Derek and his team have been busy working on the sequel to Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, the sequel to last year’s War of Magic.The final release date for Fallen Enchantress hasn’t been set yet but we do expect to go into beta around Thanksgiving.
Beta and Release
The initial beta will only be available to those who already have War of Magic. A later beta will be available to anyone who wants to pre-order it. The beta will be available via Stardock’s new digital store. We plan to run the beta exclusively via our digital updater (tentatively called Stardock Central) though the final version will be available through multiple channels.
Where things stand right now
In many respects, Fallen Enchantress is a lot closer to what we had initially envisioned for the first Elemental strategy game. Specifically:
- Terrain matters for city placement
- More differentiation between factions
- Much better economic system
- Much better magic system
- Much better tactical battle system
- Cleaner, more compelling tech tree.
Before the beta hits, we’ll be releasing some videos along with some AI vs. AI battles to show players how the new game plays.
A few highlights
There are more technologies in Fallen Enchantress for players to research. However, we’ve consolidated them into three distinct trees – Civilization, Warfare, Magic (The Empires have their own equivalent).
The display has been changed such that you can easily tell what each tech gives you. You can also choose a technology that has multiple steps to get to and it will take you through the intermediary techs automatically.
When your city levels up, it now gets to choose from a random assortment of special city improvements that it can build. The higher the city, the more powerful the selection becomes.
We have cleaned up the way armies are handled. At first, your armies will only be able to support 4 to 5 units (depending on your faction). Of course, each “unit” can be made up of many guys but the point being that researching the logistics to support larger army sizes becomes one of those strategic choices rather than a “must” to win.
This is a small thing but for grognards (like myself) every tooltip has been redone such that you get an instant display of where a given stat is derived from.
While some artwork and music survived from War of Magic, not much else has. So your skills at War of Magic aren’t really going to carry over here. While Elemental: War of Magic did eventually become a fairly decent TBS game, we were never satisfied with its underlying game mechanics. Specifically, the way production, research, farming, etc. worked. Rather than tweak it, we decided to take a different path.
In addition, the way heroes were handled was something that felt too much like luck. Instead, you will find champions being powers unto themselves. They’re typically living in their fortress, keep, dungeon, or what have you. The more powerful they are, the better your recruiting skill will need to be to recruit them.
In Fallen Enchantress you are also encouraged to kill off champions that are allied with the other side to prevent them from becoming allied with an opponent.
The land is a dangerous place. Virtually all the prime spots are surrounded by serious dangers. The good news is, they won’t just run out and attack you normally. The bad news is, as soon as a city’s sphere of influence spreads to one of their enclaves, they will be all over that city.
Players have the choice to either instantly resolve a battle or go to a tactical battle screen. Once there, they can either watch the battle resolve turn by turn, fight it out themselves or just resolve it.
My personal preference right now is to handle the first few turns and then turn it over the the auto play and watch the gory results.
Fallen Enchantress combat works based on initiative. There are no “rounds”. The faster a unit is, the more turns they get. There’s no counter-attack (unless that unit has it as a special ability).
Some spells take time to cast and that spell will appear in the film strip on the left so that players know what’s coming up and can see if there’s time to counter it.
Some units are more effective than others. Mounted warriors are harder to hit via archers and thus a very effective counter.
There’s a lot of combat in Fallen Enchantress and the battles tend to be fairly quick. They visually look a lot better as well (since every fighter in a given unit will take part in a given action rather than simply the lead one as was the case in WOM).
The most obvious difference in Fallen Enchantress, imo, is that nearly every unit has some sort of special ability. You can even design them into your soldiers if you have researched the appropriate techs.
Rewards after battle tend to be more meaningful.
Now that so much of the game has been put into XML, we and modders can throw in basically as many abilities and such into the game as our imagination comes up with.
This is an area that is getting a lot of attention. With each faction playing in very different ways, we needed to make sure those ways were sufficiently apparent to players. That meant having players who were effective with diplomacy and giving diplomacy more teeth. That means more treaties, more opportunity for manipulation, more tools to play the puppet master.
The AI challenges in Fallen Enchantress are significant. This is the area of the game I’m focused on. I’ve written elsewhere on this but the AI is much more XML driven than anything I’ve done in the past. The less I hard-code, the more broad strokes I can take with regards to deciding what spells to cast, what special abilities to pick and use, what improvements to construct, what technologies to research.
Unlike a typical Stardock beta cycle, the first beta of Fallen Enchantress will have the first AI pass in (normally our first betas have no AI in it). So players will be able to quickly discern how we’re doing in this area.
There will be no real marketing effort for Fallen Enchantress in 2011. Basically, the betas are going to have to speak for themselves.
In the meantime, assume it’s going to suck and give you a disease.