by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
If Fallen Enchantress is considered to be an improvement on War of Magic when it comes to the bug roster and usability, I shudder to think what that game was like. It’s not pretty and most of the hurt is in the interface.
I can forgive the game for feeling cluttered: there is a lot of information that needs a home on the screen somewhere and it is never an easy task to make that work. Unfortunately Fallen Enchantress goes over the top at every corner. On the left, an ever growing list of icons depicting units and towns seems handy at first but becomes a pain when the list grows so long that you end up scrolling yourself into a stupor to go from one end to the next. The icons themselves have a + in the upper left corner that ‘unfolds’ the army, showing the units underneath, but you already get the unit’s information presented in a much clearer way at the bottom of the screen when you click on it. So why is it there? Getting your army to leave an occupied town is a pain in the butt, requiring you to select each individual unit and if you miss-click, some will pop out – usually on the wrong side – leaving you to try and get the rest out in a more orderly fashion.
You can use the arrow keys to quickly move across the campaign map but those same keys are disabled during tactical combat. In combat, the camera focuses on the active unit, which in the case of ranged units means that the camera moves all the way back and you will have to mouse scroll back to where your target is. If you have four ranged units, you will do that four times. Bestowing health on a damaged unit will increase its hit points but the health bar won’t show this until it is attacked, leading to the strange occurrence that your unit gets hit and actually sees its health bar – grow – instead of shrink.
And when the battle ends, chances are that the game will move you half way across the map, focusing on a different unit rather than give you time to check the surroundings or change the build orders of a newly acquired town.
In the meantime, the after-combat result screen is a tiny window that makes you scroll to see the outcome for each individual unit. I’m just baffled that no one in the development team at any point felt that window could not be increased in size so that the maximum of 9 units that an army can hold could be surveyed without scrolling.
Despite decidedly low-fi graphics, the game feels sluggish for everything except scrolling. Combine that with the fact that gameplay progresses fairly slow, any distraction in your physical vicinity will pull you out of the game and destroying any sense of immersion you might have had. The auto end-turn system continuously insisted on ending the turn right after my moves but before I could give new build or train options to my towns. I switched to manual, but that caused the turn button to stop working on several occasions.
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is just begging to be liked. It has some wonderfully novel ideas and offers a level of depth not often seen in the 4X genre. Tinkering with new technologies to customize units is so much fun that it is difficult to imagine any future game without it. Unfortunately, the game works very hard to break its own spell by pushing you out of its enchantment every chance it gets. The fuzzy, muddy graphics, the sluggish movements, the struggle with the interface… I will take anyone’s word for it that it is an improvement on the original game but I’m afraid that Fallen Enchantress does not set a particularly high bar for anyone else.
Research that unlocks new items to customize your units with is lots of fun.
Cluttered interface and many inconsistencies deprive the game of immersion.