When Stardock’s Elemental: War of Magic flopped onto the market in 2010 the general consensus was that beneath the game-breaking bugs and abominable design choices there was a glimmer of a hope. Mixing up the standard 4X game with some roleplaying and fantasy elements sounded like a great idea, but War of Magic couldn’t deliver on that promise. Two years later and we get another title in the Elemental series, though you’d never know it if I hadn’t told you. Elemental: Fallen Enchantress has gone out of it’s way to make sure that you only see the “Fallen Enchantress” of the title, presumably to prevent you from associating it with 2010’s stinker. Does Fallen Enchantress rise above it’s predecessor? Yes, yes it does. Should you play it? Read on to find out!
The first thing I have to address when talking about Fallen Enchantress is the game’s functionality. War of Magic may have been inexcusably broken when it launched, but those problems seem to have been ironed out for the sequel. I did notice one bug where the game would lock if I tried to close it via the classic ALT+F4 shortcut, but while this was annoying it wasn’t game-breaking. Other than that, I never really had a problem running the game.
Combat itself is actually fairly underwhelming. The problem is that here doesn’t seem to be much strategy involved. I didn’t notice any bonus for flanking or attacking from behind, so all you’re left to do is just stab and shoot. It might have been endurable if the tactical battles looked good, but this is where the art design really fails the game. The maps and character models look muddy and bland, and the cool spells they can cast are all really underwhelming. I found myself skipping the battles by asking the game to auto-resolve itself, which I couldn’t imagine doing in other games.
Fortunately, the Grand Campaign is much better. As you’d expect in any proper 4X title, there are multiple paths to victory. The obvious conquest and diplomatic victories are par for the course, and the Spell of Making victory is essentially a research driven victory. The wrinkle is in the Master Quest victory, where you can complete a long list of objectives to be declared the winner by saving the world from a monstrous evil force. This was a nice addition that slotted in with the fantasy theme nicely. Unfortunately, I found that starting a new game was a somewhat random affair. More than once I had to restart a game because the area my puny nation began in was stuffed with high-level monsters my meek Sovereign couldn’t hope to take on. The AI in the game is okay. I never noticed the AI doing anything completely crazy like throwing an army into a battle it couldn’t possibly win
In fact, like Stardock’s previous 4X title, you can customize damn near anything. When you’re starting a new campaign you can custom build your own personal Sovereign, choosing a skill set, an elemental affinity, and so on. You can even design your own custom nation complete with your chosen bonuses and flag. I created a stealthy ranger at the head of a nation of deadly, rebellious brigands. All of this means that when you go to get into the game you feel a personal attachment to the character you’ve created. You can even type up a backstory for both your avatar and for your nation! The ability to create doesn’t end once you get into the game, though.