Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

Derek and his team have been busy working on the sequel to Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, the sequel to last year’s War of Magic.The final release date for Fallen Enchantress hasn’t been set yet but we do expect to go into beta around Thanksgiving.

Beta and Release

The initial beta will only be available to those who already have War of Magic. A later beta will be available to anyone who wants to pre-order it.  The beta will be available via Stardock’s new digital store. We plan to run the beta exclusively via our digital updater (tentatively called Stardock Central) though the final version will be available through multiple channels.

Where things stand right now

In many respects, Fallen Enchantress is a lot closer to what we had initially envisioned for the first Elemental strategy game. Specifically:

  1. Terrain matters for city placement
  2. More differentiation between factions
  3. Much better economic system
  4. Much better magic system
  5. Much better tactical battle system
  6. Cleaner, more compelling tech tree.

Before the beta hits, we’ll be releasing some videos along with some AI vs. AI battles to show players how the new game plays.

A few highlights

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There are more technologies in Fallen Enchantress for players to research.  However, we’ve consolidated them into three distinct trees – Civilization, Warfare, Magic (The Empires have their own equivalent). 

The display has been changed such that you can easily tell what each tech gives you. You can also choose a technology that has multiple steps to get to and it will take you through the intermediary techs automatically.

 

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When your city levels up, it now gets to choose from a random assortment of special city improvements that it can build. The higher the city, the more powerful the selection becomes.

 

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We have cleaned up the way armies are handled. At first, your armies will only be able to support 4 to 5 units (depending on your faction). Of course, each “unit” can be made up of many guys but the point being that researching the logistics to support larger army sizes becomes one of those strategic choices rather than a “must” to win.

 

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This is a small thing but for grognards (like myself) every tooltip has been redone such that you get an instant display of where a given stat is derived from.

The Gameplay

While some artwork and music survived from War of Magic, not much else has.  So your skills at War of Magic aren’t really going to carry over here.  While Elemental: War of Magic did eventually become a fairly decent TBS game,  we were never satisfied with its underlying game mechanics. Specifically, the way production, research, farming, etc. worked. Rather than tweak it, we decided to take a different path.

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In addition, the way heroes were handled was something that felt too much like luck.  Instead, you will find champions being powers unto themselves. They’re typically living in their fortress, keep, dungeon, or what have you. The more powerful they are, the better your recruiting skill will need to be to recruit them. 

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In Fallen Enchantress you are also encouraged to kill off champions that are allied with the other side to prevent them from becoming allied with an opponent. 

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The land is a dangerous place. Virtually all the prime spots are surrounded by serious dangers. The good news is, they won’t just run out and attack you normally. The bad news is, as soon as a city’s sphere of influence spreads to one of their enclaves, they will be all over that city.

Tactical Battles

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Players have the choice to either instantly resolve a battle or go to a tactical battle screen. Once there, they can either watch the battle resolve turn by turn, fight it out themselves or just resolve it.

My personal preference right now is to handle the first few turns and then turn it over the the auto play and watch the gory results.

Fallen Enchantress combat works based on initiative. There are no “rounds”. The faster a unit is, the more turns they get. There’s no counter-attack (unless that unit has it as a special ability).

Some spells take time to cast and that spell will appear in the film strip on the left so that players know what’s coming up and can see if there’s time to counter it.

Some units are more effective than others. Mounted warriors are harder to hit via archers and thus a very effective counter.

There’s a lot of combat in Fallen Enchantress and the battles tend to be fairly quick.  They visually look a lot better as well (since every fighter in a given unit will take part in a given action rather than simply the lead one as was the case in WOM).

The most obvious difference in Fallen Enchantress, imo, is that nearly every unit has some sort of special ability. You can even design them into your soldiers if you have researched the appropriate techs.

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Rewards after battle tend to be more meaningful.

 

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Now that so much of the game has been put into XML, we and modders can throw in basically as many abilities and such into the game as our imagination comes up with.

Diplomacy

This is an area that is getting a lot of attention. With each faction playing in very different ways, we needed to make sure those ways were sufficiently apparent to players. That meant having players who were effective with diplomacy and giving diplomacy more teeth. That means more treaties, more opportunity for manipulation, more tools to play the puppet master.

AI

The AI challenges in Fallen Enchantress are significant. This is the area of the game I’m focused on.  I’ve written elsewhere on this but the AI is much more XML driven than anything I’ve done in the past. The less I hard-code, the more broad strokes I can take with regards to deciding what spells to cast, what special abilities to pick and use, what improvements to construct, what technologies to research.

Unlike a typical Stardock beta cycle, the first beta of Fallen Enchantress will have the first AI pass in (normally our first betas have no AI in it). So players will be able to quickly discern how we’re doing in this area.

Marketing

There will be no real marketing effort for Fallen Enchantress in 2011. Basically, the betas are going to have to speak for themselves.

In the meantime, assume it’s going to suck and give you a disease. Smile


Comments (Page 4)
on Oct 21, 2011
Looks good, but still looks underwhelming in terms of gameplay.

Just like to repeat some points I've mentioned in various suggestion posts... now I know you want to skip watching...

Just take Archivist in the screenshoot as an example, we need to have Archivist levels like Archivist I, Archivist II ... Archivist V etc. Having just '-1 Gildar per turn' 
and '+1 Research' is so underwhelming especially in late games. 

Again, taking random improvement for cities again is feel like too much luck. Why not allow the Archivist II as a 'pinned' city improvement option when Archivist I
 has been chose before. A ribbon of improvment choosen will appear at the buttom of the 'your settlement has grown a level' whenever city grown.

I can see breadth in tech trees & city improvment, but no depth. Can there be depth? so specialization of heroes/soveriegn/tech/city improvement is possible. 
 Need some kind of Leather boots I,II,III,etc.

Again, champions should be not be simply killed off when a battle has been lost, especially recuriting a high level one is hard. Defeated champion should be
 able to be escape, or become a turncoat. A customized champion is valuable, they should take risks and has 9 lives so they got more chances to gain more levels.
on Oct 21, 2011

So buildings should be predictable and the same for every city and heroes should be immortal? Terrible game.

 

There are buildings that are not random. The level up buildings are something unique to every city. I wouldn't be opposed to allowing every building to level up when the city does, but it certainly isn't a necessity. I actually made a mod that does exactly that for WoM. Maybe I'll transfer some of the tiles. 

on Oct 21, 2011

I like the horses to counter the archers idea.  Love to see how this version of WOM will work out.

I also agree with seanw3, immortal heroes and cookie cutter cities would not be so much fun.  If your heroes are dieing too easily then you should maybe buy them a helmet?

on Oct 21, 2011

I'm with seanw3 and cparkin01 on this - tagging a number at the end of something (leather I,II,III) would be the opposite of interesting - I hate when games are this bankrupt of imagination, it inevitably reduces my opinion of the game and willingness to finish, much less replay. I'm extremely glad that FE does not seem to go in this imagination-starved, uninteresting direction.  As for champions being valuable, part of both strategy and tactics are balancing the risk of losing them vs the benefits (options and smackdown) that they can provide; making them semi-immortal would again make for a far less interesting set of choices (i.e., a less fun game).

on Oct 21, 2011

Frogboy
I'll be writing up a lengthy AI XML piece soon.  It's pretty boring and frankly, I don't want to give away too much but it is important to us that each faction play differently.

Thanks for the update and looking forward to it.

FYI: A WWII game selected the AI for each AI player randomly at game start and the AI made its objectives, research, diplomacy and production based on this strategy.

Example:

AI Axis (01-50) - Russia First Strategy (historical option)
AI Axis (51-75) - England First Stategy
AI Axis (76-00) - Egypt First Strategy

In WOM terms this would have the AI Wraith Fraction select one of 4 strategies;

Wraith (01-50) - Magical Weapons Focus with Champions and Infantry
Wraith (51-70) - Magic Focused with Archer Armies (ie. 50% Archers/50% Infantry)
Wraith (71-85) - Magic Focused with Magic Casting Embueded Champions
Wraith (86-00) - Magic & Diplomacy Focused

on Oct 21, 2011

Jader2000
Great news, but what and when the hell is Thanksgiving? Not all the people on the world are US dudes (and in Canada it's different date anyway, I think)

 

Well maybe you sould petition for having a Thanksgiving so that you can have an extra day off from work to play FE    

 

on Oct 21, 2011

Resources near the starting position should be the determining factor. I am sure FB has some really well thought out strategy deciders for FE. 

on Oct 21, 2011

Looks good, but still looks underwhelming in terms of gameplay.

Just like to repeat some points I've mentioned in various suggestion posts... now I know you want to skip watching...

Just take Archivist in the screenshoot as an example, we need to have Archivist levels like Archivist I, Archivist II ... Archivist V etc. Having just '-1 Gildar per turn' 
and '+1 Research' is so underwhelming especially in late games. 

Again, taking random improvement for cities again is feel like too much luck. Why not allow the Archivist II as a 'pinned' city improvement option when Archivist I
 has been chose before. A ribbon of improvment choosen will appear at the buttom of the 'your settlement has grown a level' whenever city grown.

I can see breadth in tech trees & city improvment, but no depth. Can there be depth? so specialization of heroes/soveriegn/tech/city improvement is possible. 
 Need some kind of Leather boots I,II,III,etc.

Again, champions should be not be simply killed off when a battle has been lost, especially recuriting a high level one is hard. Defeated champion should be
 able to be escape, or become a turncoat. A customized champion is valuable, they should take risks and has 9 lives so they got more chances to gain more levels.

I think you should assume that FE will suck and give you a disease.
 
Assume that all your worst fears about it are true and give up hope now. You'll feel better.


on Oct 21, 2011

Frogboy

In WOM, by end game, every faction played pretty much the same way (bunch of guys with lord hammers).  That was obviously not be design but rather due to the AI calculating what the "best" weapon/armor combo was and becoming predictable about it.

Would it be possible to have just a little randomization in the stats of items per game/per faction? In one game lord hammers would be +5% in damage, in another -5%, while at the same time great long swords would also vary in stats. This way the game would play a little differently each time, and there wouldn't be one true spreadsheet to check out which combo is theoretically the best (not for the AI either). In one game lord hammers would be the "best" weapon, in another great long swords.

This could be extend to per city, too: the axemen of Moria are awesome (+10 damage when using axes), but they don't know how to use a bow (-20% accuracy). This might give some more personality to cities, and would make you vary tactics for each game.

on Oct 21, 2011

I like most of the OP, but the reduction in army size worries me.  It might make sense in FE, but in most strategy games I have played since Civ-1 (DOS), I have thought there were too many small nuisance battles and not enough battles that mattered.  I know Stardock isn't immune to this -- GalCiv 2 was a major offender.  To be clear, not talking specifically about FE or EWoM, just bitching about over two decades of games.

I'd rather have a few decisive battles where finding a way to win turns the tide of a war.  I don't mind a FEW long battles in a campaign.

I've thought for years that games ought to permit/encourage more epic battles and that to do it most of them would need changes like:

1:  Relax or drop stack limits.  If you can afford them, you can stack them.

2:  Tweak the AI to know the advantages of concentration of force.  Don't send 50 units 5 at a time.

3:  Have nearby units automagically join a battle -- maybe just units on adjacent squares, like AoW:SM.  In EWoM even units on the same square don't join in

The  exceptions were mostly games based on provinces instead of hexes or squares, like Shogun Total War 1 and Nobunaga's Ambition 1 & 2.  But I can't picture FE making that big a change.

 

on Oct 22, 2011

I pre-ordered Elemental and still have yet to play more than about 15 minutes.  That said, I still check in every now and then and am impressed at the level of effort toward making a good game.  My 2 cents for what its worth is please put some soul into the different nations.


Example (this is an actual quote from the manual)instead of "Urxen: Another Fallen race, they are smaller than Trogs and are less effective in battle, but more productive"

How about:

"Urxen are skittish and frenetic chittering humanoids that worship the fiery monkey demon Bloodfinger (husband of the moon goddess). They dwell in large temple complexes where the braziers unrelenting flames consume the sacrificial victims of outlying villages throughout the dry season until the torrential rains fall."

Give it some flavor. Don't be afraid to abandon the story.

 

on Oct 22, 2011

I won't lie. I'm very excited about Fallen Enchantress. From what I read, it's shaping to be all the things WoM wasn't which is great

Tangenial Question: You mention that you're building a new Digital Distribution service for it. I was under the impression that you were going to keep using Impulse however. Does this mean that you've lost faith in Impulse now that Gamestop got it?

on Oct 22, 2011

I think they must have always planned on having a distribution platform of their own, for (only) their own products.  Remember, SD sell business / productivity software too.  Wanna explain to corporations that they have to go to Gamestop ??   Good.  You do it.

on Oct 22, 2011

Business plan to sell their products on any DD platform yet allow customers to update purchased products from their own platform? Makes sense to me - maximize customer base that way.

on Oct 23, 2011

FrogBoss

Looks good, but still ...   ... to gain more levels.

I think you should assume that FE will suck and give you a disease.
Assume that all your worst fears about it are true and give up hope now. You'll feel better.

When you "assume", you make an "ass" of "u" and "me"   heh heh

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