Elemental: War of Magic brings together the traditional strategy RPG battle system, elements of classic board games, and oddly enough visual and strategic inspiration from the traditional game of chess. While at first I did not know quite what to make of this title and was bewildered by its massive amount of features and detailed story, soon the picture became clear on what was going on.
The game features a good storyline in which magic is at the center of a power struggle. After a war between titans who sought power at all costs and control of magic and mankind, channelers are destined to bring the world to a new age. After a disastrous cataclysm brings the world of Elemental to ruin, the empire of Kraxis begins to reform with the evil that raged in the past. Players begin the game in campaign mode alone and as a sole unit must amass a kingdom on an enemy continent from literally nothing. As the empires of old attempt a stranglehold on power and domination the player’s quest is centered around forming a kingdom for their motherland and queen on the other side of the world – one that will provide a home for the civilized people of Elemental.
After creating your first town people will begin to travel to it at random and you will gain a small militia, merchant, and at this point you require farming operations on the fertile land around you. Choosing where to place your first town can have a pivotal role in the outcome of the game, if there aren’t enough resources then you will not have an easy time making your way through the story. Equipment is purchased in the town, so funding your initial capital is crucial to success in battle.
As time goes on, or turns rather, the ‘influence’ of your town will grow and this will give you access to gold mines, iron deposits, and more. The influence of opposing faction’s towns will be guarded closely, so crossing through certain areas will require a bit of diplomacy and / or warfare. You are able to make treaties with those around you, sometimes even pay them to go to war for you against neighboring powers, but at the end of the day campaign mode is all about pursuing the story. There will be certain areas in the game that halt you from progressing until quests are fulfilled that give way to a story-filled explanation of how you trekked past these gateways to the next area.
Unfortunately, this game is still riddled with bugs and glitches. I would love to say the numerous updates to the game have taken care of things, but they simply haven’t. To many, the game will feel unplayable in its current form. For example, one bug players will notice immediately is the incorrect movement of characters using the arrow keys. You will try to move your character and as your finger sits on the arrow key the character animation will become stuck in a repetitive loop, until you let go of it. Thus, navigating the terrain via the arrow keys will result in a press, release, press functionality that is pretty lame.
Unfortunately using the mouse to control movement is not much better, as you will have to continually click to get to the spot you want rather than just setting a way-point and waiting. This may be at the fault of the turn-based system the game is centered around, which brings me to my next gripe with the game. When you have a lot of players filling up various squares on the map, you will have to take an action with each one for every single turn, so you are forced to pay attention to passive troops even when you are busy with another unit. Pressing end turn will result in random actions being taken by these folks, which is sometimes a less than desirable choice from the developer as battles you had no intention of starting begin to erupt for no reason.
During battle, players can either auto-resolve a fight or they can choose to enter a turn-based scene reminiscent of strategy RPG face-offs. A grid is present and players move along it as they get to enemies and exchange blows. Some interesting scenarios can play out in these battles, such as cornering your enemies with a lot of troops, or spreading them thin by running your units to different sides of the battlefield. One interesting factor to denote is the fact that you can create custom troops in your city, and fill up a whole ton of troops into one movement square. During battle, you will have access to all of them, this means you can have crazy fights involving 16 against one or more. Units can be upgraded based on research and Gildar (gold a.k.a. money) that you have attained. Once you create customized, preset classes you will be able to pump out troops to your heart’s desire.
The game’s online and skirmish modes let you choose from a number of different factions which range from the Kingdom seen in campaign mode to scaly reptile-style humanoids. Worlds are generated at random according to settings chosen from the start, and there is always a lot of boundary crossing. You will find yourself at war more often than not as the land seems to form bottlenecks between inhabited areas that end up becoming perfect spots for bullying and tyrants to enforce their rule on you. Not enough can be said about the depth this game offers, though it’s almost too much at times and you can easily find yourself lost in the meticulous details programmed into the game.
Overall, this title has a lot of potential. A few things wrong with it include the glitches that are still present in the game in even the most obvious aspects, the fact that it went over-board on detail without first refining the basic mechanics, and the lackluster support through patches. There is a chance that you will enjoy this game if you are an avid RPG lore fan and have a knack for strategy games, but with competition like Civilization V it is hard to name this a title to be remembered. I believe with a little bit more time at the drawing board, this game could have been phenomenal. Some major re-tooling of the title needs to be redone though, and I don’t believe it’s something a patch can cure. Pick this up only if you have your heart set on the Elemental game, unfortunately if you’ve never heard of it you probably don’t need to.