The world is in ruin. Powerful wars have left the land desolate and civilization has all but collapsed. Players begin Elemental as a lone Channeler, a powerful sorcerer with the ability to bring life back to the land. However, as players start the game they have nothing but their magical abilities and the shirts on their back. They have no starting city, no armies to command. Wandering the wastes, players must recruit hero units, form cities, rediscover lost technology and research magic.
This game has a stand-alone expansion called Elemental: Fallen Enchantress
You start the game with just your character, called your Sovereign, and some money. At this point your have a few options. Your first option is to simply build a city. It's pretty straight forward and is likely the first instinct of most people. You could also go adventuring. Complete some quests, loot some nearby dead bodies. This will give your better equipment and perhaps a few specialty items. A reason you may want to do this quickly is because NPC hero characters will take those items if they get to them first. You could also recruit hero characters. Hero units typically provide some sorts of benefit, be it increased combat capability, extra research points per turn or extra money per turn.
Cities and Resources
Once you decide to create a city you need to find a nice stretch of land capable of supporting it. Cities in Elemental start as an oasis in a desolate landscape. Because bastions of civilization are few and far between, your population will increase not by having children, but by generating enough prestige to entice people to live there.
City building is organic in Elemental. When you add a building to a city you're given a few locations you're allowed to place it, but ultimately you decide where it goes. This gives players the options to create a dense square city, a long narrow city (perhaps to cut off a mountain pass) or anything in between. You pay for new buildings through the use of money, food and [building] material.
In addition to the resources used for improving cities you also have metal for weapons and armor, magic for casting spells and essence. Essence is unique in that it isn't regenerated. Once it's used its gone forever, but it's also extremely powerful. It can be used to bring life back to the land, resurrecting your Sovereign when killed, and casting high level spells.
Factions and Magic
Magic is divided into six types (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Life and Death). Of those six types Life and Death magic are split between the game's two Allegiances; 'The Kingdoms' and 'The Empires'. While all factions use various amounts of elemental magic only 'The Kingdoms' use Life magic and only 'The Empires' use Death magic. How each faction combines elemental magic with their Life or Death magic gives each a unique set of spells and abilities.
In addition to determining which spells you will have access to, Life and Death magic also has a visual affect on the land surrounding your cities. Members of The Kingdoms will have land that's rich and full of life, while The Empires will have a dark and dreary landscape.
Players are also able to create their own custom factions.
Players have access to five different technology trees. Based on which allegiance you have, Kingdom or Empire, will determine which set of technologies you have access to. While the names are different for each allegiance tree, the two set of trees are roughly analogous.
For 'The Kingdoms' the trees are: Civilization, Warfare, Magic, Adventure and Diplomacy.
For 'The Empires' the trees are: Imperium, Conquest, Sorcery, Domination and Cooperation.
When conducting research you end up researching a given field rather than a specific technology. For instance if I wanted to research Farming I would select "Civilization" as the field I want to research. Once my research is complete I'd select Farming, if it's available. I say "if it's available" because what technologies you have access to upon completion changes every time. Each technology has a difficulty level associated with it, represented by the colors green, yellow and red. Green technologies you'll definitely be able to select while yellow may or may not show up and reds are rare. At the completion of a research level players are given the option of choosing one of five or six different technologies. Once selected some of the technologies available for selection this time around may not be there next time.
- Civilization/Imperium: These technologies are used for improving your cities. The buildings provided will affect your population, economy, research, etc.
- Warfare/Conquest: Build troops, make them stronger, make them faster. These technologies not only allow you to build better units, but to also equip your Sovereign and hero units with better equipment.
- Magic/Sorcery: Don't let the name "technology" fool you, the focus of this tech tree is spell research and magical items.
- Adventure/Domination: This one's a little weird in that it effects the environment around the player. These technologies will provide more locations for your hero units to obtain quests from, more monsters for them to kill and stronger monsters for them to face.
- Diplomacy/Cooperation: These affect your abilities and dealings with other factions.
The cost of research increases with each level, but because there are so many technologies and they're so varied, cost increases only affect a given tree. So if I've spent all my time researching technologies under Civilization, Magic would be relatively cheap if I switched to that.
Units come in a few varieties. There are Hero units which must either be hired or obtained through procreation. Summoned units which you obtain by researching and casting spells. Then we have your run of the mill Soldier units which are built in cities. Customizations are different for each unit type. Summoned units cannot be customized except through spell enhancements; Hero units can be given new weapons and equipment; and Soldier units can be designed to have any equipment you've researched.
Once engaged in battle players will be able to have as much or as little control over the battles as they'd like. Players can choose if they want battles to auto-resolve, both instantly and while the player is watching, or be brought to a tactical battle screen (best described as a turn-based version of a Total War style battle field).
A feature not found in most turn-based strategy games is the ability for your ruler to have children, which forms Dynasties. Your children, also know as Sions, will grow to be adults, at which point they become Hero units to be used in the game or, in the case of daughters, can be married off to the family of other kingdoms. Because your Sovereign ages much more slowly than your children, your Dynasty can reach several generations with the added possibility of someone of your linage becoming the ruler of another kingdom. While Sions have some of your Sovereign's abilities, they are much less powerful.
Maps and Modding
Stardock has made an effort to make just about everything editable in Elemental. With most things stored as XML, and editors provided by Stardock, you're able to do everything from design new maps to make custom tiles for those maps to creating new spells and particle effects.
The game comes with pre-made maps and a random map generator.
- OS: Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7
- Processor: Pentium 4 @ 2.0 GHz / AMD Athlon XP 2000+ (or better)
- Memory: 512 MB of RAM
- Hard Disk Space: 5 GB
- Graphics Card: 256 MB nVidia GeForce FX 5500 / ATI Radeon 9500 (or better)
- Sound Card: DirectX 9 Compatible
- DirectX: Version 9.0c