Sympathy for Elemental

Even before I received the game, I had an idea about how I was supposed to feel. The trouble with reviewing anything in this era is that you cannot avoid having your views contaminated by the instant Twitter reaction, and I’m not willing to sequester myself from any and every discussion of a new game I’m reviewing.

The early word on Elemental: War of Magic is that it was a disaster, and Brad Wardell, the game’s designer and the principal over at Stardock, had thrown fuel on the fire with some early defensiveness. The moment I installed the game, I had to install two patches. I took a deep breath and dived in.

King Flitcraft and The Beard: Co-rulers of Man

I played it from Friday to Wednesday before writing my review. It left me ice cold for a day or so, until I bailed on the campaign, abandoned my games, and re-started with a custom character. Then it clicked.

In my review, I go into a lot of detail about certain aspects of this game. Perhaps too much. But there is almost nothing macro-level about this game that’s worth discussing. Broadly, Elemental is a fantasy 4X strategy game. Crudely, it’s Magic Centauri. But the places where it lets you down, and the places where it surprises, are all in the details.

Note how the capital, Hightower, stretches laterally to snatch up resources, but steers clear of its neighbor.

This was my first time writing for a new site, Gameroni. Given some of the other writers listed as contributors, colleagues and writers I respect like Tom Chick, Lewis Denby, and Kyle Orland, I hope to write there some more and am honored to be in the first wave of freelancers writing there.

The score I gave Elemental might raise some eyebrows. Gameroni uses a coarse-grained review scale. A, B, C, D, F. No pluses, no minuses. No hedging. The bottom line is that I actually like Elemental, despite all the ways it disappoints. It really satisfies some quirks in my own taste, and to assign it a score different from the one I gave it would be a lie. It would represent a clinical, Consumer Reports-style inspection. Such a score might be easier to justify, but it would not reflect my feelings.

Head over and read the review, and please leave any comments on the review itself at Gameroni. Yeah, you have to make an account there to post, but it’s a 10-second process and I haven’t received any spam.

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