Wot I Think: Elemental – Fallen Enchantress

By Adam Smith on October 29th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

Fallen Enchantress is a role-playing strategy game, a sometimes perplexing concoction, but much easier on the spirit than its predecessor. I’ve created wizards, warriors, rangers and the ugly one from the world’s greatest goth boyband, and eventually I even managed to build a few cities as well. Here’s wot I think.

The time I spent with the Fallen Enchantress beta confused me. It was a game doing so many of the right things that I became convinced that the central problem might be that it was trying to do too many of them. “Less than the sum of its parts”, I wrote, figuring that it was unlikely that some of the weaker parts would vanish once the game stopped being a decimal. Now at 1.0, I’ve spent a few days empire-building and I’m ready to admit that there’s not ‘too much’ of Fallen Enchantress at all.

It’s counter-intuitive at times and some aspects aren’t well-realised, but what prevented me from really getting to grips with the beta was the fact that I approached it as if it were a pure 4X strategy game. It isn’t. Not really. It’s more personal than that, with a character at centre stage rather than a capital.

It’s possible to pick a pre-designed culture and leader, but I’ve never done that, and why would I? The customisation options, both aesthetic and actually important, are superb. You could create an evil slaver empire, ruled by a wimpy necromancer with pointy ears, or a nation of noble warriors with a musclebound warrior princess leading them into battle, wielding a giant hammer. Somewhere, deep inside all those options, there’s a binary choice between might and magic, but armies and cities can be the mighty bedrock of domination, and magic can come from the land as well as from innate abilities.

This is what the game suggests, at least, by providing so many options – so many ways to begin. Most of those methods don’t work very well though. It’s great that when weapons and armour are researched, units can be designed with a mish-mash of available technology. I created cudgel-wielding mounted units with massive, swirling cloaks that would almost definitely trip up their steeds as they charged into battle. I gave them every positive trait I could, so even though they had crappy weapons, The Knight Clubs were my most fearsome early game squads.

They weren’t even close to being a match for my leader though, who is always active on the game’s randomised maps rather than hiding away in a tower and flinging spells. That avatar, who can recruit other heroes during his/her travels, is the game’s most powerful unit. It’s entirely possible to play an entire campaign using nothing but heroes and the units they hire and summon, paying only the slightest sliver of attention to research and city development.

There’s at least one-third of a remarkable RPG underpinning this strategy game, with gear to collect, lairs to raid and quests to complete. Unfortunately, it’s still a fraction of an RPG attached to a fraction of a strategy game. Although both parts are interesting, they’re not solid enough taken by themselves and too few of the progression mechanics intertwine. Heroes can cast spells to boost a city’s production or growth, but the two parts of the game seldom feel like their relationship is necessary. Cities expand their influence or use pioneers to harvest distant resources while the leader darts about the world having exciting adventures.

Building new cities doesn’t even seem all that important at first, because the leader’s life is much more interesting than the civic life. When expansion does come around though, it’s one of the game’s smarter refinements to the usual way of doings things. New settlements can only be built in predetermined locations, which seems daft at first but is a clever touch, making exploration and guarding of those areas a priority from the moment a unit discovers them.

The more I play, the more I realise that I approached the Fallen Enchantress beta with too many preconceptions. I expected something that fit into the same box as Master of Magic or Fall From Heaven, but Elemental is more of a piecemeal thing. There’s a bit of it in the Warlords box, a couple of cogs and gears under the Heroes of Might and Magic banner, and some parts that don’t seem to have come from a box so much as to have been found at the bottom of a drawer. Those are the glue-sticky pieces of a strategy-RPG Airfix kit.

Beginning with the creation of a leader and running through all of the customisation options and decisions made afterwards, Fallen Enchantress resembles a collection of tools. Some of those tools are excellent – in particular those guiding the evolution of settlements and characters down branching player-determined paths – but putting them all together still leaves you with the contents of a neat toolbox rather than the finished article. Creating a new game is so promising, and the various ways to win promise a variety of play styles, but between the beginning and the end everything becomes muddled.

Almost every click of the mouse leads to a new screen or action that demonstrates how odd the world of Fallen Enchantress is. Somehow, it’s simultaneously steeped to the eyeballs in arcane lore and almost entirely hollow. There are all sorts of backstories and cultures to explore, but players are also encouraged to create their own lore, adding biographies for heroes and histories for their factions. While there are oddities alongside the expected (DRAGONS), the ability to add to the fiction promotes the construction kit sensibility of it all.

Tinkering with most of the systems is enjoyable but they rarely cohere. During my third campaign, I decided to concentrate on developing my hero and questing around the world. There was so much to do! I escorted noblewomen through forests, discovered a creepy, giant gate in the side of a mountain and ran half-way across the world being chased by a gigantic flame-faced demon. The escort quest now seems like a microcosm of my feelings about the game. It was given to my leader at a marked location on the world map, which vanished once it had fulfilled its purpose, and then the target location appeared, a posh estate in a desert a few movement points away. Once I’d delivered the lost lady, having declined a bandit chief’s offer to swap her for money instead, the estate vanished. The more you do, the less there is.

Eventually, once I’d cleared my starting continent of points of interest, I decided to expand my empire. In all the time I’d been out wandering, the limited number of potential settlement locations hadn’t been snatched up by opponents and my town had only come under attack once, when its borders expanded to a spider nest and the residents skittered in for the kill. Combat takes place on a tactical map and it’s there that the DNA of Master of Magic and Age of Wonders is most evident. It’s not spectacular but it works well and is far more suited to the wide plains and deep forests of Elemental than a system like that in Warlock/Civ V would have been.

There’s variety in each world the game generates but not a great deal of character. For all the fantastical spells and monsters whizzing about, it’s a bland, grey place. Maybe ugly is the word I’m looking for but it doesn’t seem quite right. Empty, maybe, like the lore. The lights are all on but the room is barren. Forests are colourless lumps and the wild lands, home to the deadliest creatures and large neutral armies, look too much like placeholder graphics to inspire any dread or mystery.

Despite some effective scene-setting at the opening of a new game and paragraphs of charmingly needless flavour text scattered throughout, Fallen Enchantress never inspired me. I didn’t feel a sense of struggle or purpose, and that’s mostly due to the disconnect between so many of the game’s features. It might seem odd to complain about a game that’s a construction of disparate systems shortly after writing about loving the very same, but Fallen Enchantress makes me feel like I’m doing most of the work and doesn’t inspire confidence that what’s happening behind the interface is particularly intricate, complex or interesting.

The other fantasy strategy game I’ve been playing this year, Warlock, is much more lean, but also compact and tight. Elemental is baggy and unfocused in comparison, although some people will undoubtedly laud its ambition. 1.0 probably won’t be the end of the line but rather than needing to take the few extra steps toward greatness, Elemental feels like it’s a few steps sideways from where I’d like it to be. Those same devotees who praise its reach may well be pleased with where it is now and it’s certainly not a terrible place, but the apparent complexity soon fades, like the locations on the map, to reveal a world full of options, too many of which mean so little.

Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is available now. If you bought War of Magic you might be eligible for a discount or even a free version, but if that’s the case you’ve probably already played the beta. Otherwise, it’s $39.99.

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105 Comments »

  1. Senethro says:

    Huh. I guess I’ll wait and hear how it patches then. I mean, I’d like to give Derek Paxton (kael) money just for what he did with FFH but not to give any money to Brad Wardell, who brings jars of bees to work when he hears an employee has a fatal allergic response to them.

  2. eibelandr says:

    I guess I’ll give this series another shot, might as well since I received a free copy to apologize for the first. The thing that bothered me so much about the first (ignoring game destroying bugs, being unfinished, and everything else) was that it lacked personality, which I guess they still haven’t found a way to fix.

  3. TsunamiWombat says:

    Still sounds like a grand step up from the original Elemental which was so bad the developer APOLOGIZED.

    • FakeAssName says:

      I actually liked the original Elemental, it wasn’t without it’s flaws but the “fixed” version they came out with only fucked up what was working correctly while not addressing the flawed.

      I have got my “collectors edition” box for Elemental sitting around here somewhere and as such am eligible to get this game for free … not gonna bother though, I’m sick of stardock’s shit after the Game Stop sell out of Impulse / complete betrayal of Brad’s own Gamer bill of rights.

      • Mitala says:

        Lucky that you’re allowed to get a free copy anyhow. Been keeping my eye on this but just don’t have the money to grab it, unfortunately. RPS’s WIT is making me want it even more, and I know, it’s p. harsh on the game, but.. the nice little shining points it points out make me want it. c:

    • Baines says:

      To be fair, he only apologized until an employee sued him for sexual harassment. Then he filed a countersuit that blamed the game’s failure on her.

      • FakeAssName says:

        and then there is this little issue.

      • Underwhelmed says:

        Yes well of course the game was terrible. He had to pull all those programmers off of QA and coding to make marketing materials!

        Also of note, Wardell rabidly defended the game for the first couple weeks it was out as being great.

        • Baines says:

          Yes, I don’t believe he ever mentioned missing marketing materials throwing a massive monkey wrench into the works until the lawsuit. It never came up when he was defending the release state of the game, nor was it included when he started giving reasons for the game’s problems.

  4. Filden says:

    It’s a shame too, because members of the community were telling them that while much improved, there was still not much of an actual game there. I believe the developer’s response when they were soliciting feedback was (paraphrased),”If you don’t like where the game is now, the game is probably never going to be for you”.

    What hooks the game does have they deliberately let go underdeveloped because they didn’t want to focus on the tactical aspects, and there isn’t enough of a 4x game there to really make any strategy player happy, in my opinion. You can get some mileage playing it as a mediocre turn based RPG vs the gameworld for a while, but ultimately it doesn’t feel like you’re actually playing against anybody, with the AI factions never amounting to more than multicolored speed-bumps.

    It’s all so tragic, because there is so much promise in the game, and I don’t think it is ever going to see it realized now, with two misfires in a row. With another 6 months of systems polish, balance, and focus tweaking, I think it could have been really great.

    Hopefully they can put this behind them, and get to work on Gal Civ 3 now, which is a game I’m still confident they know how to make.

    • pakoito says:

      Same thing they said about Demigod before release :) Same shit all over again. I feel sad for the techie guys, but management is just CU-RA-ZYYY

    • Mmrnmhrm says:

      What are you talking to? Point to a thread in their forum that says that. The player response has been almost universally positive.

      Case in point: http://forums.elementalgame.com/434796

      • Filden says:

        Even as far back as Beta 2, Wardell was saying stuff like this, in response to people who gave negative polling feedback in the polling threads, sometimes for some of the same reasons mentioned in this review:

        Wardell:” [...]I hope you understand that our focus is going to be on the people who voted Fair or above. Someone who thinks Beta 2 is “poor” is likely looking for something so different than what we are envisioning that there’s not a lot of incentive to put resources to winning them over.”

        http://forums.elementalgame.com/418400/page/5/#replies

        That was some time ago. He basically said, feedback from people voting negatively will not be taken into account. So guess what? After that, most of the feedback came in at “fair or above”. Even that far back, he was driving off people raising the red flags, in favor of listening to the more sympathetic regulars in their online fan community, a strategy which I thought they would have learned during WoM doesn’t produce a good game.

        • TCM says:

          Brad Wardell got used to having his ego stroked by Galciv 2, and has no frigging clue how to take criticism.

        • Mmrnmhrm says:

          I remember that. But I also remember the people who were complaining were saying there shouldn’t be things like tech trees or that cities shouldn’t be built but instead founded. They just wanted a different game. Also, Wardell didn’t design this game and I think it shows. Kael is a much better game designer.

          • Filden says:

            A lot of people were also complaining about a lack of focus, and that the game still didn’t know what it wanted to be. You can get away with a mediocre tactical component, or a mediocre strategic component, but you cant have both. It has to be really good at one or the other. I don’t care how wide your scope is, and I’m fine with hybrid strategy/tactical/rpg gameplay, but it has to do at least one of those things really well. FE is much improved over WOM, but every one of those areas is still undercooked. In my opinion it can’t hang its hat on anything except for, “better than WoM”, which is a dubious distinction.

            Regardless, if you compress the range of acceptable feedback polling to “fair to excellent” in order for people to feel like their opinion matters, that’s what you’re going to get. And it’s going to make you feel good when you look at those numbers, but it isn’t going to give you an idea of what the public actually feels about your game. The Developer seems too comfortable in that echo chamber they have there on their community boards. If their fan community feedback was sufficient to give them a good view of where their game was at, WOM would have turned out differently. How many times do you need to learn the same lesson?

            I wanted to like the game, I really did. I wanted to buy into the “comback narrative”. I want to root for any developer doing the sort of stuff SD does. But it seems like they spent most of the development time overcoming crippling technical problems and prettying it up, and then as soon as they got it technically stable (which is still a big improvement over WOM), they rushed it out, when it still needed months of feature polish. I hope they do well enough to make another game, but I really hope they radically alter they way they look at, and take feedback.

          • socrate says:

            Mmrnmhrm fanboy much?…seriously since when is making 1 good game in your entire career make you a good dev??more so when its a total rip off of an older game and a basically lower quality remake other then in graphic.

            There as been also alots of crappy move from their part for a long time and they have that you don’t agree with us so we don’t care about you attitude,just like they totally dropped support when they sold their “steam” version that was also extremely crappy to begin with and then didn’t give support to alots of people having problem with their Gal civ 2 and then going on steam and asking us to buy it again when they could have made it a simple transfer of access from their old box and w/e that dumb “steam” of their was.

            Then the wierd countersuit affair…and tons of other stuff with their community in elemental..so yeah they lost me a long time ago…not like they had me for a long time anyway.

            The pirated version is less hassle then the version i bought from them of Gal civ 2 and when that happen i totally drop the company support in every single way.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          It was pretty clear what Stardock was like when after two massive expansions to GalCiv II (which were quite good by the way generally) they didn’t address a lot of simple fixes the community had been proposing for the AI out of simple stubbornness.

          Removing the “planetary focus” feature would have added so much to that game, eliminating exploits, cleaning up gameplay/balance, and reducing the players superiority over the AI (who didn’t understand it at all). Then the AI wouldn’t have needed so many bonuses.

          But no since it was part of his vision he refused to consider re-evaluating it dispassionately for a second. We aren’t talking about a lot of work here, just some minor interface pruning. Reminds me of Martin over at Kerberos, too wedded to his own vision to see its flaws. I think both of them would do much much better with a boss.

          • Trithne says:

            Oh man, Mecron. I love SotS Prime to death, but SotS2 and the way he’s been acting around people’s responses to it have left me with a very sour taste in my mouth.

            Station management. 1) Is a logistical nightmare. With a moderately successful economy you can easily be needing to manage upwards of a hundred stations, each of which can have anywhere from 8 to 100+ modules you need to assign construction for. And the game has a province system that if stations were bound to it would alleviate that issue considerably.
            2) In the initial release, you needed to queue up modules individually. To upgrade a station to the next level it needed a minimum number and type of modules, which meant you were doing the same thing over and over, with only very minor occasional variation. Eventually they added a button to at least queue up the max number of a type of module. In the ‘proper’ release, there is now a single button you can press to automatically queue up everything you need to upgrade.

            When we point these things out, and how the existence of the buttons in (2) should tell any designer that their design is flawed and is needless busywork, Mecron tells us we’re playing the game wrong. It’s put me right off the game and somewhat off the company.

    • Mmrnmhrm says:

      The biggest complaint I’ve seen on the game’s forum is that the AI is too hard.

  5. Heavenfall says:

    Seems unnecessarily harsh to me. Full disclosure: I’m a fan of FE.

    I agree that champions can feel disconnected from the progress of your empire, as you put it well – it is certainly possible to play the game almost without cities. But cities do provide important contributions to your champions – spells and the mana to cast them, and shops with gear and the gold to buy them. And the odd trained unit, ready to fire a few arrows or take a beating instead of your champion.

    Between Beta and release this was somewhat improved, champions got less health per level and gear was much reduced from the loot in the wild. This increased dependence on backup troops and shops to gear up properly. But there’s still so much that can be done to make this better.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I must say I love the game too. ( I even liked first one. But this one is way better )

      Its a perfect mix of random generated RPG + turn based combat + some 4x

      I really dont know what people are complaining about.

      Always the same thing : Game X is not like game Y , and i really wanted it to be like game Y , but for some reason i am not playing game Y , i want to play game X

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I suspect the main criticism is that it is an ok game in several genres, but not a good game in any of them, and most people playing for it are kind of looking for some part of it to be good.

        There are enough games out there that if I want an RPG fix I can get that, or a tactical fix, or a 4x fix. Mashing it all together is very ambitious, but then I think you sort of need to bring each element at least up to par for its genre (it doesn’t need to be above average, just average).

        It is the same thing spore suffered from. Having 6 games in one sounds super exciting and ambitious (and would be if that was actually what it was), but then you realize they are 6 flash games.

        • Lobotomist says:

          That explains a lot i guess. Still I dont think is fair. A RPG can be outstanding because it focuses just on RPG , same goes for 4x. This game focuses on all these elements. So I would give it a credit and look at it as sum of its elements and not as just one alone.

          Except of that the game has very nice random “roguelike” RPG element that is quite rare. And I think people look at it as story based RPG which its not.

  6. Drake Sigar says:

    Tempted, but the price is a little too high for me.

  7. Highstorm says:

    So it sounds like someone wanting a standalone, improved FFH 2 experience would be ill served here?

    It saddens me. I was really hoping this one would turn out to be a great successor. Warlock was fun for what it was, but ultimately failed to provide the depth of FFH. Are there any others out there worth looking at?

    • level12boss says:

      A stand alone FFH game was in the works but died for want of funding. However that was in the pre-Kickstarter days when promises and money weren’t something you could crowdsource from the Mountain Dew fund of basement dwelling 4x strategy gamers. So there may yet be hope.

      As for the game in question, I was a charter member of Elemental. I probably got about 15 hours of dismayed and confused gaming for my $50. I received Brad Wardell’s email today offering me Fallen Enchantress for free. But after reading this it is pretty obvious that Stardock are just doubling down on a vision that doesn’t make for an entertaining game. So meh. The whole episode is a fiasco that’s played out over 3 years. Stardock need to wave the white flag and bury the whole thing. Any “moral obligation” (as Brad worded it) has been fully discharged. At this point its doing more harm than good, by the sounds of it.

      • mckertis says:

        “Stardock are just doubling down on a vision that doesn’t make for an entertaining game.”

        Which was the case for every single one of Stardock games. These guys are better off making Windows tools (probably, as i have never seen anyone using them, ever).

        • Maktaka says:

          Good enough to support the core of their business for a long time, but then along comes Windows Vista and Microsoft’s realization that people want to choose custom colors for their UI. I used WindowBlinds for a long time, bought it even, but once I leapt from XP to 7 I haven’t used it once and I’ll certainly never buy it again. SoaSE is the only financial success Stardock has had for at least five years, and it doesn’t look like FE will change that trend.

        • Moraven says:

          Fences is a great desktop app. Try it, there is a free version.

  8. solymer89 says:

    I have participated in the beta from day one as I bought WoM and had the access. With what I’ve experienced that whole time, I can fully agree with what Mr. Smith states. That the game is UNFOCUSED. Maybe that’s a good thing, to leave the game open for the player to decide what to focus, but for me, it’s a lot of moving parts that don’t really need the other parts to maintain their movements…

    I always thought it a bit funny that balance is an issue with this kind of game. Yes you need challenge otherwise whats the point. At the same time, however, the diversity among the factions, as well as the tech tree, creates a sort of controlled chaos that may be near impossible to balance simply due to the fact that there are so many permutations one game can take, let alone the randomness that comes with each new game. After all, the closer you get to freedom, the closer you are to anarchy.

    The most important thing for me however is that this game does indeed give you the “one more turn” feeling as just last night I was up until 1:30am playing my Pariden wizard. I’m interested to see what the mod community comes up with for this game and what the future holds as far as content and mechanics.

  9. Dariune says:

    I agree with a lot of this review. Its fair, sings the praises worth noting and describes where the game falls down.

    Having said that, this is, without a doubt my favourite game released this year. I just keep going back to it wanting to play a bit more or if things are getting too tough, start again to try a different strategy.

    It’s not for everyone. But I’m really enjoying it.

  10. Kaiji says:

    I’d rather spend the rest of my life punching myself in the throat than give money to Brad Wardell.

  11. Inglourious Badger says:

    “I’ve created wizards, warriors, rangers and the ugly one from the world’s greatest goth boyband Kieron Gillen.” Surely?

  12. Eschatos says:

    I can’t disagree with what this review says, but I’m also enjoying Fallen Enchantress highly. If a competent multiplayer mode gets added, for all it’s faults I will happily say this game is worth $40.

  13. DK says:

    Fallen Enchantress would have been fine if it had been the game that came out when Elemental did. But since then the genre has advanced, and Fallen Enchantress has merely been trying to get to the Elementals intended level instead of advancing along.

    • mckertis says:

      “But since then the genre has advanced”

      Really ? In what way ? What, there was a slew of 4x games that the world has blinky-missed ?

  14. Zanchito says:

    I’ve heard the editor is crazy powerful, allowing total conversions and new rules implemented. Looking forward to the modding scene for this!

  15. SkittleDiddler says:

    So, looks like it’s back to Age of Wonders for me.

    And why all the butthurt over the negative reception this game is getting? You fanboys are a sad bunch.

  16. biz says:

    if you cannot see why the various components need to be interconnected you really don’t understand strategy games. There needs to be contention between goals and an inability to succeed at everything.

    FE is a huge step up from stuff like Total War where the tactical combat and strategy are very isolated from one another. It is infinitely more entertaining and strategic to trade off between empire strength and unit strength than to optimize both independently.

    I haven’t played enough of the game to judge it, but in terms of features it has everything a 4X needs. it’s just a matter of tweaking the balance and making sure the AI knows how to play the game.

    FFH, Civ, and Warlock all have really crappy AI.
    but Gal Civ 2 had decent AI… there is hope for Fallen Enchantress

    • pakoito says:

      Potential is not a good selling point when you fucked up your last 3 games and you have to do PR damage control every other month.

      • biz says:

        potential is the only thing people can make decisions from when there are 0 reviewers who play a game long enough or competently enough to judge the AI, hence Civ 5′s glowing reception

        elemental forum is full of people complaining that the AI is too good. I guess that’s promising

        • Agramenauer says:

          The AI isn’t good at all. It is terrible. Just a few gamebreaking examples.

          Units will try to hit you first all the time when they outrange you. They will always stay 1+ the range of the closest character to be able to attack in the next turn while staying out of your range. This might seem good but it turns out that, when figthing 4 archers and 1 tank, you can just get 8 free turns just by moving the closest unit back 1 square. The AI will just advance 1 square at a time while being pelted by enemy arrows.

          Units have a hard time shifting focus. Or focusing weaker units at all. I have played 5 turns straight with my hero “No armor and 26 hit points max” next to a giant snake that kept focusing my hero “full armor plus shield plus 3 defence skills and defending”. It would have taken 1 attack to oneshot the mage.

          Ranged weapons are really overpowered in the begining, and getting lucky and finding range staffs or bows for your other heroes makes half of the camps incredibly easy.

          While the “damage calculator” takes armor into account, it doesnt show the real damage spells do, making them way more unreliable that they should be.

          Mounts are easy to get techwise, and will allow you to kite most of the enemies endlessly. Even some end game units like the juggernaut lack spammable long range attacks (kiting with 3 mounted untis with bows)

          There is a complete lack of balance between some spells, like direct damage spells that increase with level (easy to do) or with specific elemental shards (way harder to find).

          Some skills lack range in the description, so you may end up geeting a close combat skill on your archer.

          Also, enemy AI cheats like crazy. One of the reasons you may not expand like really fast is because, if your borders cover a monster den, it will attack your town. That forces you to colonize places you may defend. But monsters inside AI borders will run away and let them colonize whatever they need. Sometimes they will instead attack you. Yep that is totally fair.

          Also, the game balance is so broken that even the settler unit is unbalanced:

          Allows you to early spam cities, which coupled with city spells gives a ton of research, which is way harder to get with normal city upgrades.

          Allows you to fortify a tile in battle, giving great defense bonus, which coupled with the problems the AI has with priority targets makes the tank untouchable.

          But the worst part by far is the outpost spam. Giving you free territory with insane bonus (rushing upgrades), allowing strategic spells to be cast and automatic free road to scape/reinforcements is insane

          Just my 2 cents.

          EDIT: I am in the middle of a scenario with a “quest oriented” civ” This civ gets early a chance to buy new quests for 50 gold. I just spammed 5 quest, all of them exactly the same, which give 50 gold, 20% extra quest XP, battle xp, a free settler unit and 50 influence that may be traded with other factions for 100 gold. This means that you get each turn a lot of xp plus money to buy 3 more quest maps. Yep you have an infinite xp loop in there, with loads of gold on top.

      • Mmrnmhrm says:

        Last 3 games?

        Fallen Enchantress is excellent
        Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is excellent
        WOM was crummy.
        Demigod was a very good game which had networking issues when it first came out (like pretty much every other network centric game when it first launches)
        Galactic Civilizations II was excellent

        So where are the 3 terrible games? I see 1 which they’ve more than made good on.

        • TCM says:

          Stardock just publishes Sins, they don’t make it. Same goes for Demigod.

          Elemental was awful, Galciv 1 was abysmal, The Political Machine 2012 is a tired retread of a game that was tiny and limited 4 years ago.

          Stardock has exactly one good game they have created as a company. Galciv II. Beyond anything else though, their blatant falsehoods (Gamers Bill of Rights) and the personal actions of their company head (Sexual harassment, countersuit which says “WELL YOU RUINED ELEMENTAL FOR EVERYONE”) have convinced me they are not a company worth supporting.

          • Mmrnmhrm says:

            I can’t remember GalCiv 1. What’s the metacritic score for it?

            Sorry, it’s just hard to take someone like you seriously. They just gave tens of thousands of people free copies of FE as an apologize to people who bought a game from 2 years ago and you’re trying to spin it that they’re a bad company? Whatever, dude.

          • Grygus says:

            GalCiv 1 was a fine game at the time that it released. What are you talking about?

          • socrate says:

            Gal civ1 was kind of a really bad game.Gal civ2 is ok but still its a really mediocre copy and paste of Master of Orion and leave so much good stuff out of the game and as next to no new stuff in that really change the gameplay.

            I really don’t get fanboyism that defend such bad behavior these kind of company use even more so when they do mostly bad game without much diversity in them.

            I still don’t get why so many people think Sin of a solar empire is actually good it as to be the most boring gameplay ive seen so far in a space game its a turtling fest

          • frightlever says:

            Gal Civ 1 was okay but it was a single player game where the AI cheated right off the starting blocks, with full knowledge of the entire map in order to make the AI more “challenging”. This turned every game into a scramble to find viable planets ASAP or stand zero chance of winning. That’s not actually much fun, particularly when you KNOW the AI is cheating. The AI in the second game was vastly improved.

            Of course they did make mistakes as they went along. I seem to recall one of the expansions basically rendered the original campaign virtually impossible to win. Details though. GCII is still worth a play.

    • Latent12 says:

      The various components don’t seem to have enough connection. He sent his strongest unit to go explore the world and only had to deal with a meager spider invasion. Any organization without its leader close by should be at some sort of disadvantage. The rpg elements seem to powerful in that they can make up for underdevelopment in cities and research.

    • mckertis says:

      “Gal Civ 2 had decent AI”

      Or so people say. It’s hard to check that claim, as the actual game is so bland and badly designed i never could stomach to invest even 30 minutes in that… thing.

      • socrate says:

        im pretty sure Gal civ2 was never played for its good AI….at least i hope not Master of Orion 2 had 100x better AI then Gal civ2 and its really older.

      • ohioastro says:

        You may not have found it interesting, but a lot of other people obviously did. This is similar to complaining that a particular genre of music is boring.

        It appears pretty clear that there are some personal grudges being exercised in this particular discussion. Stardock has developed some solid games where the AI is significantly better at posing a challenge to players than is typical in the genre. In particular, the space strategy sector has been absolutely plagued with design decisions that guarantee poor AI performance – such as tactical battles and extremely complex game systems. GalCiv demonstrated that you could have a good, well, game if you had simple rules that an AI could competently compete with you in.

        My particular reservation with GC1 and GC2 was that the economic system was counter-intuitive – e.g. the mismatch between the things that you could control and the population and taxes. But the idea that all of their games have been terrible is not easy to support, at all.

    • PUKED says:

      About that AI… set your expectations to Warlock levels. Galciv this is not.

      Those people complaining about the difficulty are just new to the game and don’t have it figured out yet.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      “FFH, Civ, and Warlock all have really crappy AI.
      but Gal Civ 2 had decent AI… there is hope for Fallen Enchantres”

      Why do people always say this? I like all those games, but the AI among them is extremely similar in skill level, and all that GalCiv 2 did differently was to give the AI bonuses in a way the player was less likely to notice. It was no better at actually using units or running an empire. Particularly since there wasn’t much terrain in GalCiv2 it didn’t get into as many embarrassing screw ups regarding unpassable tiles as those others games’ AI, but if their had been as much unpassable terrain it certain would have.

      Don’t get me wrong I put a lot of time into all those games and enjoyed Gal Civ 2 quite a bit. But its AI was never that great and I have no idea why people slurp all over it. Hiding the AI modifiers and having the AI in an easier to navigate environment do not make a better AI.

      • biz says:

        it’s quite simple really. The AI is judged by how well it can play it its own game or by how interesting of an opponent it is – not by how intelligent it is. Like you could put a million times as much effort into writing a 4X AI than writing a chess AI. The chess AI will still be better by any important standard.

        Gal Civ 2′s AI is far better at playing the game without relying on anywhere near as many bonuses. Just because the game may be missing some of the things that AIs tend to trip on doesn’t change that fact.

        If they make a game without terrain navigation and difficult time pathing to make the AI’s job easier, then good for them. Gal Civ 2 still has a lot of depth where it matters. It’s not like FPS games where they make an aimbot and call it a good AI. Gal CIv 2 has to solve all the hard problems. It isn’t amazing, but it’s better than the rest.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          “it’s quite simple really. The AI is judged by how well it can play it its own game or by how interesting of an opponent it is – not by how intelligent it is. Like you could put a million times as much effort into writing a 4X AI than writing a chess AI. The chess AI will still be better by any important standard.”

          I disagree with this completely. An AI that can play tic tac toe is not better than the Civ 5 AI. That is an insane way to look at it. WHen complaining that X games AI is good or Y’s bad you need to take into account the difficulty of the tasks you are asking them to perform.

          That said a large part of good single player game design is trying to make the game as interesting as possible while being as tractable for an AI as possible and barely any developers have figured that out yet. But it doesn’t change the basic fact that GalCiv’s AI is no better than and other 4X AI when you factor in the difficulty of the game environment.

          “Gal Civ 2′s AI is far better at playing the game without relying on anywhere near as many bonuses.”

          This simply isn’t true. Take a look at an AI race on anything above the normal level, they have 2 or 3 or 4! times as many racial perk points. +50% to economy? + 100% to offense? It is way worse than anything in Civ, but since it is kind of hidden people didn’t realize it.

          “If they make a game without terrain navigation and difficult time pathing to make the AI’s job easier, then good for them.”

          I agree completely, but the game is that way because it is a space game, not because they did it on purpose. If they had had an earth based game the AI would have been outed as terrible.

          “Gal CIv 2 has to solve all the hard problems. It isn’t amazing, but it’s better than the rest.”
          On what basis is it better than the Civ 5 AI or Endless Space AI? I don’t see almost any of the 4X AIs as different enough in sophistication to make much judgement.

    • Josh W says:

      Other people have mentioned this, but there’s a difference between incompatible goals spread over different subsystems and incompatible goals tied each to a certain subsystem. The difference is that it basically becomes about “do I play this game or this game, or a bit of both”. From a whole strategic space, it becomes about dividing your personal effort and resources between separate routes to winning.

      This can go too far in the other direction, with people constantly undoing their own work by side effects between different parts of their plans, but personally I find that dynamic complexity more interesting.

  17. caddyB says:

    Uh, that’s like, opposite of my experience in the later difficulty levels. Constantly under attack by various bandits and other nefarious wildlife, my leader rarely has time to go out exploring.

    • Xardas Kane says:

      Does not sound all that different from Civ 5 on Deity. That doesn’t mean Civ 5 has a good Ai now, does it? A previous post sums up rather well just how exploitable the AI in FE is and how much it cheeats.

  18. Mmrnmhrm says:

    I’d challenge the reviewer to name a single better 4X strategy game that’s come out in recent years? If you think Warlock is better, then say so. Then I know your opinion is worthless.

    Would you seriously recommend Civilization V over this? I have plenty of nitpicks with the game too but taken as a whole, the game is excellent.

    • TCM says:

      So I take it you saw this post in Steam’s newsfeed [or in a post on the cesspit that is Elemental's forums], and rushed over to zealously defend the game when you read an opinion that was not 100% positive?

      This WiT convinced me to give the game a chance, which is more than it deserves. Perhaps you should reevaluate what you believe is an attack.

      • Mmrnmhrm says:

        If you don’t think the game even deserves your lofty time then go find something else to play. You act like you’re doing someone a favor by gracing a game you got for free with your presence.

        I’m giving my opinion on the game. Me liking the game doesn’t hurt you. My opinion on the game is more worthwhile than the people who litter comments with ad hominems on Wardell.

        • TCM says:

          Sure, you liking the game doesn’t hurt me. But it seems like people NOT liking the game does hurt you, with how you’ve littered the comment thread.

          • Mmrnmhrm says:

            Pot meet kettle.

          • TCM says:

            What does that even mean, in this context?

            I am honestly curious as to what you are looking to gain, here.

          • Mmrnmhrm says:

            It means you’re peppering the thread with negativity while complaining that someone who likes the game is defending it.

          • TCM says:

            I reiterate: You should reevaluate what you consider an attack.

          • Mmrnmhrm says:

            I haven’t seen anything that looks like an “attack” on the game. I just said I like the game. I also think companies that stand by their customer service deserve our support.

    • Yglorba says:

      Warlock isn’t really a 4X game, though, even if it dresses up like one a bit. It’s a fantasy wargame. It’s pretty good at what it does — people who went into it expecting a 4X game or a successor to Master of Magic (which does include me, sadly) were disappointed, but it wasn’t a bad game, and it did what it was trying to do just fine.

      I think that’s what he’s saying. Warlock was less ambitious and more straightforward (and, really, in a different genre despite its superficial similarities), but it held together better.

      And, I mean, yeah, we don’t get very many good 4X games lately, but the problem (and I think it’s a universal one for the entire genre) is that unlike a FPS or 3D RPG or whatever, 4X games don’t rely too much on tech. I could go back and play MoM, MoO 2, Civ 4, or whatever right now and they’ll hold up just fine; and the basic fact is that this game doesn’t come close to comparing to them.

      Maybe it’s unfair to compare, of course, but it’s a basic fact of the 4X genre.

      (In fact, I think in some way the tech has served the genre poorly. Games like MoO and MoM were bursting with character and had a coherent artistic look and feel; part of the reason they were able to do that was because they were made by a smaller team, something you can’t do nowadays if you want your game to have modern graphics.)

      • Mmrnmhrm says:

        I agree that a tightly designed game like Warlock holds together better. But that comes at the cost of replayability.

        FE has a lot of stuff whose importance varies from nothing to a lot depending on which faction you play as. I think that is a good thing.

    • Nick says:

      JUst because there aren’t any good 4x games released recently, doesn’t mean shitty ones are good.

    • RF says:

      Endless Space. Now shut up and GTFO.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Endless Space was excellent.

      • El_Duderino says:

        Endless space is a shallow skeleton of a game, it is smooth and polished but lacks depth. Like FE there is some potential for it being really good somewhere down the road, but I’ll have to say I enjoy FE a great deal more.

    • MaXimillion says:

      I would recommend Civ V over this, and I’m one of those that believe V was far inferior to IV.

    • Xardas Kane says:

      I also would recommend Civ 5 Gods and Kings over this. FE is an interesting mechanism, but rarely feels like an actual game with its own character.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Civ 5 is a really solid game despite all its warts. You honestly prefer this over Civ 5? It is so much more badly made…

      I realize Civ 5 made some changes a lot of players didn’t like, but the game itself hangs together really well and is well balanced. The AI is terrible, but it has been in every 4X game I have ever played. Period. People complain about the diplomacy, but it actually has the best diplomacy of any 4X game yet, people just don’t understand it and get angry when the AI acts like a player and not like a speed bump for the player to kill at his leisure.

  19. TCM says:

    I said to a friend of mine that, even though I am getting the game for free, I was not intending to download it.

    I have decided to be fair and at least download it, and give it one chance. If it fails, I will head back over to Endless Space, Total War, Master of Magic, FFH, and Civ V(G&K), and never look back at this confused mess of a game again.

    • Ich Will says:

      Oooh, I gave up on civ 5, could you recommend any mods to clear up some of the issues?

      • TCM says:

        The Gods and Kings expac fixes most of my glaring issues with it, at least — it’s a very different game from Civ IV, but just as good, imo.

        • Ich Will says:

          Thanks! That’s my gaming tonight sorted :)

          • Xardas Kane says:

            And if it STILL bothers you, I highly suggest you try the NiGHTS mod.
            http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/09/09/mods-and-ends-civilization-v-nights/

            As for G+K, it fixes the tech ladder (which now actually feels worthy of calling a tech tree), quite a few of the AI gripes, greatly improves the City States, fills in some terrible holes in unit progression and has a MUCH better religion system than Civ 4 and espionage that at least adds some flavour without getting in the way too much. On the flip side – AI still is questionable, CSs are better, but still wonky and Diplomacy, old issues having been fixed, now has a couple of new problems (tip – NEVER declare war on someone you have a DOF with, NEVER destroy another civ).

            Not as good as Civ 4, but I find it a lot more fun than FE. But one can’t deny FE’s potential.

  20. adamsorkin says:

    This is pretty much consistent with my experience so far. It plays a lot cleaner than the original War of Magic, but I haven’t found much that really grabs me yet. Coming back to the game for subsequent playthroughs feels like a bit of a chore. Hopefully that will change, going forward.

  21. Haplo says:

    Hmm.

    I’m deeply enjoying FE at the moment, being on my 2nd proper run-through and loving it. However, the WIT has good points.

    Ultimately the game owes a good deal of its philosophy to GalCiv as much as it does Master of Magic. The idea about customizing your own units and creating your own civilization (and the customization of units is plenty thorough); the victory conditions; even the rather clever idea of limiting cities to certain squares is actually pretty much like how GalCiv’s spread is limited by available planets.

    On the disconnect between the RPG and Strategy elements- there’s definitely something of a separation. Strategy-wise, the Sovereign’s a powerful figure (usually), but strategic (read: world map) magic is divorced from the Sovereign anyway, meaning his/her levelups (and that of the Champions) are largely irrelevant in any situation outside of combat. Mind, as Champions/Sovereigns gain levels, they hit a certain point where they’re permitted to specialise in a certain way (this influences what abilities they’ll learn at levelups). One of these paths suggests turning them into a governor figure, but I’ve not explored it to see if it helps or not.

    That said, the main disconnect comes in a different way- in my experiences, the Strategy portion of the game doesn’t -need- the RPG, but the reverse is not true. Sovereigns and Champions need cities, they need armies, they need mana for spells and they need technology for upgrades. Although the Sovereign is a fairly powerful piece, he/she isn’t godlike, at least not without a ton of effort, and as time goes on the game world becomes slowly more dangerous and threatening, usually faster than the Sovereign can keep up. There are plenty of units on the map that can clean a Sovereign up for breakfast (Titans, Dragons, certain Golems remain properly threatening for a Sovereign throughout the game, but early on just about anything can pose a challenge). Sending a Sovereign against a full enemy army is also probably going to end in tears- unless, of course, the Sovereign has an army of their own.
    (A caveat: The might/magic divide seems to fall on the side of magic here for Sovereigns. A beefy warrior Sovereign might be able to do plenty of hurt to a dragon, but Magic Sovereigns earn pretty forceful tactical spells that make them a viable threat to an actual army, such as fireballs or buff spells). In any case, I found beyond a certain point that it’s not enough to have the Sovereign and his buddy go around trying to do everything- sooner or later you will actually need a strong army if you want to win the game.

    And that’s part of the problem. About the biggest threat regarding the RPG/Strategy divide, for me, is that early on all you have is the Sovereign and a single city, with no military units worth a damn. It’s easy for the Sovereign to be sent off and just happily explore the world, right up until you run into another civilization who has coupled exploration with actual expansion. A civilization with an actual proper army and technology. Your all-mighty Sovereign might be enough to wipe out wolves, but he or she is going to be properly screwed trying to actually fight an army.

    The game does need a bit more ‘oomph’, a bit more complexity on both sides, it needs more interplay between facets and a more alive world than the one it has, but it’s damn fun as it is and hopefully- hopefully! Will lead to bigger, better things in the future.

  22. MacGuffin says:

    I have a great deal of trouble getting into FE just because the art style is really unappealing to me. From what I have played, I tend to agree with the reviewer, the mechanics don’t seem to mesh very well into a cohesive strategy or role-playing experience and I feel disconnected from the game world, finding it hard to care about anything that happens. 4x games are such a niche genre and so I really would like to see inspiring and interesting games coming out but I tend to go back to classic standbys (MOO2, FFH2) after only a few hours of play.

  23. MrNash says:

    I think I’ll probably wind up getting this game eventually. Just have way too much on my plate right now. Already got Endless Space and Warlock this year, and I’m finally making headway in learning how to play Crusader Kings. Probably next year I’ll sit down and give Fallen Enchantress a proper playthrough.

  24. Joote says:

    I am really loving this game. It could even be a up dated version of Master of magic.
    It can be very cruel though, I wouldn’t suggest starting on anything above easy at first, I started on beginner to get the hang of things.

  25. Okami says:

    Elemental: War of Magic was a broken, badly designed mess.

    Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a huge step forward in every department, they really improved on every single aspect of the game and it really shows. It’s still kinda meh, though.

  26. wodin says:

    I think it’s a game that will grow on you..some of those have been the best games I’ve played in the end..so so first feelings..but grows on you enough to become one of your all time favorites.

    Also people talk about balance Master of magic had no balance and I think an article here or from the Sunday papers saw that as a positive not a negative..I’m one of those players who doesn’t understand why everything has to be balanced. As long as it isn’t a game where a balance issue can halt your progress totally then I see no issue in it. I hate Rock Paper Scissor wargames for instance, a mechanic I detest.

  27. zonk_1000 says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the review.

  28. Aiven says:

    I would agree that the game has some balance issues, but the core unit building and combat system is one of the best I’ve seen. I’ve plowed through Civ I, II, III, IV, V, AC, Col, Moo II and FFH many times and I loved all of them. FP has so far been extremely addictive and fun, but I cannot tell how deep it really is. However it’s already lasted longer than the new X-Com (which was great, but too short).

    The game is ugly as f*** but addictive – the core mechanics are ace. I cannot tell how long the AI will pose a challenge, but so far just mastering the game have been a lot of fun. I’ve played about 20 hours now and I disagree with most of the things you say. It almost looks like you jugded this game from playing in beginner mode, with monsters set to my-little-pony-mode – a bit shallower than what I expected from RPS. If this is a genre you know and love you should give the game another chance. The sad part is that your words will probably cheat some dedicated strategy gamers of an interesting game experience.

  29. abandonhope says:

    I got this for free from Softpedia around Christmas, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.

    I was minding my own business pretty close to my only town when another sovereign walked up on me. I tried to engage her in a dialog but none of the options seemed to have much of a point. She was arrogant, making a bee line into my territory, and told me not to trespass on hers. I usually play to improve my civilization before getting aggressive in these sorts of games, but I just said fuck it, declared war, and attacked her. She was accompanied by one hero. I slaughtered them both.

    The encounter left me with the strong impression that no one’s home in this game. It made me miss playing against the sort of paranoid/cautious/jealous/scheming AI opponents in games like Alpha Centauri.

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