Elemental: War of Magic was released in 2010, but it fell to a victim to a slew of bugs and a lacklustre release. Stardock’s piracy strategy is a DRM-free system with frequent updates so fans (like myself) hoped that the game would improve with time. Fast forward to 2012, and Fallen Enchantress is created and given free to customers who bought the original game. Fallen Enchantress is a total remake of Elemental, and the true showing of the game that Stardock wanted to release two years ago. What happens when you mix two parts Civilization and one part Heroes of Might and Magic? You end up with Elemental: Fallen Enchantress.
A fair warning: this is a strategy-ass-strategy game. Fallen Enchantress is also one of the most accessible Stardock games that they have put out. The comparisons to Galactic Civilizations 2 are justified, as it plays very similar to the space-sim except this time it is set in a medieval fantasy world. What sets a Stardock strategy game apart from the obvious competitors such as Civilization V is that they give the player a full suite of customization options.
Let’s begin with your Sovereign. Instead of having an omnipotent ruler that governs your faction, Fallen Enchantress has you create your hero that will be the driving force of your game. You can pick from a list of pre-designed sovereigns but the charm really is in making your own from scratch, complete with powers, skills, perks and weaknesses. It feels like you are rolling a D&D character, each of them being unique in both appearance and playstyle. Do you go for the industrial merchant, or the powerful magi warmonger? Each game gives you a chance to begin with a new sovereign, and as they gain experience throughout the game you can build and customize them however you wish.
The game breaks down into two major styles. The city management/simulation meta game, and the tactical role playing game. The RPG part of the game has you moving around the grid-based map with your sovereign grabbing quests, fighting monsters, and getting loot. When you decide to hop into a battle, the game swaps to a tactical battle screen (ala Heroes of Might and Magic) where you issue orders for the units in your army. The beauty of this is that if you can’t be bothered by micromanaging every battle, everything can be auto-resolved. What this makes for is a very streamlined, and dangerous ‘just one more turn’ formula. Of course, the loot helps too as you gradually outfit your sovereign and build them into a god-like being.
The other half of the game is spent managing your kingdom. This is where you can make all Civilization comparisons, and that isn’t a bad thing. You found your cities, build them up and use them to make units. Cities can be constructed in a way to focus on magic, economics, and military, which is dictated by the surrounding resources. The three major tech trees dictate your game style: Civilization pertains to building your kingdom, Warfare focuses on making your forces stronger, and the Magic tech tree gives you powerful spells. The level of customization persists in the Kingdom part of the game as every building and unit can be fully detailed to suit your tastes. Does your army need to have nothing but dudes with long black comb overs and moustaches? Stardock makes this dream a reality.
With each new game comes a randomly generated world, complete with fully realized opponents that have their own personalities. Diplomacy becomes a war of words rather than swords, where kingdoms can fall at the swipe of a sharp tongue. Trading, alliances, war, and treaties are essential to a diplomatic victory, especially if you have the coin to outright buy another Sovereign's trust (or army). The diplomatic side of Fallen Enchantress can feel artificial at times, especially when the AI is being unreasonable but it adds an extra layer to the game that is essential to a strategy game of this nature.
If the engrossing strategy and infinite customization options are not enough to pull you towards Fallen Enchantress, the style alone should make you turn your head. It’s like playing a painting. When zoomed out all the way, the world turns into a cloth map and all the units become pewter pieces. It resembles a tabletop board game, and is a turn based strategy player’s dream. If you need a break from X-Com or want something that is a little more involved than Civilization V, take a trip back in time and give Fallen Enchantress a chance.