Spotlight On - Elemental: War of Magic & New Details

We get new details on the lore, civics, research, and sorcery in this upcoming fantasy strategy game that will attempt to continue the tradition of Master of Magic.

Elemental: War of Magic is the next strategy game in development at Stardock, the studio responsible for the sci-fi Galactic Civilizations series, and it will attempt to be the spiritual successor to the cult classic Master of Magic. The game is currently in an ongoing beta state with a small but devoted community of Stardock fans who are hammering away at the beta while the studio continues to add new features and content. This new stuff includes things like an in-game lore reference that will not only serve as a reference for in-game terms (a la the Civilization games' "civlopedia"), but will also house a rich backstory for the world penned by publisher Random House.

Are you a bad enough wizard to marry off your daughter?

Other additions to the game include the fleshed-out roles of independent hero characters. While you start the game with a single wizard character and can later sire children who can become heroes under your banner, you can also find neutral heroes that wander the world until either you or one of your rival nations hires them, at which point they may bolster your nation as one of your vassals, potentially adding a miscellaneous bonus of some sort--scholar characters, for instance, increase the rate of your technology research, while wizards increase your overall magic spell power. Stardock frontman Brad Wardell was quick to point out that recruiting these heroes will be crucial to victory, particularly in the early game, in which you'll start with nothing more than your wizard hero in a completely barren world.

While your character does have a store of gold coins and magical essence (the latter of which powers your magic spell research and can also be partially sacrificed to create a new town), Wardell pointed out that it may not be to your advantage to immediately build up town after town after town. Apart from the expense of your wizard's essence, and the opportunity cost of spending your turns exploring and meeting new heroes or discovering "resource caches" (Elemental's equivalent of the Civilization "goodie hut," a small stockpile of treasures just waiting to be discovered), towns will not act as revenue generators by default.

Therefore, while you can eventually build out a single town to have an extremely developed economy that produces income and research, the act of building multiple settlements will simply mean expending a great deal of your own resources up front. To combat the grind that tends to happen in exploration/management games such as this in the later stages of play, when all players own numerous towns and must slog through each and every one to micromanage them, Elemental will make all resources communal across each of your settlements, meaning that you won't need to transport goods from city to city. More importantly, the game will have an in-game interface menu that will show each of your towns with an icon along the left side of the screen, and each one that hasn't yet taken an action this turn will be highlighted.

Towns can be valuable centers of commerce, but they'll cost you a pretty penny to build.

Our brief tour of the game covered several other additions, such as combat balancing, which is currently intended to fairly let players who focus on combat develop a small army of highly trained warriors equipped with pricey weapons, but put them on even ground with players who pursued a different research path, such as civics or questing. All the loyal subjects that populate your kingdom and diligently toil away on your farms providing you with your economy can be converted into a cheap standing army in a pinch, and even a small, highly advanced army equipped with the most expensive weapons and armor around may have trouble defeating a sufficiently large number of peasants with middling armor and weapons.

And as it turns out, diplomacy and arcane studies will also be viable paths to victory. For instance, while you and your rival nations are out trying to conquer the land, neutral, computer-controlled "minor nations" will be quietly unearthing and collecting the most powerful artifacts in the world and will sell them at discount prices to friendly nations. Then again, buying stuff from merchants may not be as exciting as researching powerful magic spells, which must be powered by enchanted "shards" that can be discovered through careful exploration.

Aside from a full-on magic-based victory condition similar to Master of Magic's "spell of mastery" (essentially a high-level magic spell that, when fully researched, automatically wins the game), you can research a great variety of powerful magic spells to not only bomb your enemies back to the Stone Age in battle, but also affect the world around you. We watched a volcano spell in practice, which deforms the world's terrain and raises a giant, exploding mountain in the world, which not only ruins the ground beneath it, but creates an impassable barrier. It's actually possible to wall off your kingdom with a series of volcano spells, since the game has no way for any units to fly, magically or otherwise--the only way to traverse otherwise impassable terrain is with a teleportation spell, which is also an expensive, and sophisticated, spell that will take a great many turns to research.

An army of peasants with sharp sticks is better than no army at all.

Elemental continues to look promising and will hopefully offer many smart, streamlined gameplay design decisions once it's released later this year.

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Discussion

19 comments
Larvinc
Larvinc

Awesome game. Brilliant ideas. Very userfriendly UI, options. Allowing to create mods. Replayable. I rate it at 8 but it might be better with mods or with any expansion content in the future. Without the patch I experienced many crash but it solved those. Only downfall is a lack of good tutorial. It has a manual and ingame help but it's not good.

paper_tree
paper_tree

This game looks really good, i can't wait for it to be released

vadagar1
vadagar1

wow looks very good, and the modding options are always one of the strong points in stardock games. this one game I'm getting, besides after sins and GC I'm still not disappointed by stardock.

ValentineHeart
ValentineHeart

I'm going to buy and review this game, if it plays well and has plenty of options I'll be recommending it heavily.

GASherbert
GASherbert

@hywel69 The beta is presently closed. The original plan was to let people who preordered the game prior to Beta 2 join in when Beta 2 was released (in Spring), but then Beta 2 got pushed back as there was still a lot of work happening in Beta 1. Beta 2 should be released soon (next week, hopefully), so more people may be let into the beta at that time. If you're interested, I'd suggest asking Stardock; they're usually pretty good about responding to things.

bemushroomed
bemushroomed

Dont agree that the gfx looks bland, it looks very charming (what a game like this need, not thousands of polys or effects), very similar style/colors to Morrowind. Can't wait for this game :)

Night_dude
Night_dude

ah sweet dude this is the type of game which rocks

hywel69
hywel69

Game wepage says Beta closed. Then it says, new wave in spring; well it's past spring already. Are they trying to confuse us? Is the Beta now open or not?

linkingfire
linkingfire

@ will98499 Given that Stardock is acting as both the producer and developer here, I doubt that they'd make that choice. People mention Sins, but even that is a third party developing house, Stardock is just acting as producer. Instead, expect it to be more like Galactic Civilizations in terms of polish and support. They have already stated that: a) they will push it back if it is not high enough quality. b) they will continue to develop the game, both in adding features and adding additional content to the EXTENSIVE modding tools. c) They are pushing out the tools as well, which they have used to make the game, so there is absolutely no reason that the community can't tweak it. (In fact, the developers have talked about the community using the engine to make combat real time, etc, so it's extensive). Sorry to sound like a fanboy (I'm really not, I haven't even preordered). I just asked those questions a few weeks ago, myself.

will98499
will98499

I'm really excited for this game to come out. I just hope it doesn't fall to a rushed deadline release followed by a lack of support.

honglong17
honglong17

i agree with Jedi_dad, the graphic clearly not a good point of this game, But the gameplay relly promising

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

looks complex like Sins Of Solar Empires!! :?

Jedi_Dad
Jedi_Dad

The graphics look a little bland and cartoony, but if the gameplay makes it a blast to play, I can live with that.

davidsolomon83
davidsolomon83

Looks Good!!! I want GameSpot to cover it more !! Reminds me of Age of Wonders !! Games like that arent made anymore sadly.

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

Great looking game. Need this preview on the front page though so I can actually find it.

linkingfire
linkingfire

Gladestone1: If you want into the beta, just preorder the game. There are a number of betas, and they're about to start beta2 (multiplayer), having finished beta1 (core gameplay). Beta 1 did not have the advanced graphics turned on yet, everyone just played on he cloth map. If you wait a week or so, you'll miss the beta2 wave, and have to wait until beta3 (July, or so).

Gladestone1
Gladestone1

Going to be one ill be checking out..So far ive played every one of stardocks games, shocked i wasnt invited to beta )..Ive been a long time fan of master of majic..Id love to beta this game..Stardock continue to love the pc franchise an make great game...Wish more companies would follow in your shoes..Pc games are still strong in sales..Its a wonder why devs treat us like second citizen..

filiba
filiba

Love Stardock! Their games balance perfectly between all of the game elements. User interface, game play repeatability, graphics, low demands from CPU and the micro and macro managements are easy and fun. I can't wait for this game to come out. The combination between Stardock knowhow and "Civilization/ Role playing fantasy" is going to be one of THE games this year and probably for many more to come.

wahyudil
wahyudil

wow .... successor to master of magic ... this will be awesome .... again, days of no sleeping