I have to admit while reading alot in the Forums, I rarely write anything.
Nevertheless, as I have been playing around with Elemental since Beta 2 I want to share some of my thoughts as an TBS-Player since Civ I
I apologize if some parts are already covered by other topics or mentioned already, put I don't want to miss anything:
* Starting as a fresh players:
I know it is Beta currently, but I strongly advise that there is some guide or tutorial (which is maybe covered hopefully by the first missions of the campaign). As it is currently, there is the need of several starts prior to understand the underlying system which is very unpleasant for new players. If this is something which would go into a demo too, in my opinion would be a No-Go for buying.
* Starting areas:
I see a big improvement from Beta-2 to Beta-2A related to roaming monsters and resources. Nevertheless, played now several games it gives me a clear indicator that if you don't find any valuable resource next to you - preferable food provider requiring a low tech - it is a clear disadvandage compared to other players.
* Taking wrong decisions in the beginning:
Currently the game allows for 'wrong' decisions in the beginning. Without starting a city and at least a small stable economy you can spend all your coins with aquiring champions. I don't know if this is a bug or not, but it happened several times that I had after aquisition a negative balance on my gold share. It takes quit some time adventuring to recover from this. The same goes for city spams - it tells you that you need 100 Gold for a new city. You build it only to find out that you have -400 on your account. This stops most of the progress, etc which I suppose that you can't keep up with the other empires afterwards.
* City development:
There are several ideas, discussions on that in the forum. First of all, if the city spaming is not the intention there is a need of improvement as currently I recognized the game is by far more easy if I spam them. Why should I only build 2-3 cities if I'm much faster with research development and having higher incomes with more of them.
Secondly, if I don't find any valuable resource for food somewhere near my places I hardly can progress with my cities (if I remember correctly, only with a garden you can go to a level-3 city and thats it). In Beta-2 I was able to garden-spam at least one city to cover the need of the other city. If I have a food tile with one of my cities, gardens are more or less obsolete. This means, currently there is only black or white and therefore no need for a player to take a decision.
In Beta-2 it was possible with a cap to have several of the same improvements in a city. Which leads to a more focused dedicated city development plan. Now you can have an improvement once per city. With the space to build, the 'standard' building layout (meaning more or less build everything) -> no need for a player to take a decision or at least only to decide when to build what and not what to build. I understand that this may change if the other research trees comes into play, but as city development is disabled for the next Beta, I fear that the other tech tress will not unlock to many city improvement tiles.
To be honest, as City building (which is for me an equal part of a 4x game) is currently implemented it is only fun for the first 1-2 rounds when the game is fresh. Afterwards, as no real strategy or decision is required to be honest it could be that the computer builds them for me as well after I have decided where the city should go. It doesn't seems to be very challeging and compared to other global TBS games (MoM, Civ, Moo) it's rather a weak point even several of choices for buildings are there.
Something I didn't saw mentioned somewhere else. In the beginning I mentioned that currently city spaming is the prefered choice for a fast progress. After some 100 turns, this means that they can come close to each other. I think it would be a nice idea if such two connected city could form a sort of a Mega-city
Other suggestions: I think the idea and development of the city itself is nice to be tested. But to be honest, the system used by other games are more in the direction of feeling 'right'. I think there should be some factors which are only related to the local cities economics (e.g. food, 'hammers') and others which are global (research points, mana generation, incs). Having to deal with a local economics and global economics provides a more intuitive feel. For the food tiles, I would suggest to change them into something that would provide a benefit (e.g. + 2 food per city or + 10%) to food production for all connected cities. For those of you thinking that this may gives to much micromanagement please consider that this game is not only subject to tactical movement of troops but empire management as well. As we are playing a TBS, we have mostly enough time needed (except in Multiplayer, but here I would think of hours of gameplay and not only minutes)
As far as my games go till now, armies are another weak point of the game. Even with improvements of movement, the costs for armies are by far to high. Currently I'm trying to aquire as much of champions as possible and change equipments with them. This seems more reasonable for the first 100-200 turns. Afterwards, connected to adequate resources and moved along the war tree you can create a decent - and compared to my other strategy - army to move out and taking opportunies. With the concept of champions and the Sov the main audience for an army are enemy countries. If you don't meet them early, you concentrate in the city developement and the research. There are in fact too less needs for an army to fight for which can't be taken by the Sov & a company of champions.
The UI itself is currently for most of the items very nice. There is mainly two parts I somehow miss:
Most important: I miss an overview of my armies and cities. The left handed list I use mainly to identify if for my cities or Armies anything to do is left. BUT I would like to see for the cities an overview of improvements and bonuses are there which would provide me an benefit if I produce something there or not. With the current system, I have to make to many clicks only to identify where it is the best choice for example to recruit an army (speed improvements, recruitment costs, etc). Additionally, the left bar is sometimes missleading as I have to wait for my city to gain a new level to make new improvements - it is highlighted which means I should produce something but no tiles are available anymore. And added that the recruitement and the improvement has two different layers the click-fest is additionally increasing. Generally, I like to have most of the critical information on screen, the idea itself is nice but the current implementation is still to weak and I think most of the time I miss something. Especially later with the retail game where you play and pause and may not remember by hard which city provides which benefit.
Secondly but not so crucial: a comprehensive list of finished tasks / actions as a sort of a log if someone wants to re-read something. Currently, after deleting the right list, its gone.
In my humble opinion the research needs some general improvements in what is beeing given as facts. Currently it is more a try and error if you achieve a new breakthrough as it is not very descriptive. I think this was mentioned already several times.
Generally, I like the beta as it is as it still posses a lot of area's to understand und see the working gears behind. But it leaves you with a lot of try and error which for some cases could be that it's even a show-stopper.
looking forward - the basis is there to be a long wished perfect game for me
Sorry for my rather long post, but I was writing as the topics approaches my mind