...After playing the latest version of elemental for several hours, I personally think elemental is a good game but a little rough on the edges, nothing gamebreaking or terrible, it just needs more polish and shine, Particularly in the animations and sound department.
Overall, I think gamers have the mindset of what most companies do, which is release a product, patch it once or twice, and move onto to the next project. So for people who are not regular stardock fans, they make assumptions based on prior experiences with other game companies...
I preface what I am about to say with the fact that I am a loyal long time Stardock fan who's been willing to buy just about any game since galciv2 just because it has the Stardock name on it. But in response to the above, this is just unacceptable. The product they released plays like an Eastern European budget title. (No offense to Eastern Europe, it's just that is where most of the unfinished budget strategy titles come from nowadays.) Every game should be playable out of the box. The paid beta was a promise of things to come so despite the fact that I still had issues trying to get through a game of beta 4 without a game wrecking glitch, I had hope for the gold version. These hopes were dashed, when I got my hands on the version that was sold in stores; sold, I might add, without caveat as a game worthy of the Stardock name.
Bashing the game for it's graphics or sound design is not really fair. True Mr Wardell might have raised some expectations as he touted the new engine and it's amazing scalability but hyper realism is simply not doable in a massive strategy and the graphics we got were nicely stylized and perfectly serviceable. (If they put you off though, I suggest playing cloth map only as it's nice and (for lack of a better word) roleplay-ey.) No, the games true faults, or at least it's two biggest, are the campaign and the tactical battles, both of which if the developers were determined to make this street date should have been dropped entirely from the game and perhaps patched in at a later date.
The campaign is for many people and has been suggested by Mr. Wardell to be an introduction to the game as a whole. To that end, it is kind of like a man who sneezed in his hand before going to shack yours. Not to distinguish itself from the rest of the game it is of course full of bugs, but putting that and its short 5 hour length aside, it has bigger problems. For one it just drops you in without instruction so you must fiddle around until stuff starts happening. This sense of confusion was continued through the whole experience as I often found myself randomly moving my army about trying to find a spot to trigger the progression. On one occasion this actually caused me to skip a chapter and I found myself backtracking to complete a quest that was now apparently moot. Next, as far as narrative goes, it completely lacks character, literally. You get yourself and two other characters right at the beginning, and then absolutely nothing all they way to the end. Now that could be acceptable if they were well developed, but one is never mentioned again and can die at any point with consequence, while the other gets only a single event as quickly forgotten as it is brought up. Even the main character's motivation and back story remain foggy. If the game wants to hybridize with rpgs, it should know they left these problems behind back in the days of Diablo 1. Finally, there is no sense of urgency. The best strategy is to just make the biggest killer stack possible (absurdly big as it turns out) then steamroll the map, and if you lose, just retreat your sovereign rinse and repeat. All the bad guys kindly just wait to die and there is no punishment for taking as many turns as you like. There is no reason to boast that this was created entirely with the games included modding tools: it shows. I was a big supporter of including a campaign ( I think one of the biggest holes in the soase package was a lack of one) but this is a terrible first impression to make. I can only hope the uninitiated don't take it as indicative of the whole game and drop it without experiencing the main attraction.
Don't get me wrong, the game is indeed worth experiencing and I don't feel ripped off in the slightest, but this game's flaws are unavoidable. For example, the tactical battles: at best they have an unintuitive UI, at worst they are just anti fun. Once time I attacked an army with half my combat rating. In the tactical battle his channeler dropped some spell that kill 2/3rds of my army but when I reloaded and auto-resolved I won with no losses. Is this a bug? Do I just need to suck less? maybe on both counts. Either way the game gave me no indication of what I did wrong or what I should do next time. Like a lot of ideas that were eventually dropped this one is great in theory but not so much in practice. I am forced to wonder if perhaps the reason it wasn't dropped like the others was due to the team's heavy investment in art assets for it.
In any case, my point is this: Every game must be judged on its version 1.0 as this is the version that is being sold to you. Patches are for adding additional content and balance tweaks not addressing basic stability issues. Just because Stardock is an awesome company and we know they will be supporting this game for years to come does not give them a pass to sell us something that must be updated to run without issue. What if I bought a boxed copy of Elemental for my laptop moments before hopping a steamer ship for a round the world voyage without internet access? Would I have to wait till I got back to have the experience I was meant to have? It shames me to have to write such a negative post about such a great developer but I'm afraid I must agree with PCG-UK. This game should have been pushed to its backup date next year. I must assume it wasn't because the makers couldn't wait to get it into the hands of the general public and not because the marketers were afraid it might be an Alpha Protocol to Civ5's Mass Effect 2 (That's not a dig, I'm a huge fan of AP it's just buggy no comparison with ME2).
Thank you for your time. Hopefully I haven't been to inflammatory or hurtful as that was far from my intent.
Edit: just read the busy Wednesday post and I feel bad so I should say that while I stand by what I said, I recognize that my expectation are a bit more for an ideal world and you have nothing but the best of intentions full of love and pride for your game. With the amazing quality of your back library I sometimes forget that you are still a small team and I should not expect you to be able to throw the number of bodies at an issue that a company like Blizzard could. Dealing with each of these problems must come at great personal cost to each of the developers in terms of overtime spent away form their families where many companies wouldn't bother and for that I thank you all. You spoil us so don't be surprised if every once in a while we act a little spoiled.