A New Hope: Elemental Sequel In Action

By Alec Meer on January 6th, 2012 at 4:39 pm.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWvOHT0zfXY

It’s been a little quiet on planet Stardock since the Elemental launch catastrophe and the divisive sale of Impulse to Gamestop, but they’ve quietly been staying true to their pledge to redeem their ambitious fantasy 4X game. Sequel Fallen Enchantress is now at alpha stage, and looking pretty delicious too mine hungry eye. Stardock boss Brad Wardell has just snuck out a video, with commentary, showing what they’re up to in this follow-up/reboot. The interface is much improved, the AI’s been overhauled, hopefully it’s a whole lot less buggy and… well, this entirely looks like my sort of thing. Meantime, I’m sniffing at Paradox’s Warlock, which does some vaguely similar stuff (but in a much more Civ-like way), so 2012 looks like a year for being spoiled for fantasy strategy choice.

I particularly like how it switches to a sort of cloth map view of the world when you zoom out. It knows its audience, I think.

Without wanting to sound like a hopeless optimist, I am entirely convinced that Stardock will move heaven, Earth and Hull to make sure this only launches once it’s in the finest of health. A couple of years ago they were about to be the new kings of strategy, and no doubt they want that to happen again. Really looking forward to having a crack at Fallen Enchantress.

No fixed release date yet, as far as I can tell, but there’s a long breakdown of what to expect from the game and a close look at some of its features here.

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66 Comments »

  1. Dreamhacker says:

    Kael, show those Stardock clowns how a REAL fantasy TBS should look!

    (and if that fails, please come back to the Civ community and make us Fall From Heaven for Civ5)

    • Senethro says:

      Another FFH player wishing Kael the best of luck on this project.

    • mouton says:

      Oh God, don’t remind me, I don’t want to play FFH, I want to eat food and talk to humans instead.

    • Dreamhacker says:

      @Mouton:

      Don’t fool yourself! You know that in your heart, you belong to FFH!

    • Highstorm says:

      I happened to start a new game of FFH last night, and have only passed out 3 times at work so far tod–

    • ZeroMatter says:

      Wow! If that’s true, I’m maybe going to end up having to buy this.
      Only bought the expansions for CIV4 because of FFH2!

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Meh. Fall from Heaven is an incredible achievement as a MOD, but it has tons of problems (just one example: shoving all kinds of stuff into civ “promotions” which end up really clunky to manage). Too much micromanagement overall. Even though I had quite a bit of fun with it, I think it would have failed if released as a standalone game.
      So I’m sure that Kael can bring good ideas to the table, but let’s not treat him like some Messiah of gaming which he is obviously not.

  2. Unaco says:

    “Without wanting to sound like a hopeless optimist, I am entirely convinced that Stardock will move heaven, Earth and Hull to make sure this only launches once it’s in the finest of health.”

    Do you still put out a mincepie, sherry and a carrot for Santa and his reindeer? Did the original game ever get ‘finished’? If you own the original, will you get this for free, to make up for the travesty of the original? Did they ever put up their Gamers Bill of Rights again? Can’t seem to find it on their site.

    • Wilson says:

      @Unaco – I forgot the exact details, but I know since I pre-ordered the original WoM I get this game for free, and the next one they do as well I think. I was extremely disappointed with WoM, but I respect Stardock enough to give them another chance. This does look like it could be quite good (beta coming in a couple of weeks, so we should get a better idea then).

    • killias2 says:

      I don’t have the game, but I’ve gathered that they’ve revamped the original quite a bit since release. Also, if you bought the game in 2010, you do get the sequel for free.

      http://www.gamersbillofrights.org/ Here is the bill of rights
      http://forums.stardock.com/413613 – Here is them discussing it from just over a month ago.

      So.. yeah.. all of your questions have positive answers. Anything else to add?

    • Meat Circus says:

      No, but he does still put out a mincepie, sherry and a carrot for your mum.

    • westyfield says:

      Joke about ‘your mum’ and ‘putting out’ incoming.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      I bought the first with knowledge of how much the beta was a mixed bag, and i guess I hoped that the final product was going to be cleaned up. I wouldn’t be giving them another chance anywhere near full price on this sequel if not for the fact that I will be getting it for free.

      I really wanted to like the first one, but it just didn’t work on any level. It had some decent enough ideas though. I gave up on hoping patches would fix it a long time ago.

    • Unaco says:

      Good to hear they’re making it up to the owners of the original… although Abundant_Suede mentions below that there may be difficulties tracking and distributing to the owners of the original. Hope they sort that out. Stardock where great for continuing to improve their games after release… but the original Elemental was terribly handled, and I lost a lot of faith in them after that. Encouraging to hear they’re trying to make up for things… I’ll maybe keep an eye on this now. Although, it does look like they have changed their Bill of Rights, and haven’t gone back to the original after the furore.

      @Meat Circus…

      WTF? Why bring my Mother into this? What did I do to you? I make a small joke at Alec’s optimism, and you bring the honour of my Mother into this. If Alec wanted to respond to that, I’m sure he could… he doesn’t need you to fight his battles for him. Why not stick to the topic, eh? Or you just trying to be insulting… goading huh?

    • Wilson says:

      @Underwhelmed – Yeah, I’m in the same boat here. If they hadn’t given Fallen Enchantress for free, I wouldn’t be happy at all, but I appreciated that gesture, and am willing to be cautiously optimistic now.

      @Unaco – I thought you did sound pretty hostile in your original post – a matter of interpretation of course, but I guess Meat Circus read it the same way. A lot of people were really mad about Elemental (with good reason), and you know how people on the internet can be, I guess he assumed you were mainly trolling, which based on your last post is not the case.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      @Unaco

      Your mum is trying to be insulting and goading.

    • Unaco says:

      @Harlander,

      What you and her get upto, behind closed doors, is none of my concern.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Touché! ;)

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      It’s just a cultural thing, it’s not ment as an actual insult, a kind of meta humour. A joke about terrible your mum jokes.

      And also a way of voicing disagreement without having any particular argument.

      Yes, I’m ruining it for everyone else by explaining it in great detail. And I’d do it again, I hate that joke… And it’s face.

      It’s all about the your face jokes now.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Not to ruin more jokes, but I’m fairly sure that Unaco’s response was also a joke–one faceless Internet pseudonym isn’t going to complain to another one about “the honour of my Mother” without irony.

      PS: Your mom goes to college.

  3. Meat Circus says:

    Paradox seem to be releasing about 23 games this year, and bless their little cotton socks, every one of them is a stone cold WANT.

    Let’s just hope that their ambition doesn’t exceed their ability.

  4. killias2 says:

    In addition to Paradox’s Warlock, there is also the English-enabled reboot of Eador (sp?) known as Masters of the Broken World. It looks cool, although perhaps somewhat different from the Civ-like Warlock and the MoM-like Fallen Enchantress.

    • robotsneedlove says:

      Eador was indeed awesome. Also, aren’t the people behind Warlock those who made that Fantasy General remake?

    • Timmeister says:

      I can say having played Warlock that it is shaping into a nice game, certainly one to keep an eye open for.

  5. Abundant_Suede says:

    I’m curious how Stardock is going to make good on all those promises to give the game for free to the people who owned E:WOM before x date, now that they’ve sold the apparatus they had in place for tracking and distributing those updates to Gamestop. I think I heard mention of a “special arrangement” with them at one point, but Im not reassured.

    Even if they do, I resent being forced to have any kind of relationship with Gamestop. It’s not what I signed on for, and I hate the fact that they control even a small number of my games.

    • Zanchito says:

      Yeah, this affects me too, hoping to hear about it.

    • sneetch says:

      Yeah, I’ve only bought two games on the Impulse service and I have no real issues with Gamestop but I’d like to know how they’re going to deliver on that.

      I’m embaressed to say I pre-ordered EWOM. All I can say is at least I get this game for free because I tried EWOM several times and it was one of the most boring games I’ve ever seen. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why (although driving a character around the map again and again hoovering up junk and boring quests definitely had something to do with it) but it was tedious to play.

      I uninstalled it completely about six months ago and I’m really not interested in what they do with it anymore but I’m quite looking forward to playing this, it looks a whole lot better and it’s “free”.

    • Archonsod says:

      You do realise that there’s a difference between their digital distribution method and their company records right? For a start you can sell one, while selling the other tends to be a criminal offence.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      @archonsod

      I dont think it’s that simple. They tracked this stuff through impulse, and authorized the beta/free upgrade access though impulse. There was no option to buy and register the game, other than through Impulse, which they no longer control. At one point I even remember some confusing reference to having to have updated the game through impulse by a certain date to be recognized as a valid candidate for the free expansions. So it seems on some level, they’re going to be relying on Gamestop personnel to give away free games through Gamestop’s service.

      I’m not saying they don’t have a plan or some sort of arrangement. I’m saying I dont understand how it works, and it seems …untidy.

    • Sorbicol says:

      You can download the games without having to use Impulse. Stardock will have a record of your account with them and the email address(s) associated with it and send the link there.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      So they’ll email you a link when the program is released, which you DL from SD’s servers?

      That sounds good, if accurate. What about beta access? Or are they not doing that this time?

  6. Premium User Badge

    Gundato says:

    To be fair, the original has been heavily patched. And it wasn’t quite AS bad as we all think at launch.

    The problem was threefold:
    First, because Stardock wanted boxed copies at release, they basically had to decide between “Rush for release or wait an extra 6 months or so” because of how store shelves work and junk.
    Second, Stardock released the digital copy ahead of schedule to compensate for certain stores releasing the retail copies ahead of schedule (even before they were done patching)
    Third, video game fans are jackasses. Basically we had a bunch of screaming about how “How dare you guys complain that this game crashes. You should worship Wardell for him giving you the privilege of playing this game at all!” which various news sites picked up on and took to mean that Stardock were actually satisfied with the game.

    That all combined to result in a heavily rushed game getting publicity as being a massive flop.

    Now let’s look at the actual GAME:
    The game also had three problems
    First, crap AI. Now, if this were anyone but Stardock, that would be accepted for a 4x game. But Stardock did GalCiv 2…
    Second, lack of content. There really weren’t too many spell or monster types. Fun fact: Skyrim has the exact same problem.
    Third, poor direction. Wardell has even (vaguely) admitted this in the dev diaries. He was making his dream game so he probably had the way HE wants to play the game in mind, but not the way everyone else might. This resulted in a heavily unbalanced game that favors various playing styles. But, if you played it “right”, it was really fun.

    But if you look at those three points, you have complaints that can be leveled at many games. Even Skyrim (crappy follower AI, lack of content, and a lot of people think that the over-simplification is a poor design choice). But combine that with it being a 4x game (so pseudo-niche), coming from one of the kings of the genre (GalCiv 2 really is fun), and REALLY bad publicity, and it was a massive flop.

    • Hallgrim says:

      You forgot to mention in your list that the game was shipped without any multiplayer support, even though it was one of the features listed on the box and their website and their digital distribution client. I can’t think of any other game that sold itself as multiplayer in the advertising run-up, listed it as a feature in all their advertising, and then didn’t have it for months after the release date (and even then only had a shoddy hacked on multiplayer mode). Why do you want to feel sorry for a self-publishing developer that does that to their fan base?

    • Premium User Badge

      Gundato says:

      I don’t recall them advertising the multiplayer support heavily, but I’ll take your word for it (I was more interested in the singleplayer):

      Advertised content missing at release?
      Dead Island was missing the pseudo 0-day DLC, right?
      I forget if Space Marine was supposed to have the co-op mode from launch or what, but it was a few months.
      I remember console folk freaking out over a recent game (Saints Row 3?) because it was missing a PS3-exclusive game mode.

      And those two just come from the top of my head.

      My point is not to absolve Stardock of screwing up. I am just explaining that it was mostly a PR thing, and the core game was really no worse off than a lot of the competition (even “AAA” games). But it was their screw-ups that gave the opening for the media to roll them over like Brando with the butter.

    • huw says:

      The AI wasn’t just poor, it was game-breaking. I pre-ordered WOM too and I played almost every version of it. I never saw this particular bug fixed, and this is why I could never play the game:

      The enemy sovereigns would frequently and cheerfully wander into your territory, usually without any protection at all. Worse, they tended not to even use magic during battles. This allowed you to either smite them with a few spells on the strategic map or fight them with an elite unit that could easily beat them. Either way, with the sovereign defeated outside of his home territory, the war is won and his empire gone. That isn’t just not fun, it’s completely game breaking in my opinion.

      Caveat: I haven’t played the last version, although I have little hope this ludicrous behaviour has been fixed. Oh, and DirectX errors. Lots of DirectX errors. :(

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      And it wasn’t quite AS bad as we all think at launch.

      I can’t really think of anywhere I found the game succeeded at any particular thing it tried to do. To elaborate would just be salt in a wound, and I have no stomach for continuing to kick SD when they’re down, as much as I’ve been really unhappy with a lot of their decisions over the last few years.

    • Fiatil says:

      The game pretty much WAS as bad as we all remember at launch. The broken AI meant you basically weren’t playing a game. For awhile you could convince yourself pretty well that you were playing a game, but once you encountered another empire and realized that they were doing basically nothing, oh and by the way all of those features that looked shiny at first glance are basically completely broken, then it ceased to be a game. I had high hopes for it and I gave it as much of a chance as anyone, but the game was not functional.

    • Archonsod says:

      The AI spammed towns and army stacks. That puts it on the same level as around 98% of AI’s in similar games. In fact the main problem Civ V AI has is that it tries to spam army stacks but isn’t allowed to actually stack them ….

    • Fiatil says:

      I’m not really giving Civ 5 a pass either. I’m aware that most 4X games don’t always have the best AI, but they can at least cast an illusion of competence for awhile. Elemental’s base AI appeared to have no idea how to develop towns (I’m not talking efficiently, I mean at all) or build anything that could even remotely challenge someone who does anything at all in the game. I love 4X games but I’m not even close to great at them; the highest non-cheatey level AI in Civ 4 can and often does kill me and will at least appear to be doing something in the game, and the same can’t (or couldn’t, I haven’t touched it since after the first couple of patches) be said about Elemental. As was mentioned previously, Gal Civ 2′s AI isn’t bad at all for the standards of the genre which makes Elemental all the more puzzling.

      That being said, Fall From Heaven 2 also had AI that managed to at least appear to play the game alongside with me, and not just sit there like cavemen in awe watching my magical empire expand. Because of that (and FFH2 being all around awesome) I eagerly anticipate Fallen Enchantress!

    • Baines says:

      Problems in a Stardock game stand out over other titles because Wardell is supposed to be the guy who “understands”. Yes, Skyrim is a buggy mess with a bad interface, and then they not only put out a patch that broke the game worse, they continued to roll out that same patch on other platforms after problems were reported on the initial release. Yes, Dead Island is buggy.

      But those games weren’t released by a company that trumpeted a Gamer’s Bill of Rights, which was created *because* companies release software in such states seemingly without care.

      And at some time, the Gamer’s Bill of Rights got a rewrite. The part that said gamers had a right to demand a game be released in a finished state was changed to a much more slippery “shall function as designed without technical defects that would materially affect the player experience”. Maybe it was changed before WOM. Maybe not. I think people had mostly forgotten about the details of the Gamer’s Bill of Rights until WOM released, and people decided to check it again, only to find that the link to it from Stardock’s web page no longer worked (which became a mini-story itself.)

      As for sites assuming Stardock was satisfied with the game, I want to recall that Wardell defended the release state for a while.

    • MedievalNerdmail says:

      For those who didn’t know. They are completely removing MP from Elemental: Fallen Enchantress. Apparently they did changes to the coding of Tactical Battles to the magnitude that it would require ‘months’ of work to make it multiplayer compatible. This is quite a strange twist of event for no tactical battles in MP was a complaint that had quite a voice on the forums. Why they worked the coding of tactical battles even further away from MP boggles the mind. And in turn is a bit ironic, since the reason they claim they dropped MP was because they couldn’t include tactical battles.

      I think that Paradox’s Warlock: Master Of The Arcane might have a better chance at hitting the MOM mark, which was completely missed by Stardock’s EWOM. Sure I’m getting Fallen Enchantress and whatever comes after that, but that won’t take away the highly unpleasant taste that EWOM left in my mouth.

  7. Vurogj says:

    Is it just me that did a double fist pump when trying the image alt-text and getting EXACTLY what you hoped for?

  8. Ginger Yellow says:

    I actually really enjoyed Elemental – bugs, warts and all. It was only the slow-to-a-crawl bug from the initial release that I couldn’t bear. But even so I haven’t really bothered dipping back into it after the first big patch or two since I knew Fallen Enchantress was going to be the game Elemental should have been. Between Anno 2070, Civ 4/5, GalCiv 2, Shogun 2 and EU3, there are only so many time-sink strategy games I can play.

  9. Zeewolf says:

    Thoughts about PC-gaming in 2012: Squee!

  10. Rambal says:

    I never had fun with Elemental no matter how hard I tried. Maybe that let my with a trauma and when I see FE videos remember it and got instabored.

    The weird thing is that you don´t really know what happens. How they got it on FE and clean their name again. At least it deserves a try.

    Two of my favorite developers had horrible launches, Stardock and Kerberos. Hope they can do some damage control and revive their games.

  11. Reapy says:

    I think FE will shape up pretty well. It just goes to show how there is still a lot of work and difficulty to creating a game once the technology and engine is in place. I think they did a really great snag on the people they picked up to work on the game design and from what I’m looking at so far FE looks like it is going in the direction I was hoping it would in the first place.

  12. MythArcana says:

    When you look back in hindsight at the launch of Elemental, you then take a look at how the damage control was handled – which was fair and done with integrity. It was a clear case of releasing the game too soon and all of this was admitted, explained and later rectified; lessons well learned. Personally, I think it’s too soon to beat this dead horse and they should focus on GalCiv III (which everyone truly wants anyway). Return to Elemental in 10 years or so…just not now.

    But then you take a long look at just about *every* Steam release or major patch update of theirs and you will find that this sort of launch catastrophe happens quite frequently each week. All you get from Valve is…well, you don’t get anything from them other than some lame excuse from the developer that Valve is “terribly busy that week”. It’s ironic how Steam gets so much leniency, yet Stardock makes one false move and it’s torch and pitchfork time.

    I will give Stardock another chance, but I’m not all that wild about this particular franchise at all.

    • soco says:

      I’m not sure this an accurate comparison. When Elemental was released it was unplayable or so broken as to be unplayable.

      Steam is not unplayable every patch for weeks.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      I blame the liberals.

    • mentor07825 says:

      I blame the parents.

  13. meeper says:

    Would it be nit-picky of me to say that the previous/next buttons on the spell book look awkward to use due to their small size?

  14. pakoito says:

    My usual answer:

    “Fuck startdock and don’t get swindled by them again”

    • pakoito says:

      Also, Warlock: Masters of the Arcane.

    • bfandreas says:

      I’ve played Stardock games since the olden OS/2 days. By your reaction I guess you never played any GalCiv. Stardock is by no means a fly by night company.

      Also, this is why you don’t pre-order games. I’d even say if you need a feeling of security concerning your two-digit investment then you should by only after the first round of patches. Could be dirt-cheap by then.

      Let me gather all you yougn ones around the campfire and tell you a few stories about PC Gaming. There are two contenders for THE greatest PC game of the 90ies. One was Master of Magic and the second Elite: The Final Frontier. Both were absolutely unplayable at launch.

      This is why you wait a little bit if you want to be sure. That’s PC Gaming for you. In a nutshell.

      Also Elemental has been the one bad release from Stardock since ever. That’s a brilliant track record for a company that’s 20 years old.

  15. Abundant_Suede says:

    I’m very hopeful for the new Elemental game, and pray that SD really manages to take their time and pull off a great game. But am I the only one who cringes at the name , “Fallen Enchantress”? I really wish they would rename it pretty much anything else. Something that actually evokes an epic struggle for magical domination, and sounds a little less…precious.

    You know, like “Elemental: Fluffy Unicorn Slap Fight”.

  16. wonkavision says:

    I had a good run of buying games, and it was Elemental that made me return to piracy. I said, “No more!” It ruined me, the way cruel women turn some men into homosexuals. I’m only now in recovery, having bought several games during Steam sales. I’m not about to give Stardock another chance.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      It ruined me, the way cruel women turn some men into homosexuals.

      Elemental turned you into a homosexual? They should really mention that on the box. Ah, I see…no box! More perils of digital distribution.

      Your statement equating being gay with being “ruined” is kind of silly. Luckily you were also a little bit misogynistic as well, so it balances out. I think.

    • pipman3000 says:

      so that’s the plot of fallen enchantress! a crual woman and her army of border-hoppers are going to turn the pure men of the west into homosexuals

      hey after reading destiny’s embers it seems plausible :) it could be to homosexuality what lord of the rings was to Industrialisation :D it could like have an evil enchantress with an army of half-straight half-gay minions called bisexua-hai and like there could be a huge phallic one-eyed tower and the main villian is defeated when a dude goes into a hot and steamy hole and loses his ring inside it, causing his big black tower to fall limp

      i can’t wait!

  17. thebigJ_A says:

    Have they said how you go about getting this? it’s free for people who bought the original at release, no?

    I got burned on that one, but I respect how they’re trying to make it right.

  18. razzafazza says:

    i tried to be optimistic because Kael is on board and i probably still owe him alone buying a copy just for the hundreds of hour of fun i got out of FFH …. but i dunno, the game simply doesnt convince me yet.

    starting with the artstyle the maps/environment graphics look fantastic but characters are beyond ugly.

    and for all the talk of Master of Magic how comes that Elemental doesnt feature unique, interesting different races to play as ? where s my orcs, lizardmen, draconians, beastmen, dwarves, dark elves, etc. ? (mind you the less generic the better but just recoloured humans with a few different traits arent really interesting …. )

    the tactical combat also looks meh. i really long for a fantasy TBS where you have HUGE battles with hundreds if not thousands of troops yet all you get is 5 spearmen + a hero against 3 wolves and a dragon …. awesome, not. at least “abstract” the battles if you cant get an engine for big battles right. in FFH i cant at least imagine that this huge stack of units is a big army. granted, MoM didnt have huge battles either but that was its single flaw :p

    personally my hopes are more on warlock but possibly because i know almost nothing about it, so almost no negatives either :p

    until then luckily there s still FFH / Masters of Mana

  19. Don Andy says:

    Fool me once…

    • Viserion says:

      This. I got fooled by them with Demigod and the Elemental disaster wasn’t a surprise at all. This one? I wouldn’t touch it even if someone paid me. I just don’t trust that guy.

  20. RegisteredUser says:

    Just curious: Did they at some point get over the “unrescuable” hump with Elemental thanks to continued updates or did they just stop and say screw our customers, let them buy Enchantress instead?

    Because last time I checked that was the company line and I am unsure whether there were new updates in the last 6 months.

  21. pipman3000 says:

    If they really want to regain peoples interest they got to shitcan the dull as dirt fantasy setting they’ve chained the game to, like maybe the planet gets hit by a stray space nuke from a big space battle that happened 1000 light years ago and it just kills everyone on the planet, like there’s no survivors at all, none of the good/white guys survive, none of the Klingons or Andorians survive, not even the Haradrim. The entire planet is completely cleansed of all life by an alien species who didn’t even intend too wipe them out.

    The next game could be set in the FFH universe instead.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Johnny Go-Time says:

    Soooo…will it be on Steam?

    (Failing that, will Unaco’s mother be on Steam…?)