Playing the game (RPG)
One of the major components of the Elemental franchise is the use of RPG mechanics for hero characters and the monsters that roam the world. Whilst your empire is busy building up you can explore to take part in quests, loot dungeons, and fight off the hordes of baddies that threaten your every move. You start out with your Sovereign, the leader of your faction, and recruit NPCs to your cause with money. Unlike in WoM, all NPCs stay in one place rather than roaming around aimlessly. For too long these important NPCs, called Champions, would get themselves killed or bought off by an opposing faction before you could get to them because they left your line of sight. No more!
Scattered about the world are a bunch of tiles called “goodie huts,” or locations with random items that you can pick up upon walking on them. Some of these introduce quests, which can range from fetch and assassination quests to escort missions or epic adventures that sprawl the entire map. One of them is also a possible victory condition for winning the game. Rewards vary from weapons and armor that increase your attack or defense to special items that grant magical abilities. The interface change FE introduces really shines here, as equipping and trading items between companions has never been simpler.
I previously mentioned researching new spells. Well, in Fallen Enchantress
that entire mechanic has been deleted. In War of Magic
, you would research each individual spell your Sovereign has access to in order to use it. Unfortunately, that meant you had to be very strategic in how you devoted time to getting new powers. Instead, FE uses a new leveling system for individual characters and cities. Instead of manually upgrading a bunch of statistics or researching new spells, you simply pick a perk. Upon leveling you choose one of five perks, each one granting a specific bonus to either your stats or granting a new set of abilities. For example, if one of your characters is a Fire Mage and they level-up, you may have the opportunity to select a perk that advances their fire magic. This immediately introduces the next tier of new fire-related spells rather than having to individually research them all.
These perks are descriptive and give you a good idea of what to expect. They are also arrayed in a sort of progressive tree. For example, one of your hero characters might come to a point where they pick a profession, such as “Path of the Warrior” or the Mage or the Governor. Picking one of them will grant you an immediate bonus associated with that perk but also unlock future perks associated with the previous one. Picking Path of the Governor, which grants you +1 Faction Prestige, may seem useless for a hero character that spends their time traveling around killing things, but future perks will include significant bonuses such as improving your research rate or monetary income. This is an incredibly fun mechanic and one of the best additions to Elemental
The story of the game is also vastly improved. The original Elemental
felt like the story was merely there to serve as a backdrop for the action going on in the game. In Fallen Enchantress
, every faction, character, creature, goodie hut, quest, event, and research option is described with a bit of backstory. Think of it as the italicized fluff at the bottom of a trading card. Individually it’s a load of nonsense but reading all of it as it comes along really enhances the world you’re playing in and gives you the sense that this is a unique universe and not a generic fantasy template.
Quests now come complete with moral dilemmas and multiple ways of ending with different rewards, like the ability to save a princess or sell her into slavery. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a consequence to either choice other than its associated reward. This is an area Stardock could work on a little bit. Along with the improved story, the game comes with a pretty good tutorial and a huge in-game manual complete with narrated gameplay videos that describe every aspect of Elemental
. The lack of documentation in the original game was a serious problem and I’m glad Stardock went the extra mile to ensure that that’s no longer the case.