Units roam the map in groups, and they're not merely represented by a number indicating troop strength. Each individual is represented, making it easy to gauge relative combat outcome when going against enemies. Combat itself is simple, which is fine, given the complexity of the rest of the game. Victory in Elemental
can be achieved through various means, including diplomacy, conquest, fulfillment of the Master Quest, and the use of the Spell of Making, which essentially indicates overall mastery.
While it can be a slight against a game to say that it may be played entirely from the overmap, in this case there may be times when you will want to zoom far back to get a good view of the entirety of the situation. This is where the graphical style really comes in handy, as the all-at-once view grants the player a strong sense of the bigger picture.
For example, trade routes between cities are assessable at a glance, as are the dispositions of various troops, wandering hero units that can be enticed to side with the Sovereign, and the locations of important Shards, the nature of which tie into the Elemental
of the title.
Using spells depends on control of a Shard, which will grant access to a number of useful spells -- attack, defense, and support. Learning a spell requires spell points, which are generated by cities. Spell point generation is governed by research in a particular city. Ultimately, taking care of one's network of cities is important to victory. There are high-level spells that do incredible damage that can only be accessed by the proper maintenance of one's resources.
For example, one of the Fire spells causes a volcano to grow up from the ground, no matter what might already be in that area of the map. Not only will this wipe out any cities or units at ground zero, but it will also make that immediate region permanently impassable to wandering units. The offensive and defensive benefits of this are obvious.
is definitely a Big Picture kind of game, right down to the concept behind Dynasties. Throughout the campaign, players will be offered opportunities to marry and generate children, who will themselves grow up and become playable units themselves. Not only that, a Sovereign's children may also be married to the children of other rulers, thus creating opportunities for diplomatic negotiations.
Finally, we were shown a brief look at the modding tools that will be made available to players right out of the box. These tools are as robust as could be desired, offering control over props, people, landscape, particle effects, and many other in-game mechanics. Not only can players create detailed maps and locations, but items themselves are customizable, right down to attributes like moral backlash upon use. What players create can also be made available on Stardock's own service, for use in anyone's campaign.
So much was revealed during our short time with Elemental: War of Magic
, that we feel we'd hardly scratched the surface of what's possible. All too briefly mentioned was the multiplayer mode that will offer Myth
-like combat. There's even a novel on its way, to be released on the same date as the game, written by Brad Wardell and edited by some of the same people who had worked on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire
series. Stardock is ahead of its own game with Elemental
, and we can't wait to get our hands on it when it arrives in August.