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.
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.
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.