by Ben Lelievre
previewed on PC
Renewing a genre
Gaming has its trend cycles. First-Person shooters, Sandbox Action and fighting games are genres that renew themselves and become pertinent again every two or three years. Strategy games on the other hand, have been gradually slipping off the headlines for too long, perhaps for the lack of real innovation. One strategy title on the release calender to attempt to bring something new to the table, is Elemental: War Of Magic. Made by Stardock, of Galactic Civilizations fame, Elemenal: War Of Magic is a Turn-Based strategy game filled with swords, castles, dungeons and creatures of myth.
Things are yours...
Elemental places you as the sovereign of a kingdom that is being disrupted by the awakening of a demon called Kroxir. The demon was awakened by a none-too-smart adventurer who penetrated into the forbidden dungeon of Ithyrl, freeing him to reign terror over the lands. You find yourself wedged in by Lord Ventir in the south and by Princess Procipinee in the North. The hour is dark for your kingdom and the ball is in your camp. Time to shut down the menace.
It is a case of a ''classic setup'' if you allow me the expression. We have all seen similar stories in fantasy themed video games. Stardock are aware of this. They are marketing the title around the phrase: ''A strategy game in an RPG world''. The elements are there. A demon, a princess and a ''forbidden dungeon''. The game even sports a dragon called Smarag whom you befriend in this desperate adventure. What Elemental:War Of Magic might lack in originality of setting, it compensates by offering a singular challenge. The starting point of the game puts you under significant danger. The game has not started yet and you are already threatened on every front. It is a very unusual approach as most strategy titles use the tried and true 'building from the ground up' approach.
Going beyond genres...
One of the higher points of Elemental:War Of Magic is that it ignores the notion of genre. The game offers a plethora of tools to have fun with, as long as you are into knights, wizards and demons. One of the highest points of interest in the game is a feature called 'unit design'. This is the RPG element that the developer proudly puts forward in the marketing campaign. The player is going to have the opportunity to micro-manage the design of his units the way he would create a character in a role playing game.
You can design every unit down to their names, their hit points, their attack points, all of their different skills. You can also choose their equipment. This way, the player - as the sovereign - can design an army to his own image which gives the player quite a unique relationship with the game.
The above is certainly not the only feature borrowed from the RPS gerne. There are also quests to perform. The questing function does not overshadow the primary strategic aspect, but it is an addition that has the potential to make things livelier and more immersive. Most quests will be straightforward quests along the lines of 'kill an enemy', 'rescue a character' or 'retrieve an object'. In turn, they will trigger many possibilities like gaining new abilities or having access to new areas of the map. You will also be given the option to order and follow a single unit into a given quest.
Why would you? Why wouldn't you!
Computer gaming has always been wrestling with some issues that did not plague console gamers, the biggest one being the hardware. Constant renewal and improvement of hardware has been hard on the gamers' pockets. Stardock recognizes this and promise that Elemental: War Of Magic will run even on very low end computers. If you bought your machine two years ago, there is a good possibility that you can play the game without any major issues.
If you are still unsure about giving a try to Elemental: War Of Magic, please know that these few facets I have talked about are just the icing on the cake. There are many more ways to have fun with Stardock's hybrid. The game offers a system to conduct diplomacy, allows you to choose your kingdom from different races, build dynasties, research technologies and in the end, if you are still not happy, you have the option to mod the game to your liking. Overall, Elemental: War of Magic sounds like an interesting take on an fairly stale genre.