+ Strategy depth
+ Role-playing options
+ Fantasy world
- Difficulty level
Final score: 8 / 10
Controller support: No
Windows XP or Windows Vista or Windows 7 or Windows 8
Dual core CPU
2 GB of RAM
512MB of video memory
Fallen Enchantress might just be the most complex video game launched this year and that’s both a strong and a weak point for the strategy game developed and published by Stardock.
This is an experience where a player can easily spend 10 hours with just one faction trying to perfect the early game, finding the moves and the choices that put him in the best position before he finds another empire and begins to fight with it for resources.
This is also a turn-based strategy game where, unlike Civilization, you can safely limit your civilization to just three cities and still dominate the map with heroes and outposts, roaming a map with mighty heroes and beasts that have the ability to kill any force another faction is foolish enough to send as a challenge.
The world of Elemental: Fallen Enchantress has been hit by an apocalyptic event and only remains of the mighty empires and kingdoms of Fallen and men litter the landscape.
The player takes on the role of one of the few magic wielders who have the ability to reshape the world itself and then lead his own faction towards supremacy, choosing how to use the various resources you have and how to deal with the world around you.
There’s a lot of lore in Fallen Enchantress and it can be easily seen both in the quests that the game delivers and in the extensive encyclopedia that accompanies it so that anyone can delve deeper and look for information and background.
Some of the more interesting story elements of Fallen Enchantress are the ten factions that Stardock has already created, each of them unique and endearing, designed to give the player reasons to make up his own stories, based entirely on his actions and choices.
The problem is that Derek Paxton, the developer best known for his Fall from Heaven mods for Civilization IV, has failed to add enough character to the setting and some of the quest writing and units seem like they are lifted directly from a collection of fantasy game tropes.
On the surface Elemental: Fallen Enchantress seems like Civilization, a turn-based strategy title where you create units, settle cities, find enemies, deal with them via diplomacy and war and then finally choose a victory goal and try to reach it.
The game does offer all these mechanics, but it is so much more than that, bringing a layered fantasy-based strategy and tactics experience that has no equivalent at the moment, save maybe Stardock’s other magnum opus, Galactic Civilizations II.
This is a game that allows players to create their own civilization and their own heroes, in addition to selecting from a roster that the developers consider appropriate, and then gives a similar level of control over the game world where a campaign takes place.
Once the game starts, the complexity goes up and the player has to deal with a number of major decisions while creating long-term plans for his faction, his heroes and his towns.
Gamers need to manage research, settle and grow towns, manage armies, develop heroes, choose which quests they want to perform, match gear to those who can use it, launch spells in battle and in order to develop their towns and generally explore a dark world and try to brighten it up a little.
Fallen Enchantress is a game of patience and minute, interesting choices.
Examples of meaningful decisions in Fallen Enchantress go down to the lowest level of the gameplay, like defining what weapon a unit will use during an engagement.
An axe includes the backswing ability, which basically offers a second chance to hit on a dodged attack, but a dagger increases a hero’s initiative and allows him to move before an enemy has a chance to.
Depending on the force, one fight switching might be a good idea and I’ve even reached a certain point in the game where abilities and modifiers are more important than the numbers that show damage potential.
The same choices are reflected when it comes to unit development, hero evolution or even city progress, with branching paths that have hidden synergies and allow each player to choose exactly how he wants to shape his faction during one match.
Patience is required because this is a game that’s not afraid to punish the player if he is reckless and cripple his potential for success.
I’ve attacked a group of monsters early, without carefully evaluating their strength, and I’ve quickly got two heroes beaten, both with injuries that make them less useful in the long term.
I created what I thought was a powerful army and sent it to take on some strong enemy groups only to get a raiding party that devastated my own lands before I could come back to deal with them.
This can frustrate initially, but it teaches the player important lessons about how to approach the game and what can lead to long-term success.
One of the problems with Fallen Enchantress is the pacing and the development should have made the game a little easier during the first turns and should have worked harder to offer more to do while lengthy research and construction takes place.
In the early game, tech trickles down rarely and units and buildings take close to 20 turns to churn out, which means that there are some turns when a player has nothing else to do but simply push the Turn button and patiently wait for something to happen, which gives him movement or attack options.
I know I’ve said that patience is at the core of Fallen Enchantress, but developers should understand that gamers should always have an interesting choice to make and that this kind of dead time might lead to frustration and abandoned games.
Despite some issues there’s incredible potential for replayability in Fallen Enchantress and those who love the strategy and role-playing mix will find enough content to fill at least 30 or 40 hours of play.
Graphics and audio
Fallen Enchantress certainly has a unique visual identity, but it might be one that fails to appeal to some gamers.
The game uses a stylized approach and the mix of faded colors and weirdly drawn lines are sometimes a poor fit for the characters, both when it comes to their portraits and when it comes to the tactical combat.
But the art is well suited for the strategic layer and the world, especially when zoomed in, is beautiful to contemplate.
Zooming out introduces a paper map look to Fallen Enchantress, which is clearly designed to appeal to the more hardcore crowd that wants to quickly see their heroes, armies, towns and resources without being distracted by the rest of the graphics.
The sound design is not one of the high points of Fallen Enchantress and sometimes the limited resources used come through, but it does a good job of bringing the world of the strategy game closer to reality.
Fallen Enchantress is everything that Elemental promised to be two years ago and more, a game that mixes quite a few genres very well and gives the player all the elements, from gameplay mechanics to lore, to create interesting and deep fantasy stories.
I would have liked a little more direction during the early game and better pacing overall, but the game is still addictive and engaging.
This is not a game for the faint of heart, but gamers who love complex games that still offer something to discover after 10 or 20 hours of play will love Fallen Enchantress, the atmosphere it delivers and the challenges it builds.