Patching post release allow Elemental: War of Magic to live up to it's full potential. And there's a lot to love.
The world has been utterly destroyed due to a cataclysmic war between Titans and Mortals, and now rising from the ashes of this disaster are the Channelers, those that are mysteriously able to harness the magic powers that caused the aforementioned destruction. This time, hopefully to rebuild.
Elemental has a very old school feel to it, and in this case its a very good thing. The graphics are decent enough, and they do not stand out because of how flashy or intense they are. There's a sense of style here that you can't deny just works for this game, and it grows on you very, very quickly.
The audio and music is good, standard medieval music faire and weapon clangs. Again, the presentation isn't groundbreaking or mind blowing, but it works and works well for this game.
Where Elemental truly shines though, is it's gameplay. The scope and ambition of Elemental is simply massive. At its core its a 4X turned based strategy with the usual epic goal of world domination. However there's several ways to actually win a game: Conquest (obviously), Diplomacy (make friends with all and win), Research the spell of Making, or complete the ultimate quest. This is definitely a refreshing change from the usual conquest to win. The city building and conquest has a very "Civ" feel to it, but still has enough character and style to stand out on its own. For example, you can choose where you place your buildings and improvements within your city's area of influence, giving each city its own unique look and character. The Tech and Magic Research is extensive as well, and no time games have the same research available.
The game also embraces many RPG principles, with recruiting heroes, raising parties/armies and going questing. Loot and experience is gained, with plenty of equipment and items to make the greatest of loot fiends drool. Throw in you also have manage your actual dynasty (marry, have children, preserve your line).
There really is something for everyone here. Civilization meets Dungeon Keeper meets Dungeons and Dragons. I've barely scratched the surface of all the features this game offers, of which there are enough to keep you busy for months, hell even years if this game is your kind of style. Throw in the complete moddability of every aspect of this game, its going to have quite a lengthy lifespan.
The current complaints are all generally stemming from the 'state' of the initial game release. I would highly recommend any game review site to make sure they get the latest patched version of this game. Granted, Stardock deserves to take a few whacks for this one. The initial release was in a seriously bad state. It wasn't unplayable, but some of the things that were wrong were things that should have been caught in QA. However, a few days and patches later and the game is definitely coming along nicely.
If the game sounds remotely interesting from this mediocre review ;) you really should pick it up. There's 16 player multiplayer as well! This is definitely worth picking up. A few post release patches save this game from a bug ridden oblivion.
That's my take, take it or leave it.