SM did attempt to bring it in they failed horribly).

  38. The All Soup says:

    So far the only good thing I’ve gotten out of preordering Elemental has been the 10 dollar Amazon credit that I’ll use on Civ5 (which said credit of course pales in comparison to simply NOT buying Elemental).

    All in all, pretty disappointing. Clunky UI and horrible performance issues.

    I think I give Stardock too much leeway because Galactic Civilizations on OS/2 was an important facet in my childhood…

    • raskolnik says:

      I agree. Supposedly they’ll give you a 75% refund if you’re requesting it for non-technical reasons. E-mail sales@stardock.com. No idea how this actually works, as I’m still waiting to hear back.

  39. The One and Only says:

    I don’t have the time to read the huge comments list but I’d like to make sure that you all know that

    THERE IS NO RANDOM MAP GENERATOR IN THIS GAME!

    This is important. At least to me. There are currently about 4-8 maps per size which are chosen randomly and that’s it.

    • Zenicetus says:

      That may not be a bad thing, based on the experience of GalCiv2′s random-generated maps. Sometimes the random galaxy maps would be fun, but other times the randomized maps would put me in an area that was either too disadvantaged, or way too advantaged, compared to the other factions. I could be forced to adopt a turtling strategy by having my home planet way off in a lonely corner of the map, or to run an early blitz on a close neighbor by being too crowded. I don’t like having strategies forced on me like that. And I couldn’t find out whether it was going to be a fun map or a bad one, until I had played through the first 1/4 of the game.

      I know people differ on this idea, and for some it would be “suck it up and take what you get” as part of the challenge. But it was never much fun to discover I had wasted time on a galaxy map that I was probably going to bail out on. So I eventually just turned off the fog, so I could see each galaxy setup right after creating it. I’d keep re-rolling until the map looked like it would be fun to play on. That takes some of the fun out of exploration, but it was better than playing through an unfortunate result from a randomly generated map.

      Anyway, if enough people are making custom maps for Elemental, then this could work out better than randomized maps. Or maybe they’ll add randomized maps later?

    • Acosta says:

      Not exactly true, the maps are randomly generated from seeds, so they keep the continent shape but it´s content it’s randomized. That way they keep balance on maps (and there is already eight or ten extra seed maps ready to download in the Mod Library, so there is a good variety)

      But if you truly want fractally generated land masses, you just need to erase/move seeds from the map directory and you will have completely random maps.

    • The One and Only says:

      You have a point, but that’s only because you compare it to another game with a bad random map generator, namely GalCiv II. Look at Civ (4), I nearly never get a bad map.

      For me, all the fun in exploring is lost when it’s not a random map. And user created maps don’t cut it. Most are plain bad and there aren’t (won’t be) enough to provide the variety that random maps do.

  40. Vinraith says:

    Something Brad put up on the Elemental forum that I think everyone should see:

    Greetings!

    I’m pretty far from a good net connection so I’ll keep this brief

    Let me say that I’m glad that most people seem to like the game. This message, however, is for those who are disappointed with Elemental so far.

    Stardock is not just a game studio but it is also a publisher. What does this mean? Well, historically, the way it works is a game is released and if people don’t like it, they’re supposed to buy some expansion pack for it that “fixes” things that people thought should be in the original version.

    We don’t have to do that because we’re both the studio and the publisher.

    That means we can release free “expansion packs” for Elemental until such a high percentage of players love the game that only then can we discuss sequels or paid expansions.

    Having had the opportunity to finally get out of the office for the first time in months has let me look at the game (and ahem, play the game for crazy amounts) of time from a new perspective.

    I should also say that regardless of sales or reviews, our commitment to Elemental will not be affected. As some of you know, most of our company’s revenue doesn’t come from developing games. Even if the game didn’t sell another copy, we would still continue our update schedule.

    So what will be the concrete results of this?

    1. In September we will release v1.1 which will be the first major revision to the game that takes into account the feedback we’re getting from players. This will be a pretty substantial change. In particular, character creation, magic (think, shared mana pools),

    2. We are going to go ahead and make a more traditional tutorial. I’m not a fan of tutorials but some of my grognard friends have had trouble figuring out the mechanics which means to me that we have to do something about that.

    3. We are going to move Book 2: Magesa out of a future expansion pack and into the base game in a future “mega” update, likely late Fall.

    4. As mentioned on the forums back in July-ish, we plan to make a new DVD gold master available to those with limited Internet connections later this Fall.

    5. As discussed (I think) last Winter, I will be taking a sabbatical this Fall specifically so I can dedicate time to AI and modding so that others, long after me, can use the Elemental engine to create other things (you will need to know Python to really go crazy with it).

    6. I will NOT be ceasing my postings on other forums. The guys on Qt3 and Octopus Overlords and elsewhere are my friends. I’m no more going to stop posting there then I would stop going out with my friends to movies and other “public places” where, heaven forbid, someone datamining my comments might find a “gotcha moment”. Those people are my friends both on the forums and outside the forums. Interacting with you guys is a major reason I like making games in the first place.

    7. To those reviewing the game: I would urge you to review the game prior to v1.1. I say this because v1.05 (the release day version) is the version of the game that was originally released and if that version of the game is considered flawed then my view is that Stardock should suffer the consequences for that. We appreciate the kindness and patience many people have shown. I just think game studios, including Stardock, need to be conscious of what they release and not expect to “patch themselves out of trouble”. I do believe Elemental is, by far, the best game we’ve ever made but I also agree with most of the criticisms I’ve read too. The state of PC entertainment has changed since 2006 (when we released GalCiv II) and it is our responsibility to stay with the times.

    In short, we love this game. And we love this community. We’re not going to be leaving this game to work on some other game. We’re with it and you guys for the long haul.

    I won’t be around to answer questions until next week so I hope this answers some questions.

    • Garg says:

      Sounds good. I guess I’ll wait for the inevitable “Long Play” from Tom Francis in PCG, or a “re-impressions” on RPS to see whether I’ll buy it in the future. At least this way it’ll be after I’ve played Civ V. For me the AI is critical, it’s the only thing that stops me from really enjoying the Total War games.

  41. James B says:

    I pre-ordered, got frustrated by the poor stability and documentation and have requested a refund. I’ll re-purchase when it appears to have addressed these issues.

    This will give me the double whammy of expressing my unhappiness with the premature launch and a warm cozy glow of supporting what is one of my favourite developers.

  42. 7 Seas says:

    Why does Elemental, which is a total disaster as far as I can tell, get treated with such kid gloves while Alpha Protocol which shipped in a much more finished state got shat all over?

    • Vinraith says:

      Elemental has been patched several times this week, how many patches has Alpha Protocol seen?

  43. oatish says:

    Man, I really was excited for this game. I even beta’d it up for a while. I do have fun with it and I am sure it will improve over time but, I feel like this game warped a little too much from the initial descriptions to really be the next “Great Successor to Fantasy 4x”.

    It really is more of a Frontier-Settler game with a dash of RPG/Fantasy in the corners. As KG mentions, not ambitious enough to warrant the holes in the game we are still contending with.

    I guess my desire for “Warhammer: The 4x One” is not to be fulfilled by this game… BACK TO DOMINIONS 3

    PS. I would buy an Age of Wonders package deal on Steam – I’ve bought everything else on there…

  44. Shagittarius says:

    I’m putting this game away after having only played it a couple hours for all of the reasons mentioned in this article. I hope to God this gets improved over the coming months. Currently this is my worst buy in years.

  45. CampbellDH says:

    Elemental seems to take place in the most dull fantasy world possible. They could have at least made the different kingdoms develop along different cultural lines instead of all being effectively the same boring archetype. Master of Magic and Dominions 3 both make each faction distinct and interesting. Elemental has two real distinctions Empire and Kingdom and even then the differences are mostly cosmetic. The different teams under each heading completely fail to distinguish themselves. The quests are mostly boring and non-nonsensical. Why would i have to escort a noble to his estate when the entire world is supposed to be a barren wasteland? Different weapons and units for each faction would have made it more compelling. Some people are happy that traditional fantasy races aren’t included; however the replacements for them are even less interesting than the alternative.
    Following the progress of the beta I was also surprised that the amount of time between when even Brad Wardell described the game play as boring and painful and release was so short.

  46. raskolnik says:

    I made the mistake of buying this at launch, and regret it terribly. Despite almost a patch a day, it is still a very broken game and a lackluster experience. I also resent very much paying Stardock to be a beta tester, and they still won’t admit they released it too early. Overall it’s boring, repetitive, buggy, and very few of one’s decisions make any difference whatsoever. There is 0 strategy, and it’s all about how lucky you happen to get at map creation. Combat ratings are meaningless, meaning you have no way to know if you’re going up against someone much stronger than you in tactical combat (to give you an idea, I lost an auto-resolve fight to a mob with 1/3 of my rating). I’ve picked up items whose purpose is still completely unknown to me. Etc., etc. So, it’s still very much unfinished.

    I’m still waiting on Stardock to get back to me about a refund.

  47. Railick says:

    I didn’t even know there was a third Age of Wonders! THANKS ! : ) I don’t know how I missed this one lol. I played the hell out of Age of Wonders, I didn’t really like Age of Wonders 2 as much I’m not sure why.

    • Archonsod says:

      Don’t get your hopes up. Shadow Magic was effectively AoW II with two added factions and a new map layer.

    • Dominic White says:

      And a large and active modding scene – kinda a major thing to omit. There was even a big fan-patch that the developers liked so much, they link to it instead of the official one.

    • bob nobbs says:

      THREE new factions. Also new units and a unique building for all the old and new ones, and an ingame item forge, and new spells, and a random map generator, and a new campaign that’s actually pretty fun, and unit descriptions (This is a big plus for me because they’re actually interesting to read), and tons of other little things that make it way better then AoW2.

      The only reason to touch the regular Age of Wonders 2 if you have Shadow Magic is if you want to play the campaign.

    • Archonsod says:

      The campaign in 2 was much better than that in SM I thought. And three factions? I thought they only added the Shadows and their opposite, who was the third? Nomads?

      I’ve never bothered with the mods, never saw one which looked remotely interesting.

  48. The One and Only says:

    @Acosta:
    Where do all these people come from that always say the same things:
    1) the resources are random, so everything is fine (no, it’s not!)
    2) there surely will be many communtiy maps (no, there will not be enough, and a lot of them will suck)
    3) delete the seeds and you will have random maps (yes, but they are really bad. Did you even try it?)

    It’s like listening to a broken record that always spouts the same, completely wrong crap. If I were cynical enough I’d think that people like you are all bought by Stardock or maybe even Stardock employees in disguise. My bet is on the usual fanboism, though. I really applaud and slightly envy you for such a positive attitude towards the game’s problems but to people who don’t look through pink-tinted glasses, this looks like a severe case of denial and makes me feel not taken seriously.

    • Stromko says:

      Personally I’ve played it about 30 hours, and my feelings toward it vary between really loving it and being disappointed. It gets better the more challenging it is, and so far I haven’t reached the point where it’s too difficult for me.

      Currently playing a session on Hard mode with a custom empire and (of course) custom sovereign. Just steam-rolled my neighbor with an army of stone giants, magically-imbued heroes, my insanely deadly bow-wife and some squads of macemen, so maybe I need to bump up the difficulty a bit more. There was a bit of difficulty though, the enemy sovereign had a minion-imp thing that could hit every unit in my army for ten HP and it took a blitz of magic and ranged attacks on the first round (and some luck) not to lose a couple of my imbued heroes.

  49. sabnock says:

    Today I received an email advertisement for Elemental from Stardock that had some odd phrasing. It says, “Your purchase includes a year’s worth of FREE updates, new content and more based on YOUR requests.”

    what is with the “your purchase includes a year’s worth of free updates” crap? Are they actually saying the box price only covers you for up to a year and then god knows what? Was it stupid language selection on their part? I’m sure it’s probably just the latter as I don’t think they would do something so blatantly dumb as selling “patch protection” or turning Elemental into a subscription model out of nowhere. Still, it’s a bit confusing.

    • Tei says:

      you have to read it as “no less than”. Is a guarantee. Is the first time you see something like that because SD have two hats: game studio and publishers, almost no one else can do a guarantee like that ( but maybe Valve, but Valve have godlike marketing powers, so will never make it all that confusing and cheap ).

      think you are getting 1 year of “valve” type of support, and be happy.

  50. Rayner says:

    Doesn’t Alec complain fairly regularly about having spotty internet?