I bought Elemental a while ago, and got the beta version installed. First started on 3C, now on 4.
It might be that my impressions as a new player gives an important feedback on how it actually is to start afresh. Keep in mind, I'm an old gamer, I've been around since the time of legends, and in addition, I believe I've played most of what is worth playing in this genre; from the recent fantasy wars/elven legacy/etc. games to Disciples III and II, MoM, AoW, Civ4 (Ffh) etc. On the downside, that also means I am not well-read on what is currently 'known issues' and such. Bear with me mentioning stuff you allready know.
First: Game start. Very retro. Obviously a placeholder. And joke.
Then the first thing most people do is probably create the sovereign. This was not unproblematic. Version 4 got better, but still.
There are some cool options there, but things seems nuts, at times. A good staff costs 10, when you can buy it in a shop for 10 gp once the game begins? Considering what you get for 10 development points compared to 10 gp.. not going to happen. That armor is a bit more likely - you need to research and build stuff before you can buy it - but even then it's expensive for doing little of importance. Unlike you also buy the ability to use that sort of item.
But, designing a sovereign is more than the stats and talents. It's also design, race, name, etc.
Race: There is no indication whatsoever what bonuses or maluses a race has, if any; it is also difficult to see what races go well with what nation/faction. Playing as the goblin sovereign of the high elves would be odd; it's kind of hard to know when you do the equivalent of that here.
Secondly, looks. Not everyone has all the classes of options, some options seem to disappear or reappear randomly. (Boots, surcoats, pants seem the most common. You can't choose hair when you have a helmet - you can take off the helmet, so you should have hair below it in case you do take it off. Lastly, it's difficult to create an interesting - looking female sovereign. (Any sexy or martial look seems rather impossible; all the clothing options are full gowns and similar outfits best suited for a bar or a ball, not a battle.
Thirdly, spellbooks - and really, the other options, too - has a problem. You don't get any information. Like many other things, you need to play the game with an option to find out what that option does. This adds a lot to the learning curve.
Choosing an empire / faction: Straightforward enough, and here it does state differences. You get a hint through the empire + sovereign card of what race of sovereign is appropriate for it, BUT this is after creating your sovereign, and with Kingdoms, the races are not all that easily identifiable.
Initial impression: Cool, but a bit frustrating.
Second: Playing the game (starting out)
Okay, this reminds me of civ IV, but with the city management on-map. This is good. Art style is odd.... blurry... looks like I'm looking at things through water? I changed the options around and they got crisp and clear, much better. I don't remember what option did it, but one of the default / starting options (3C) really messed up the graphics. (Basically it looked like VERY excessive smoothing.).
I funded my empire. Again, it seemed a bit inaccessible. I could build all sorts of things, but the only way to find out what you need, in what order, is by trial and error - things like who can build +1 food / material buildings in a basic town, which I still haven't figured out - it seems that sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. Some sort of advisor function would be good.
Thirdly: My first battle
Okay, not first, but still... I've run into several issues.
1: The tactical combat treshold changes how many enemies are necessary for an 'autocombat' resolution, it seems. Again, lack of info, and awkwardly placed. My sovereign died against extremely weak enemies a lot because I didn't find that out until later. (Or possibly that starting with spells disappeared in 4)
2: No edge-of-screen scrolling of the combat map. If you want to watch outlying areas, zooming out is the only way to go.
3: Difficult targeting. Targeting the squares or units are sometimes difficult or select the wrong square. This is a matter of getting used to a quirk, I guess, but it is better if it is intuitive straight away.
4: Both in the overland map and the tactical map, it is unclear which units has moved this turn and which hasn't; which are selectable to do something and which aren't. This could stand some improvement; either by moved units sitting down, or have a moved status easily seen in ther thumbnail info. (There probably is, but I haven't noticed it on casual inspection). This is as important in the tactical map.
I will probably add things as I play, right now I'm posting from memory of yesterday. I come off sounding a bit negative here, but it's a beta - pointing out what needs improving kind of is our job, I think. I'll try to get some feedback on what actually IS good too.