Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Hands-On
Developer: Stardock Entertainment / Publisher: Stardock Entertainment / Release Date: TBA October / Platforms: PC / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Just to give you a bit of history to work off of, Fallen Enchantress is actually a sequel to 2010’s Elemental: War of Magic. Like that game, Fallen Enchantress is all about turn-by-turn strategy in a fantasy world filled with warriors and mages, kings and slaves, and miles of land to conquer under your kingdom’s rule.
Fallen Enchantress feels a lot like a board game, one that’s thematically and methodically similar to something like Settlers of Catan – you’ll move about the board each turn, collecting resources and placing down settlements and cities, and you’ll trade with opposing forces to get necessary jobs done. Toss in the ability to attack and be attacked by other nations and monsters and you’ve got a taste of what Fallen Enchantress seems to be going for.
Each game world you start is procedurally generated, not unlike games with similar systems like Minecraft, Terraria, Diablo, or even a game as old as The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. This random terrain generation allows each new beginning the opportunity to feel refreshing and mysterious, with new areas, settlements, and resources in your immediate proximity, not to mention even more hidden behind the fog of war.
Each game has you placing down a capital city within the first few seconds, with the next minute or so focused on teaching you how to expand and manage your city, scout for and build new settlements, craft armies, and train unit types for specific world operations. You can train slave militia to fight battles for you, scouts to venture out in search of land for you, and pioneers who will cultivate that land for a new remote city. You’ll have to tax your citizens, which can be set to levels None, Low, Normal, High and Oppressive. The higher the taxes, the more cash you get to spend, but the efficiency and production ability of your city decreases significantly. With a lower tax rate, you’ll have less money to spend on unit training, new settlements and buildings, but you’ll have a more productive, happy settlement of people.
Your city can focus on one of three key areas: Civilization, Warfare and Magic. If you want to dominate the nations around you, consume natural resources and build up your kingdom, go with a focus on Warfare. If you want to focus on specialties like education and agriculture, then shift your hand to Civilization. For anyone interested in the dark arts and learning spells, sorcery and arcane defense and attacks, go with a Magic focus.
Wherever you build cities, you’ll want to do so strategically, and near harvestable resources. Natural resources like Iron and Coal are ones you’ll certainly want to procure and protect, since they’ll allow you to build more settlements and expand your kingdom, but you’ll have to focus on not only the resources of your own country, but those of your neighbors. Thankfully, some of them are friendly. On the other hand, plenty are not, and they can be aggressive.
Or they’ll at least engage in a formal treaty discussion and demand payment simply for your existence in on their land. You can go about responding in really a number of ways – you could, for example, fire back with a treaty deal that suits you both equally. You could also give them what they ask for and trot back to your city with your tail tucked between your legs. Or, conversely, you could deny their request outright and wipe them from the face of the Banana Kingdom.
Oh, right — forgot to mention, you can also rename just about any character, enemy, or settlement you see on the map, including the region you rule over. In this case, I directly control Lord Farquad, a Lizard-looking warrior mage and his Banana Kingdom-based capital city.
The game itself is tile-based, meaning you’ll move and place units on individual spaces across the map. Whether it’s attacking, defending, capturing resources or building new settlements to increase your reach as a ruling power, each unit is restricted to a limited number of moves. Once you’ve made your moves, your turn is up and the A.I. on the map has time to make theirs. If they engage in battle with you, you’ll of course be able to fight back, but you won’t be allowed any further advances until your next turn.
Though you’ll have an assortment of units to train and design yourself, you’ll also have a main character to focus on, which can come from any of the game’s eight factions. You’ll be able to lead this character as you would any unit in the game around the map, battling, upgrading weapons and specialties and so forth. This is where Fallen Enchantress strikes a sweet note, allowing the individuality and choice-driven aspects of an RPG to show with your lead character, but also maintaining a very clear focus on strategic oversight on your overall kingdom.
The entire game is built around a set of mod tools designed by the dev team, which, awesomely enough will be provided to anyone who buys the game. Every building, unit, quest and dungeon in the game was crafted with the built-in mod tools – the team even claims to have built the entire campaign with it.
We’ll know more clearly when the game launches at the end of October, so keep a watchful eye out for it.