Elemental: War of Magic PC

User Score
5.9

Mixed or average reviews- based on 73 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 38 out of 73
  2. Negative: 31 out of 73
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  1. Sep 1, 2010
    5
    TL;DR version: Check on this game in a few months.

    This game is frustrating, for a number of reasons. The main one being that the early game is actually pretty fun, and it's clear that there is a good game somewhere in here. But that good game is buried under an awful lot of problems. It was released far too early, and wasn't finished yet? Want proof? Multiplayer support is listed on the
    TL;DR version: Check on this game in a few months.

    This game is frustrating, for a number of reasons. The main one being that the early game is actually pretty fun, and it's clear that there is a good game somewhere in here. But that good game is buried under an awful lot of problems.

    It was released far too early, and wasn't finished yet? Want proof? Multiplayer support is listed on the box as a feature. It's over a week since release and there is no MP support. No online play. No LAN play. Nothing. It's at least another week before it'll be enabled, and with the offhanded way Stardock has been informing people of it, it's clearly not a priority. When it does get enabled, some features of the game still won't be there (modding support, and tactical battles, though they say those will come back at some point). For a listed on the box feature to be entirely missing like this is just pathetic. (Bottom line, if you're at all interested in MP support, wait for Civ 5.)

    In the single player game, things are burdened by being rushed in other ways. There's a stat at character creation (Wisdom) that disappears in the game and is replaced by another stat (Essence). Shards that should boost your spell damage don't work due to a bug. Performance is improved since the initial release version, but can still drag high end systems to their knees for no apparent reason. (That said, the cloth map overview mode works great for a strategic overview and you'll spend a lot of your time on that, where performance isn't an issue.)

    The AI isn't very good. There are "minor factions" that have one city and don't really do anything all game. They just sit in their city waiting to be conquered. The major factions do things, but tend to do things that don't make sense like put their Sovereign (the king, basically) in positions where he can be easily killed. If your sovereign dies in enemy territory it's game over, so that tends to make things easy.

    The worst problem is the combat system. Tactical battles don't feature things like Line of Sight or walls during city sieges. They're simplistic, and in many cases reward the player for standing still and waiting for the AI to charge. There's a morale system, but most of the time it doesn't matter and when it does it doesn't make sense. In a large fight your morale goes down if you start the fight as the weaker of the two armies, even if you're *winning*.

    The combat damage system is simplistic and just plain bad. Damage is calculated with simple linear random numbers (the roll is 0 to your attack power, minus zero to their defense power). The results once the numbers scale up are wildly unpredictable, you'll see units with 17 defense take no damage, and other times the same unit take the maximum possible damage as if it had no defense at all, and get one-shot. Because of that the sovereign and champion units get weaker as the game goes on, eventually being largely useless except for the Teleport spell in the face of trained units with huge attack scores. The whole thing just makes late game a mess.

    Stardock has a reputation for sticking with and patching games into good shape, and that will probably happen this time. Unfortunately Stardock is also developing a reputation for releasing games that are buggy and unfinished, and they did that this time. It needed more time in development then it got. Take a pass on it for now and check it out again in a couple months. What you'll find will almost certainly be a good game.
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  2. Aug 24, 2010
    7
    Very first impression. Skimmed the manual which just barely explains what's going on. There's no real tutorial but the campaign that comes with the game (more to follow perhaps) seemed to give a bunch of hints. Anyway, the game is clearly for a die-hard strategy player and a beginner would probably get lost or find the many pieces daunting. There's definitely a 4X feel with some MagicVery first impression. Skimmed the manual which just barely explains what's going on. There's no real tutorial but the campaign that comes with the game (more to follow perhaps) seemed to give a bunch of hints. Anyway, the game is clearly for a die-hard strategy player and a beginner would probably get lost or find the many pieces daunting. There's definitely a 4X feel with some Magic the Gathering style combat. Didn't get far enough to see any really great spells. The mythology of the world here is a little vague when you get into the races and factions. Nothing as familiar as elves, dwarves, and goblins. And the differences aren't obvious either. The graphical style they're going for, a sort of medieval cartoon, comes off a bit crude on my low-end card. Maybe higher-end cards see more. And the audio is none too impressive. When combat zooms into a tactical view, there's a bit of a learning curve as the manual doesn't explain this part very well. I was expecting Might and Magic but it seems a lot more like Etherlords. But the meat of the game is the strategy. And if they can pull off an impressive AI, this game might just get reviewed as well as GalCiv did. But again, just starting out and learning the ropes. Barely got my feet wet and the game can probably soak you like the deep end of the pool. It's sure to keep the fans of "just one more turn" busy for a while. Didn't see a crash, but you need to open up your firewall for the game before it starts or it will just hang at the title screen and you'll have to restart your PC the hard way (at least I had to). Then again, even Starcraft 2 did this to me and you'd think these advanced developers would know about firewall prompts by now. Looking forward to the professional reviewers' takes. Expand
  3. Jun 4, 2011
    7
    It's funny how the "professional" reviewers finally grab their sacks when a middle market developer puts out a flawed game. Truth be told though, if I had rated this game on release, I'd have given it a 3. I think it's actually fun now and Stardock has bent over backwards to make it up to the people that bought the game in it's initial shoddy state. As of now, the game is now quiteIt's funny how the "professional" reviewers finally grab their sacks when a middle market developer puts out a flawed game. Truth be told though, if I had rated this game on release, I'd have given it a 3. I think it's actually fun now and Stardock has bent over backwards to make it up to the people that bought the game in it's initial shoddy state. As of now, the game is now quite playable and I find it pretty fun. I think when the stand alone expansion comes out (Elemental:Fallen Enchantress) you'll see a truly great game. Expand
  4. Aug 24, 2010
    6
    There are moments of fun to be had here, but it's clear Elemental was developed without any sort of formal design methodology or prototyping. The erratic and frantic nature of the last few patches make this clear. Fundamental and sweeping changes of core mechanics in the last two beta cycles and even as recent as the day-0 patches are a dead give-away that Elemental's core gameplay wasThere are moments of fun to be had here, but it's clear Elemental was developed without any sort of formal design methodology or prototyping. The erratic and frantic nature of the last few patches make this clear. Fundamental and sweeping changes of core mechanics in the last two beta cycles and even as recent as the day-0 patches are a dead give-away that Elemental's core gameplay was most likely not planned. Where the rest of the game industry plans and prototypes the core mechanics of new titles, Stardock very obviously subscribes to a school of thought that revolves around some sort of agile design philosophy. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of the features that separate Elemental from its spiritual predecessor Master of Magic (dynasties, diplomacy, quests) started with the sentence "Wouldn't it be cool if...". Outside of some rare strokes of genius, this methodology very rarely makes for engaging and deliberate design decisions.

    Design aside, a lot of the flaws in Elemental's core mechanics are overshadowed by it's dated UI and it's amateur production values. So many of the user interface problems that plagued Stardock's previous title, Galactic Civilizations 2, are present in Elemental. The user interface does a poor job of communicating information to the user and is very unwelcoming to new users. Aesthetically, Elemental's user interface appears very dated to me. Small touches that make modern user interfaces visually pleasing, such as transitions and animations, are noticeably absent from Elemental. The use of modal dialog boxes is especially rampant in Elemental, as it was in Galactic Civilizations 2, and is very reminiscent of Windows productivity and office software; this isn't how a modern PC game should feel. There are better ways to notify and ask for feedback from the user.
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  5. Aug 25, 2010
    7
    I purchased the game last night with the hope to play multiplayer w/ a friend, but the multiplayer servers are unavailable until next week. Upsetting, but understandable. The game crashed on me after about an hour, but again I have come expect these type of crashes on new games. Play style: Civ 4 meets Warlords Battlecries on the map. FF tactics for the battle system. I like theI purchased the game last night with the hope to play multiplayer w/ a friend, but the multiplayer servers are unavailable until next week. Upsetting, but understandable. The game crashed on me after about an hour, but again I have come expect these type of crashes on new games. Play style: Civ 4 meets Warlords Battlecries on the map. FF tactics for the battle system. I like the spell system and overall feel of the game. It still needs some polishing. Character creation is a lot of fun too.

    If you want this game to be great from the time of purchase, I would say wait. If you want something fun to play and don't mind the occasional crash or bug buy it now.

    Scored it a 7 because -1 for the crash, and -2 for no multiplayer yet.
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Metascore
53

Mixed or average reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of 19
  2. Negative: 7 out of 19
  1. 60
    Out of respect for Stardock, I will stop here, because it's hard for me to imagine how a decent developer has allowed such a product to be released in this state, with little connection to the term of entertainment.
  2. Edge Magazine
    Dec 23, 2010
    60
    The subtlety of these exchanges suggests that a strategy game of some greatness exists beneath the cumbersome framework, and we trust Stardock, a developer of proven diligence and passion, to continue refining it. [Nov 2010, p.93]
  3. Quotation forthcoming.