They look epic because the 3d models, animations and noises are so varied and detailed - it actually looks like an epic battle being fought. It's modeling the battle a lot more realistically than the abstracted turn based model, so it can show you this battle being fought. Most importantly, everything is happening at the same time. In a turn based game like Elemental, all the units will spend most of their time idle... when one unit attacks another, only the men in those two units will do anything and it will be nothing like a mêlée in TW. You'll just get generic attack and defense animation with no interaction between the units. Nothing like a cavalry charge into the flanks of a light infantry formation.
This is true, and I definitely see your point here. This is why I talked about the "interim animations" as well. Think about this. This is for a turn based environment.
When one mêlée unit attacks another, there's nothing saying the animation has to end when the attack ends. The animation of those two units hammering on each other can continue until a new order is given the next turn. This keeps the action "looking constant". I've seen other turn based games do it like this in the past especially some of the old console strategy games (just don't ask me to name any examples right this second). It's all about how creative the dev team is. I know that if I and others here can think of ways to pull it off and get that epic feeling they wanted, so can they. They're the pros and that's why they make the big bucks.
I can understand you standing behind your decision too, and I respect that. I see by your registration date though you've only been here a month and I don't know if you've went back and read all the previous dev journals. In the beginning it was planned as a "Continuous Turns" system, much like the original Baldur's Gate on PC, and for that system it would have been perfect.
As we all know the devs switched from the CT system to a true Turn Based system to try to get better depth in the strategy of it, and I can understand and agree with that as well. I don't see why though that meant that when the change was made from one system to the other that unit numbers had to be changed as well. For two years everyone dreamed of how the game would look, feel, and of course play. How the game plays is the most important thing, how it "feels" is probably the second most important thing. If you would have heard Frogboy describe all the epic battles he envisioned pulling off with the engine you'd most likely be right here with us on our side of the fence on this. Still, what you support now, which is the current system, doesn't even come close to what their initial vision was, and honestly the type of game environment, being continuous turns or real time, really didn't need to affect that at all.
If you look at a lot of the reviews floating around the web all of them tend to say the same thing when talking about the tactical battles. Here's an excerpt from the Gamespot review found here: http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/elementalwarofmagic/review.html
Tactical battles aren't worth the effort
"These are grid-based tactical battles at their most basic, so there's nothing to ignite your enthusiasm. Furthermore, these skirmishes don't harbor any visual appeal. The battlefields are bland, and soldiers don't look like they are marching across the tiles so much as they are floating while their legs move"
Now, I don't agree with what he says about the units "floating". They look like they're walking on the ground just fine to me, but, I Do Agree with him saying they "don't harbor any visual appeal". I don't mean the art style, the art style kicks ass IMO. Gamespot isn't the only review site that's said this either, and I think that feeling is the general consensus showing how far and how fast this thread took off. You're right in pointing out there's a couple pages of drama and bullsh!t!t here, but when you get past that and look (and count) the serious replies, for the most part people are complaining about the battles not looking "Inspired", or for lack of a better word, "Epic". If they would have kept the larger unit counts I don't think there would be as much of a backlash about the battles not looking right. In today's gaming world, people need something to "oooh" and "aahhhh" about. The game doesn't deliver that. Not with the spell animations, nor with the look and feel of the battles. Even old school MoM had larger unit counts than this. Seeing as how each unit only had one size, every unit in MoM started off with anywhere between 6 and 12 soldiers in each unit. I seem to remember having some pretty big battles in MoM by end game. Here's some pics of our beloved MoM from back in the day. You can't tell me these don't look epic for back in the day, because to me these are awesome pics.
Every unit here in these pictures starts out bigger than the 1 Man starting unit size in Elemental. If the makers of MoM could get together today and re-make their game, I guarantee you they'd make something with even larger unit sizes, because they were extremely limited by their technology back in the day. With today's machines....I bet they'd go nuts.
Just to stress the fact even more to Stardock about the kind of press that picture from the box is getting and will keep getting, I did a Google search on "Master of Magic Tactical Battles". You wouldn't believe how many pictures of Elemental came up. There's one right on the first page of the search results. Take a look at What Picture it is...
Edit: I removed the search link. after I went and checked the link it ended up going to a damn pirate site, so, even through extension, I'm not posting a link to that, sorry.
The game would look and feel better with the battles it was envisioned with only in the current turn based environment. It could only improve the opinion that the review sites have, it would make a very large chunk of the players happy, And it would live up to the Infamous picture that's going to start making even more people like Kevin here upset when they get home expecting to sit down and play a epic game and get stuck with not even having half the units shown in the picture. Saying that it was a "bad move" for Stardock to put that picture on the box would probably be an understatement, but, it's not just the box. There's lots of sites up, and magazines printed, that advertise Elemental Specifically With that screen-shot. Does that really seem "right"? Well...I don't know. I LOVE Stardock, I do. I LOVE their games, I'm going to keep buying their games, and I'm going to keep helping them and supporting them anyway I can, but....it feels wrong to me as a customer and as a gamer to advertise the game with that picture if what's in that picture can't be done IN the game.