Review in Progress: Elemental: War of Magic

A review for Stardock's newest strategy game is on its way, but some glitches and bugs are holding us back.

If you love strategy games, then you know Stardock, the respected developer and publisher behind such games as Demigod, Galactic Civilizations, and the awesome Sins of a Solar Empire. Its newest game is Elemental: War of Magic, an intriguing strategy game that I purchased on Tuesday when it became available on Stardock's own Impulse store. It's unfortunate that technical woes have made this a difficult game to play thus far, so the review may come later than I'd hoped.

As long as you don't encounter crashes, your influence will expand across the map.

Upon initial download, it was hard not to be struck by how poorly Elemental explained itself. If you are a newcomer, learning the game's unique take on turn-based strategy will take a bit of patience. Happily, some tutorial pop-ups have been added since the game's first patch. (Three days after release, two patches have been issued.) The in-game help tome fills in some gaps, but it isn't terribly complete. It tells you, for example, that there are four ways to win a game, but it lists only three of them.

More importantly, Elemental's crashes have become more than a rare nuisance for us. Of course, there is no guarantee that any given PC game will be perfectly stable for every player; you may run into problems I haven't encountered, and you might have a flawless experience. I've played the game on three separate PCs far exceeding the recommended requirements, and using the most recent video card drivers. And unfortunately, Elemental crashes relatively often on all of these systems--two using ATI cards and one using an Nvidia card. On one system, the game crashes every time an army is defeated. DirectX runtime errors and out-of-memory errors, all leading to crashes, have also been an issue.

You can take quests at inns. Why are fantasy worlds always so infested with rats?

After installing the second patch this morning, I was more hopeful, though sadly, games saved before the patch are not compatible with the patched version, meaning I couldn't continue from where I had left off yesterday. I have yet to venture into multiplayer, though as the reviewer's guide (attributed to Stardock CEO Brad Wardell) we received states, "multiplayer just isn't that fun." I am more excited about the included modding tools, not just because I want to flex my creative muscle, but because I am eager to see what other players do with Elemental's strategic foundation.

If you are interested in Elemental: War of Magic, I need to express extreme caution. While you may have a technically flawless experience, you may also run into severe bugs that hinder your enjoyment. Even if they pass you by, you are almost certain to notice other glitches, many of them related to Elemental's less-than-stellar interface. We'll bring you a full review when I've been able to spend vast amounts of time with the game, but for now, at least, you may wish to hold off until the wrinkles have been ironed out.

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Discussion

53 comments
cashkilla_basic
cashkilla_basic

I don't know what's worse - the bugs, the horrible UI, or the lack of any tutorial.

Robinffs
Robinffs

Please make a review of Planet Calypso soon! :)

sixoneone
sixoneone

forget this trash... wheres the CIV 5 REVIEW!!!?

joshuabf
joshuabf

caveat - I'm too lazy/busy to read all previous comments - this may be a repeat... It occurred to me that another great maker of TBS games has a launch later this month (9-21 CIV 5). Could it be that our beloved Stardock is opting to play a "first-to-market" gambit rather than release a playable game (as we have come to expect)?

solomon_kane
solomon_kane

I just read Stardock CEO Brad Wardell's post in the Elemental forum (he posts under the moniker of Frogboy) and wow. He says, and I'm quoting directly, "I don't think people yet fully realize the completeness of Stardock's fail on Elemental's launch." He goes on to blame himself for a good amount the problem. So for those who are angry about the state of the game at launch, they agree with you. The good news for those who paid for it is that I'm sure they'll do something to make it right.

Kcoshiob
Kcoshiob

Brad just dropped a pretty revealing post(admonition) on the Elemental forum, in the "everyone mad over early release" topic. The game has a long way to go. For the record I like the game, but Brad's post clarifies some of the things that were mystifying to me about the game. At this point I'd say it's ok to go ahead and review. 1.07 is on the way too, for what it's worth.

Hellbishop
Hellbishop

I guess am one of the fortunate ones able to play ELEMENTAL WAR OF MAGIC with no problems. This is with the latest patch. So far its a fantastic game and i hope they add many more gameplay tips because this is one very detailed game with deep layers of strategy. Its like playing a fantasy version of CIVILIZATION 2 with modern graphics. You can even get married, have children, marry them off to another empire and have them possibly join your side when they come of age etc. Looking forward to the upcoming patches with much anticipation :)

raspotts
raspotts

I've got an old PC. I can't help wondering whether this game would run fine on it, as GalCiv2 ran fine on my previous, really old PC. But why take the chance? Bugs slightly aside, it sounds like the features of the games aren't finished either. What was Stardock thinking? I started following this game because it was another TBS from Stardock. I won't be doing that again.

pepepepepepepe
pepepepepepepe

If this game is going to be review from DAY O then it's going to score a 3-4

kadatherion
kadatherion

A game has to be reviewed and valued for how it is sold as a product. Future potential or bugfixes do indeed count as a plus when giving an evaluation, but the product you pay for is the one sold in the box. I might be a casual buyer, I might be someone without connection or with a time payed one who doesn't want to keep downloading emergency fixes (and content for a game released not only in a buggy state but also with an astonishing lack of content and gameplay balance), still I have the right to have a finished, working product in my hands. And I have the right to be correctly alerted of issues of that kind in reviews before I hand over 50 bucks for something I'll have to wait months, if not years, to see fulfilling what was advertised. And developers' promises of releasing expansion for free instead of selling 'em (as now Brad has said, facing the all but nice welcome players obviously gave to his product) are just that: promises. They might keep 'em or they might not, and as such this can't be taken into account in a rating. In an year for now this game could be even rather pretty, if they really add loads of content (actually standard content for any other decent 4x game since the days of MoM) and polish everything that was left utterly unfinished, but right now it's one of the most awful games ever released in this genre even letting aside the game breaking bugs. Reviews have to make this clear.

Allicrombie
Allicrombie moderator moderator

interesting, wouldnt mind trying it myself.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

@Kevin-V Yes I have played PC games for over 25 years. I know that crashes can be caused by games, but in my 25 years of PC gaming I have NEVER had a game crash on me every hour, never. Sure games can run alot differntly on differnt systems, some games can have alot of crashes to, but it can also be the way people take care of there pc or the way they dont take care of it. Like I said, Ive played this game on a few differnt systems and only have had crashes in late game and not nearly every hour. I honestly think that if someone is having crashes every 30mins or every hour in ANY game then it has something to do with them. Why has crashes every 30mins or every hour never happened to me in 25 years? Sure I have had some issues with some games where my friends or others have not had any problems (The Witcher would crash once a week or so for some odd reason, Mechwarrior2 would give me some problems once in a blue moon) but never ever has a game crashed every 30mins or every hour for me. Even some of the buggiest games ever at launch I could still play hours on end with crashed once in a blue moon (Gothic3 on release date?). This game is definatly buggy and I know people will have differnt experiences with differnt systems, but crashing every 30misn or every hour in any game is something I have never had to deal with.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@kozzy1234 -- If you play PC games, you know that simply isn't true. A player can have a perfectly assembled PC with the latest and perfectly-functioning hardware, and the most recent drivers, yet certain games may perform poorly nonetheless. I have had many, many crashes on three different PCs, yet I do not believe that "something is wrong on my end," or on the end of the many players having similar issues. It's awesome that you have had few crashes, but that doesn't mean players that experience technical troubles are to blame for them.

jacyp
jacyp

@kozzy1234: lol, a 9 score? It looks like sold out reviews are becoming more and more common. Shame.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

@jacyp I have played for over 40 hours and only had two crashes.. that is not that bad. If you are crashing every hour then something is wrong on your end.

jacyp
jacyp

@Gelugon_baat: the problem is that we can't actually play the game for more than a couple hours without it invariably crashing. You don't need to finish a game that simply can't-be-finished-cos-it's-too-bugged to make a review. The review is already pretty clear. If it is on hold, I hope it's to find less offensive words to define the complete disrespect that this game is to the ones that bought it. If Stardock wants to pass through this without much damage to its image, I sugest them to start giving the money back to people, honestly.

Arther-la-Blunt
Arther-la-Blunt

wow. I've never seen anything like this. oh wait APB...

binkenstien
binkenstien

It's probably also worth noting that if you pre-ordered the game more than 90 days ago and want a refund now, they can only give you "store credit" rather than an actual refund. I was impressed with how they handled the Demigod problems, but getting store credit (which I will probably never use) instead of a refund because I pre-ordered early on has given me an unfavourable impression of Stardock.

RyuRanVII
RyuRanVII

Elemental shouldn't be reviewed in the current state. The game is fun and it has a lot of potential, but many problems in the moment, even with three patches already released. I know Stardock will polish and fix the game in due time, but they shoud have delayed a month or two.

valengar
valengar

I think from now on I will buy stardock games a year after their street date. They like to release things a little early and it hinders what could be a fantastic experience.

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

Stardock normally cranks out good games; looks like I'll wait a bit for this game to get fixed up.

joasoze
joasoze

I am playing this on a rather old laptop using clothmap only. Havnt had a single crash after last patch. Its a bit rough around the edges, but I went to bed analyzing my strategies until I fell asleep yesterday. Its already a good game and it will be a great game when Stardock has given it some more love. Recommended!

Z-Byter
Z-Byter

First, shame on Stardock for releasing this game before it's DONE. The patch releases prove they know it wasn't ready for release yet. I believe most of us would have preferred to wait for this game another whole year and read reviews of the game rather than having to wade through a period of time with discussions of bug fix progress. The Stardock business group must have decided that bad word-of-mouth about bugs at release can be overcome, in time, with what they are claiming to be a really good game. I still have hopes for this game, but will wait to hear that the bug problems have been resolved and the game is fun to play, before I buy it. I appreciate Gamespot for releasing a "Review in Progress..." revealing the bug problems. This is why I follow gaming discussions on Gamespot. I want to know what they (and all of you) think of a game before deciding whether or not to spend hard-earned money on a game.

Diernes
Diernes

Thanks for having the maturity to hold off the review for a while. I think this should happen more often as we live in a world where new game updates are frequent and can dramatically improve the game for the better. Yes it probably was released before it was truly ready but it has the potential to be one of the best 4x games of our time. I would recommend waiting a while. Stardock are dedicated to this title and are a developer worthy of your money. This game will be supported for many years to come

solomon_kane
solomon_kane

As I understand the problem from a couple of posts over at the Elemental forums, the reason for the early release had to do with reserving retail shelf space. Putting a game out in the fall requires either a very long advanced reservation or a lot more money than normal to reserve shelf space due to the holiday season. Their options came down to releasing the game on August 24th or waiting until the second week of February. I think they felt they were "close enough" to a finished product to release it rather than wait until the after the all-important holiday season. Go to their forum and search the terms "February" and "shelf space" for more details. I'm not saying this excuses the release of a an unfinished game, but it does explain it. It's a shame they gave in to the temptation.

BornGamer
BornGamer

Thanks for the clarification, Kevin. I took it that you were going to wait until the game was more playable to review it, but if you can't even get through a game I guess it takes longer to review. I hope Elemental becomes more polished eventually (the TBS genre can't afford these kind of gaffs) but this "release now, patch later" garbage that devs keep pulling needs to stop.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@BornGamer -- I don't think you really understand, or perhaps I am unclear. No game gets preferential treatment; this is a large and involved strategy game that takes time to review. To provide a review, I have to be able to finish games and evaluate feature, which I cannot do if I can't complete a single game. This blog is to explain why the review may be later than readers may have hoped. I hope you don't believe that a publisher would "pay me off" to express major caution in their product. Elemental will be put under the same process as any other game, but I wanted to be fair to our readers and both explain the delay, and provide information on the game's unfinished state at the present time. We have written similar blogs for many games to give early information before the review is published.

LikeHaterade
LikeHaterade

I was one of the lucky ones that hasn't experienced any problems; and I can tell you now that this game without any technical difficulties is absolutely fantastic. There's so much depth, that you forget how much you can truly do in this game. I posted more in-depth impressions over in the General Games Discussion forum if you're interested, in UpInFlames' thread. It's too bad so many are being turned away from the technical issues, but then again I don't blame them. It just sucks that many are missing out on a fantastic game. And thank you very much for the update btw Kev. I've been waiting for the review but now I don't have to wait cluelessly anymore.

-MordeN-
-MordeN-

This game has some cool concepts in it, many new things in a turn-based strategy game, however, this is NOT and can NEVER BE an excuse to delivering a game which is just not complete. Besides from crashes, there are many little details all around the interface, looks, and play of the game which make it seem like developers either rushed the game beyond the norm, or spent too little time with it. GalCiv were GREAT games, and this one too has a lot of potential, but even if crashes and such horrendous bugs are fixed, we still get a game which has awesome ideas, but is really unpolished, looks and plays like a beta, and has a nearly endless stream of rough edges, little details like names and numbers being outside of their intended UI places, sad looking spell effects and battles, a nearly useless AI in some cases, and may other issues I could post, shows this game needed a lot more time in development, and a lot more care given to it. Stardock needs to take a hint from blizzard, they don't make the most creative games, but they make the best games, because they POLISH them to perfection, the worst about this whole issue is that a game with great ideas, concepts and gameplay will very probably be forgotten by a majority of gamers who will back off from this game, and seeing the state in which it was released, this is deserved. Hopefully stardock will learn the lesson.

larryed112
larryed112

Ive been looking forward to this one, while I wait for Shogun Total War and Alpha Centauri sequels (i can dream ;) ) But from the reported crashes I wont be parting with any cash until the game is stable.

Stesilaus
Stesilaus

I'm confident that Stardock will eventually patch the game into shape. But by then all the major reviewers will have written their critiques and assigned their scores and, if PC Gamer's scathing article is anything to go by, they won't be pretty.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

Try the game for yourself, dont always let someone else's opinion tell you how a game is. Myself and some others love the game. Some people hate it.. some are in the middle. I say give the game a try on your own, its worth it. Very very addicting game play, with some rough spots around the edges (AI, Slowdown in later turns).

BornGamer
BornGamer

OK so someone tell me why this game deserves preferential treatment over any of the other games that have released buggy and with missing features that should have been in at release? How come Gamespot reviewed those games but are holding off on this one? Did Stardock pay Gamespot off or something?

solomon_kane
solomon_kane

The problem with the "review it anyway" argument is that each patch seems to radically alter the game. If they were to review it today, I can guarantee you the game would be vastly different three days from now, rendering the review irrelevant. This doesn't matter if the review were good, bad or indifferent. People have every right to be mad that the game is basically an advanced beta. What makes it more frustrating is the knowledge that when they finally finish, the game will be equal of Gal Civ 2. However, that classic and its expansions were released in a stable condition.

radioactive1wiz
radioactive1wiz

Oh and I have noticed that the game works better with older pcs. My current pc has Windows xp 32 bit (Some games dislike 64 bit and this is no exception) Windows vista 64 and windows 7 64 bit. On windows 7 64 bit it is rather unplayable later on. Almost as unstable as it was in the beta Windows vista is slightly more playable and xp is almost flawless if not for a few graphical glitches that I have noticed due to my graphics card being a bit new. But yes, I would have to agree with review in that you should wait until it has been ironed out and polished. It's a brilliant game- if it works.

radioactive1wiz
radioactive1wiz

@Larvinc I find that the spells are too overpowered. I was busy sitting there with an army of my 6 children, flooding my enemies lands while they could do nothing about it.

Larvinc
Larvinc

I corrected my earlier rate becouse i experienced more and more crashes even after the patches (1.26). Very unbalanced, unfinished, It's a BETA. Gameplaywise it's unbalanced for a magician character wich is interesting reading the name of the game. Spells are weak even if we know that the shard multiplier system is not working. We need more or better spells! It's great game though. I'm gonna love this game when it's finished. It isn't yet.

Donners22
Donners22

That's very disappointing to hear. Weren't Stardock the ones promoting a Gamers' Bill of Rights, which included games that worked well out of the box? I'll keep track of this, because it did sound like an excellent concept, but it's not as promising as I'd hoped...

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

@BornGamer... this game is not garbage. Why not try it before talking trash about it? I have over 200 games this gen on pc and console that I have bought ot got sent to me to review and in all honesty, I have had more fun with Elemental then any other game this gen. yes there are issues with the game, but what is already here is amazing and I cant get enough. Its the most addicting game ive ever played.

apsalar
apsalar

I think its a good idea to wait. After all it is a great game. Even with all the problems and bugs, I had lots of fun. I know that its frustrating if something you want to play is not as good as it should, but at least give credit to Stardock. They (on paper at least) seems to be doing a lot of stuff to help gamers, patching the game as well. I think its a good idea to wait. Happy that the reviewer has decided to do it.

jsrco
jsrco

I used to be able to run this in the beta... can't anymore. It arrived on my door step today and I had completely forgot I ordered it. Hopefully by the time my rig is upgraded it is mroe stable.

BornGamer
BornGamer

Since when did Gamespot hold off from reviewing games because they weren't good enough "yet"?? The game's been officially released... Review it! I've seen you guys drag plenty of games through the mud because of issues at release that would quite obviously be patched up over the next few weeks. Why does this game get preferential treatment? Developers need to learn not to release garbage, especially indie ones like Stardock who have worked hard to build up a reputation. We put up with enough trashy output from the big corporate publishers to accept it from the indie guys. Back to Fall from Heaven (Civ IV mod) for me......

Shardz7
Shardz7

This game thus far is truly a complete letdown. I was one of the lucky ones and got a second game that went on for a few hours...and then the crashes began. I patched the game twice since then and all seemed better until the very last siege against the AI where the game crashed every time I took my army to the last fortress for the big win. The performance with this game is phenomenally bad for what it offers. Having an i5 750 4Gig machine, I can play Crysis cranked up with no problems, but this game brings my machine to its knees at times mysteriously. The UI is primitive at best and there is no help, so you are on your own to learn the mechanics and balance issues, not to mention expansion, diplomacy and cultivating resources. I love GalCiv2 and have for years, but this product is nowhere near Stardock quality at this point and I'm not going to wait around much longer for them to fix it while Civ 5 is just around the corner. My advice is to put this one on hold until they fix the critical game-stopping problems and iron out all the wrongs that are still evident. Either play the GalCiv 2 series for now or move on to Civ 5 and come back later cause this release is not finished yet.

IceJester45
IceJester45

Damn. Damn. Damn. I was really looking forward to this one. I have been holding off because of the bugs, though.

Vashek19
Vashek19

In time this game will be a classic. It has a great visual appearance and many interesting ideas. I do feel some need to be fleshed out more; specifically the unit design and tactical battles...but they are still good. The game does run very poorly, especially in later turns, but let me just say this...I'll be damned if I haven't spent a good 8+ hours playing and having a blast... bad performance/bugs and all. I am new to the genre and can see the potential in this game. Anyone skeptical, hold off a few weeks as the patches come through.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

Glad to see Kevin is taking his time with the review (: This is a game that you have to play alot to do a review for imo. Also Stardock is updating the game constantly.

Ravenchrome
Ravenchrome

Give them time. Come on guys. This game is very awesome and without all those technical issues, I am sure it'll be a compelling experience.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

I can't get enough of this game! I am extremely addicted already! Sure its rough around the edges with some ai issues but its very fun. I have only had one crash in 15 hours with the game so far. There has also been 3 patches already and they are working on more. Stardock seems to really care about there games and have said they will be working on nothing else besides Elemental for hte next two years. With that said, I have had some ofthe best gaming of my life since this game has been out. The gameplay is very very fun and its extremely deep in depth. I advice any strategy fan to pick this game, its a keeper and abreath of fresh air in this stale videogame world we live in.

dzimm
dzimm

I've had a very good experience with the game, and I'm loving every minute of it. There are still some things that can be improved, and since Stardock is committed to working on this game exclusively for at least the next year, releasing patches, free content, and expansion packs, I'm confident that it *will* be improved. But even at this early stage, I'm finding it incredibly fun and insanely addictive. That said, I know that not everybody has had the same experience as me and that Elemental's launch could have been smoother, so I'm happy to see that Gamespot is willing to be patient instead of jumping on the "Let's bash Stardock!" bandwagon that's been making the rounds lately.