Unknown Pleasures 2009: Elemental: War of Magic

He's not Elemental. He's plain mental.

Ever since RPS’ inception, Stardock done nothing but to do things to further endear themselves to PC Gamers. A fountain of Gal Civ splenditude. A move into publishing with the brilliant Sins of a Solar Empire and the looking-brilliant DemiGod. Even pushing a gamers bill of rights. This is simply their next step, a Master-of-Magic inspired fantasy game which they’ve been working on for years but only finally gave it a name towards the close of the last. It’s time we all learned it. It’s Elemental: War of Magic and looks set to becoming the next PC-strategy game du jour. We talk to Brad Wardell about it…

RPS: You’ve talked about wanting to renovate PC-game types which have fallen by the way before – like a RPG and similar. What made you decide that a Fantasy game was the way to go?

Brad Wardell: I think PC gamers would like to see more turn-based strategy games. Look at how successful Civilization IV has been as well as Galactic Civilizations. People want to see these types of games. A civilization-style game set in a fantasy world is something that is right up our alley and we think gamers would like to see it. There’s been a lot of interest in a Master of Magic style sequel over the years and Elemental I think will tap into that demand.

RPS: And, at the highest level, what’s your aim of Elemental? What are you trying to make gamers feel when playing?

Brad Wardell: In Elemental, we want players to be able to rise up in level and eventually be powerful enough to wreak havoc on the world. By the end of the game, they’re a Sauron or Morgoth level of power and we want them to be able to see in detail what that means in a game.

RPS: Can you talk about the user-generated content aspect of the game. What do these tools actually let you do? And, in tems of game mechanics, how do they work? The creation tools in spore were more about pure visual aspects, and when forigen creatures entered their game, it didn’t really matter? With Stardock’s approach, I presume you’re talking a different route. Could you elaborate?

Brad Wardell: The in-game tools of Elemental are designed to let players create their own items, their own worlds, their own graphical elements to the world, their own creatures, their own races and pretty much anything else they might want to expand the game. They’re the same tools we use to add content to the game. The idea is we want players to be able to create their own sub-games and sub-genres to extend replayability and keep the game always fresh and new. They’ll be able to control this content with the bestiary screen to essentially build their own game scenarios.

Turn-based graphic artists only ever have a very rough idea of the concept of scale. Bless 'em.

RPS: Even putting aside the USG elements, the amount of variety promised is enormously impressive. 12 factions with their own tech trees? Is this the next step on from Arnor? How has your experience with making Gal Civ worked helped you?

Brad Wardell: Each faction in Elemental will have its own tech tree but the tech trees in Elemental aren’t comparable to Civ or GalCiv but more like Master of Orion 1 where there are only a small number of techs. Where the variance will really take place are in the spell books which are different per team. One of the nice things about a fantasy game is that we effectively get more options to make each faction play differently but in ways that are really cool.

RPS: What are you most excited about in 2009? What are the trends and developers to watch?

Brad Wardell: 2009 is going to be a very exciting year for gamers. For us, the big push is integrating more and more added value into the games through the Internet. For instance, Demigod, our upcoming strategy/RPG combo will introduce some MMO elements by letting players fight and build up characters in a persistent world. I think you’ll see more and more games taking advantage of the richness that Internet connectivity can bring to games.

RPS: Thanks for your time, Brad

Elemental will be entering its beta in Summer, which anyone who pre-orders is able to play.


  1. MonkeyMonster says:

    Coo – looks interesting and really can’t wait for Demigod. Have to say though that Morgoth was 2nd tier god basically. Sauron was his lieutenant – powerful but no where near as elite :)

    Am also liking more and more the pastel/watercolour with definite outline look – rather tasteful

  2. Ian says:

    Sounds interesting. Definitely one to keep an eye on. :)

  3. Bobsy says:

    You know what? I bloody loved Age of Wonders. I still remember the Kieron-PCG review from yeeeears ago summing it up perfectly: pleasant.

    This is your goal, Stardock. Pleasant.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’m worried. There’s 3 posts but the number of comments only says 2. SOMEONE IS A GHOST.

    EDIT: Cured!


  5. Nando says:

    My kind of game.
    Bring on a new Age of Wonders!

  6. Feet says:

    Yay! I’ve been following this one since it was announced, glad to see it being covered here, I think this is going to be brilliant.

  7. cheeba says:

    Fantastic. A definite pre-order for me once they’re a little closer to beta. I think Brad’s right, there’s definitely a real market for quality TBS on the PC, outside of the hardcore wargame niche it’s mostly buried itself in these days.

  8. Bobsy says:

    It was probably me Kieron. I died last year. Of… of too many internets.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    Blame Bobsy.

    I actually went back to Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic before christmas, was was lovely fun.


  10. Cigol says:

    Chalk me up as another fan of Age of Wonders – but that’s not a screenshot of Stardocks game at the top is it?

  11. Andrew says:

    Hm. I never did get Age of Wonders or its sequel (after playing the AoW demo for a solid month) and I’d probably snap it up quick-style these days if it was on digital download.

    Good Old Games! Y’hear me?

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    Cigol: It is. Or at least, it’s in the screenshot section of their site. I presume it’s a battle scene.


  13. Gurrah says:

    It is Cigol, check the Media section on the Elemental: War of Magic website.

  14. rabbitsoup says:

    yes please, I’m glad they are doing 12 different tech trees as the roughly samey nature of the tech put me off gal civ.

    heres a link to the media link to elementalgame.com

    clearly the okami wolf

  15. Severian says:

    Looking forward to this. As always, the key to TBS is whether they can make a challenging AI for solo play. Even though I didn’t obsess about Gal Civ II, I did appreciate how challenging (and intelligent) the AI’s seemed to play. That bodes well for Elemental.

  16. Legandir says:

    12 factions? I always worry when i see that many races that it’ll either be unbalanced or some of them will be very similar.

  17. Nick says:

    Yeah, I still break out shadow magic ever now and then, it’s great stuff, really looking forward to this.

  18. Babs says:

    I really don’t like that art-style. I can see what they’re trying to do, and I applaud any attempt to give a game a unique style, but the characters and perpective just look *wrong*.

  19. Bobsy says:

    Personally I have more of a soft spot for the original AoW than the sequel. It had just that tiny bit more charm, even if it was less advanced mechanically. The original had wonderful little descriptions and unique artwork for every single unit, which gave it a hella lotta character that they lost in the second game.

  20. Calabi says:

    Sounds interesting but why does the name have to sound so generic. The name does not make me want to play it.

  21. unique_identifier says:

    I do believe I read that the generic name is a nod toward the older titles.

  22. Wolfman says:

    Is it sad or cool that I still havn’t got rid of my Master of Magic disks? All 7 floppy disks? And they still install perfectly well, and do sometimes see use!

    Though any game that follows won’t ever live up to my rose-tinted love of that game.


  23. Pani says:

    The game premise does sound like my cup of tea – Civilization in a fantasy setting…. loverly!

    I’m just not too sure about the artwork though. I agree with Babs, it does look…. odd. I had a quick gander on their website and even though their artwork is 10 times my skill level, it just looks amateur for a company like Stardock.

  24. cyrenic says:

    By the end of the game, they’re a Sauron or Morgoth level of power and we want them to be able to see in detail what that means in a game.

    Goodness Brad, you really know how to get a guy…hot under the collar.

  25. Quirk says:

    >yes please, I’m glad they are doing 12 different tech trees
    >as the roughly samey nature of the tech put me off gal civ.

    Actually, GalCiv: Twilight of the Arnor featured 12 different tech trees, with each race’s tech tree being customised. Lots of unique buildings, a little semi-unique weapons tech. If that was all that put you off GalCiv, you should consider getting the Arnor expansion.

  26. Duke Goosington IV says:

    But if you do get twlight, don’t play as the arceans, at least not at first. Their unique techline apparently doesn’t stress the importance of moving appropriately quickly in such a vasty huge environment. they make space turtles appear positively pacey.

    On topic, I’m interested in this. I like the art style. I’m hoping that ‘factions’ was used deliberately over ‘races’ because I think it would be quite interesting to command an ideology over a single race, as in galciv.

  27. Therlun says:

    What the Arnor expansion does not address is the basic nature of the techtree though.
    You still research along a pretty narrow (efficiency-wise) tree that is always the same for the given race.

    Master of Orion 1s tech system, with random available technologies (and different strengths of races in different areas) is a much better system. I’d even say MoO1 tech is the best technology system ever created. :P

  28. Rich_P says:

    Brad frequently updates the developer blog at the official site if anyone’s interested. Lots of cool ideas.

    For those worried about the artwork: those are early alpha screenshots. The game is supposed to have a water color/fantasy map look when it’s all said and done.

    For being the CEO of a software company, Brad is also a damn good AI programmer.

  29. Jeremy says:

    I am definitely interested in this game, and I do like the art direction the game is going. It has a good fantasy vibe to it that I like, and it’s different. I like how a lot of games aren’t pushing the “realistic” look in art right now, there seems to be a big push for “artistic”, which is cool.

  30. mo says:

    From the game’s lore (link to elementalgame.com):

    If you gather a group of plucky, adolescent do-gooders to combine these crystals, do you think Captain Planet would appear to ‘deus ex machina’ any enviromental issues you might have?

    Me neither…

  31. mo says:

    Once more with feeling…

    From the game’s lore (link to elementalgame.com):

    In the final stages of the war, the powers gathered up nearly all the magic of the world and concentrated them into a series of crystals that represented the basic elements of magic: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Life.

    If you gather a group of plucky, adolescent do-gooders to combine these crystals, do you think Captain Planet would appear to ‘deus ex machina’ any enviromental issues you might have?

    Me neither…

  32. Heliocentric says:

    If you brought together the entire worlds magic my bet is placed on their being a splode.

    I like sci fi and historical/modern but i’m no setting nazi. You know i’ve met setting nazis who wont play sci fi or fantasy or world war 2 or modern combat. But maddeningly i’ve met people who will ONLY play the setting of their choice. Gladly my ww2 loving friend took his first step into non historical combat in call of duty 4 via 2. But! This game could be multi setting with its modding tools. I hope we see a modern combat mod within 3 weeks of release.

  33. M_the_C says:

    The game doesn’t really sound like my kind of game, but I was impressed by the interview anyway.

  34. Benjamin Finkel says:

    Thick outline art design now screams to me “Prince of Persia”. And that’s not a bad thing.


  35. Pijama says:

    And I knew that, in the end, Spore would live for it’s single practical purpose – the spread of procedural generation. :D

    The game dev diaries and really cool to read. Particularly the parts which talk about the customization options – kerrrrrist, if that happens, I think we will have an end-all fantasy strategy game.

  36. Funky Badger says:

    *dons the Hat of Pedendtry* Morgoth (nee: Melkor) was the biggest and the baddest of the gods.


    Oh yeah, WANT.

  37. Mil says:

    @Funky Badger: except for Eru, the Supreme Being. J.R.R. was a monotheist after all.

    About this game: OH YES. And Brad does say all the right things.

  38. SofS says:

    Oh man, Master of Magic was by far my favourite computer game as a kid, even though I could never get my version patched and thus had to avoid using the Spell of Mastery because my opponents would never attack me while I cast it and winning was too easy. I will definitely buy this if I can run it, especially if it has deep item-crafting options.

  39. malkav11 says:

    I desperately want this to be awesome. But GalCiv and GalCiv II have majorly failed to click with me, so I have my doubts.

  40. Caiman says:

    Let me get this right, you’re including this as a 2009 Unknown Pleasure because of the beta, right? The finished game isn’t scheduled until 2010. Is that still true?

  41. sayed sajjad says:

    Quite interesting!

  42. ScottT says:

    caiman: Yeah, Feb 2010 is the official release date. I think the first beta should be out around April-May.

  43. Bhazor says:

    That bull has a beak.
    Any further discussion is invalid.