After two long days of real world events including my youngest breaking two bones in her arm after falling on the ice and then having to get up at 3am to drive my wife to a specilist and back with the a splinted up 11 year old, I got to sit down an put the game through its paces to see the changes from EWOM. Here is my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly thus far...
UPDATED After More Plays and some mod tweaking...
Stability: Bad. It's a beta so I expect some crashing and the team is working to knock them out. Some folks are still reporting the memory leak crash. I've had the game freeze and crash on me in every sitting while doing normal in game actions. Again not a big deal, but hopefully most of these events can be squashed before release.
UPDATE: Still getting the odd crash. The game does not like it when the computer kicks into screen saver when I'm away. Similar to the alt tab bug of EWOM with a Dx crash.
UI: Good. The main screen is clean and functional. There are a few glitches with overlapping text when looking at sov's and hero's and I have some odd white artifacts on the screen in the fog. That appears to be odd clipping of the sunbeams from the sky and the fog not playing nice for some reason. Some combat related abilities are not showing up in the active characters panel. The combat sequence list to me is not helpful as it is for the current combat system (more on that below).
UPDATE: The only real interface issue I see is the lack of ability to change weapons on the combat map. If I had a button like the defend or pass that was "Equip" I'd gladly burn an action in some cases to refit my characters. Really needs to be there.
Magic System: UGLY. We have the same problam EWOM had. A player can't play as a pure caster. There is no way you can fight like a melee character. You do not possess enough mana to cast weapon equivalent spells each round and be able to turn around and do it again if you move to a new square on the strat map. You are forced to go run and hide for an large number of seaons to regain power. With the "smaller" combat maps (I'll get to that next) the casting time for some spells is not a waste since you will be hip deep in randomly moving bad guys once the spell fires. I have not seen a spell with more one "cast" per action like a multi shot magic missile. It would almost be easier to drop the spell system and just take some of the abilities and make them special combat options. Personally I'd like to see each magic casting character with their own mana pool. The casters level or trait levels and/or shards set the maximum number of points they have and scrap the global pool. Each character could have their own recovery as well. There should be a decent list of spells with various types of damage now and have the spells get better with level. Add new better spells with increasing level. Shooting more then one "shot" in a cast, adding area of effect, or persistent effects are all great ways to "level" up types of spells. There just needs to be a decent balance in total points so an average caster can make an average melee/bow type attack in a combat. Playing a caster and point managment should be around what spells to use, when to use a higher cost area spell, buffing and debuffing etc. Persistent spells should carry a holding cost with mana being "spent" from the characters pool. Strategic spells should have higher costs and perhaps have cooldowns to avoid over use. The bottom line is this. Let the character be a viable enchanter/wizard. Or at least make it possible to mod this way so folks can tune it to their liking.
UPDATE: I altered the mana balance to better suit having functional casters and it makes me happier. The only real problem I have is Modding related. There needs to be a tag/hook for allowing the summoning of items. I want some spells that summon horses or weapons, etc, but cost mana to hold AND can be dispelled. Right now I can give them, but there is no way to dispell them. A number of spell effects/abilites have some bugs and don't sync well with the text.
Combat System: Mixed Bag. On the good side the move to different damage types for weapons and armor and spells (maybe). Makes combat potentially more interesting. On the bad side we have the smaller feel of the tactical arena. The increased movement coupled with slightly small looking environments make any kind of tactics useless. The ugly is the inituative system. I'm not saying the idea is bad. Armageddon Empires uses a simlar mechanic and it works great. I'm finding it to be a pain since I can't coordinate move and fire/swing. I might be less harsh is one of my options was to "hold" action. Fast heros are almost punished in some cases because if you want to stay in a group/formation you have to skip their fricken turn to keep them in place. Once you skip you can't go back. You can't counter attack (this would be a nice option for those holding btw and having a defend with shield is cool, but where is the ability to activley defend if I don't have a shield??). There is no way to formation move. Having a fast character more times then nought, gets them separated from the group and hammered by enemies who can surround and attack before other party members move/react. Given time I'll get use to it and losing heros and units to it will become less of an issue, but it could be done a bit better and be more enjoyable. One thought on the tracking bar for combat would be to have it only show one "turn" worth of actions. Allow me to move faster units down the list if I want to better coordinate my teams move and fight. Allow for a counter attack option if a faster combatant attacks a a slower one. The conter attack would then use the combatants action for the turn if used. Another though would be providing a formation editor so my group can be arranged for a fight. This would also allow me to set "faster" units to sync up and go with other units thus getting back to contoled move and fight. Just laying some options out there.
UPDATE: The initiative system is growing on me. I'd still like a better presentation of the information. Perhaps placing the current turn queue on the left and the next turn on the right and once the current turn is done the you move next to current and fill next. I'd also like to see effect icons on the card pics for initiative alter effecets (slow, haste, etc). Another bug/cheat is having creatures with an underlying pierce attack. When combined with certain traits a 30 point attack is jumping into the 90s on certain monsters. That appears to happen on a majority of creatures. Makes them one shot killing machines with a weapon that should be dangerous but not all out devestating. As stated still need a hold/counterstrike option and a button to equip in combat. Tweak a few of these and we'll have a winner!
Overall: Good. I think there is enough of a game here to be enjoyed if some of the issues above get worked out. I also hope the mod support with become what EWOM's was going to be. If modding hooks get placed early I think the game will enjoy more success then EWOM. Keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to playing this game.