Last year Stardock released a very interesting little game with Elemental: Fallen Enchantress. The idea was to merge two of the biggest strategy options in the tactical SRPG and empire building simulation. Bold choice to say the least as both genres are notorious for sucking away hours of your life. As a tactical SRPG fan, the game has certainly been some good fun to spend the last few weeks previewing.
On May 22nd they are planning on expanding Fallen Enchantress with a host of new features for $39.99 (or $29.99 if you already have the original). With about 40 hours invested in playing through the beta, read on to see what my impressions are before the game gets released.
When I said that this game will suck your time away from you, I meant it. All sims are able to create that effect as you manage them, but this game is something special. The only thing afforded to us in the beta is the skirmish mode to highlight the new systems. This means no story and no tutorials. Just pick your opponents and your map and duke it out. With this I can honestly see how the battle system and simulation system really coexist and they do so pretty darn well.
For those that haven’t played the game, you basically get dropped on a map, build your society and then must battle monsters as you slowly expand your civilization. Then 4 or so hours later (depending on how big your map is and how many enemies you have), you start to deal with the empires being built around you. Being the even paced masochist that I am, I like to stick with 4 player maps just to see how everyone interacts with each other. This usually leads to about 10-12 hours give or take a session.
The tactical battles take place on a separate small arena and they can all be skipped for those who want to play a straight sim; but where’s the fun in that. The tactical battle system generally works out pretty well.
For those looking to see what this expansion improves upon, well it improves a lot, really. Other than graphics improvements, larger maps, more enemies and balancing tweaks, the game features an upgrade to the battle system, the hero recruiting system and the leveling system. These grant a bit of better control and strategy to the game and are the ones that seem to be the core focus of the beta.
Champions in the game are like invincible heroes that can get hurt, but can never die. They used to be hidden on the map in the old school Age of Empires style, but that doesn’t really work out strategically. It either turns intoa capture the flag kind of situation or, if you randomly place them, it devolves down to dumb luck. These champions are now recruitable as you build fame by killing monsters or expanding your empire. Champions take a lot of work as early on they are equipped with nothing and if you don’t take the time to build them up, your plain archers will be stronger than your champions.
Battles are tweaked around quite a bit. What they tried to focus on now is making the battles work around player units. There are now new abilities that build strategy with your units and your clan which leads right into the leveling system. Fallen Enchantress is fairly competent and strategically sensible with its focus on reward tiers. Knowing which tier to apply to which champion is the difference in how effective they are. This does add some depth and special clans get special abilities so everything feels much more technical, you know if you don’t want to just auto skip most the battles.
Right now the game feels solid. It needs a lot of balancing improvements and tweaks, but what we’ve got is an expansion on a good foundation. Stardock has tried to do something a bit different by creating the Civilization Tactics game that got us around the water cooler talking. When the game goes live in a few weeks, Yami and I will be heading a duel review that breaks down the finished product.