Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Review

Andy Chalk | 31 Oct 2012 21:00
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And in the finest tradition of RPGs, you don't have to go alone. Along your travels you will encounter champions who can be recruited to your cause if you're sufficiently worthy and have enough coin in your purse. Champions are unique characters with traits much like your own, who can be stationed in cities to provide them with unique boosts, assigned to lead your armies or taken along as a fellow adventurer in your own high-powered party. There are even quests to undertake, although they're generally dull, combat-based affairs wrapped up in a little extra narrative, and despite the role-playing trappings, your band of brothers is effectively just another army, albeit one that packs a considerable punch.

Combat in Fallen Enchantress unfolds on a relatively small grid-based map. Everything is turn-based and initiative is vital, as landing the first strike, or the first series of strikes, can often mean the difference between victory and defeat. Conventional military units can engage in ranged or melee combat, while magic - which is what this is all about, after all - is rarer and difficult to effectively wield but devastating, especially at higher levels. Battles are most effectively handled by the player (assuming you bring at least some minor modicum of tactical competence to the party) but simple battles or those you just don't feel like dealing with can also be resolved by the computer.

Sooner or later you'll run into a fellow ruler, and assuming you don't fall immediately into a state of warfare, it then becomes time for diplomacy. Diplomatic options are relatively simple, but the model that determines the state of relations actually works off a number of factors, including proximity, alignment of interests and whether or not your potential adversary thinks you're cool. Some of those factors you can control and some you cannot, but there's enough flexibility to it to ensure that nothing is inevitable. A good relationship can go sour, and a bad relationship, at least as long as you haven't burned any cities to the ground, can be salvaged. But it's also absolute, sometimes infuriatingly so. Once made, a treaty cannot be broken, no matter how inhumanly wicked you or your empire may be. Diplomatic relationships cannot be modified mid-treaty to accommodate changing circumstances and surprise attacks, or even a declaration of war in the midst of a non-aggression pact, are simply not an option. It works both ways so there's no actual disadvantage, but not being able to stick a knife in someone's back takes a lot of the fun out of being bad.

This is a game that's all about breadth rather than depth, and it's greatest strength is also its primary weakness. There's so much to do and so many different ways to play and win, but none of it goes particularly deep. Instead, Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a jack of all trades, very much a "sum of its parts" experience, and it's a pretty good one. If founding, ruling and conquering a fantasy kingdom is on your list of things to do, this is not a bad way of going about it.

Bottom Line: Elemental: Fallen Enchantress engenders a feeling of real accomplishment, without requiring the investment in time and study demanded by truly hardcore strategy titles. The "sovereign" mechanic is a nice twist and while it's not particularly deep, personally cracking skulls or questing for a pair of dragon's eyes while simultaneously ordering the construction of a granary in New Foozleville is pretty damn cool, and there are enough customization and gameplay options to keep things fresh for a good while.

Recommendation: If you've ever dreamed of leading a fantasy kingdom to glory without getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts of administration and logistics, this is the game for you.

Game: Elemental: Fallen Enchantress
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Stardock
Publisher: Stardock
Platform(s): PC

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